What Is the Right… Off Road Tire?

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Off Road Tire

Choosing the right off road tire for your rig can be confusing… Make it easier by asking yourself these two important questions before you decide…

What is your tire budget?
Off road tire costs alone will run from $80 to over $500 each. Most stock 4x4s can accommodate a size or two larger tires without needing modifications or adversely affecting handling. Going way oversize may require new wheels, a lift job, shocks and other mods that could cost thousands more!

What do you really need in a 4X4 tire?
Ask yourself how much will you drive… off road, on wet and dry pavement, over mud, rocks, sand, snow and ice. What are the worst likely conditions you may encounter and how often? Do you plan to air down or have to trailer your rig to the jump-off point?

The bad news… you might have to compromise! The good news… There are off road tires available that can provide reasonable all around traction.

Still confused? Read on as we briefly describe the four different tire categories that pertain to most 4x4 owners… followed by some tire selection tips and recommendations!

All-Purpose Tires: Some All-Purpose tires come stock on “new” Light Pickups and SUV’s and may have the M+S designation. These tires normally handle fine on dry pavement, perform well in snow and wet conditions, but are marginal at best for off road use due to lighter construction and a closed tread pattern.

You are probably asking, why even mention these tires in a 4x4 site! Simple, I'm willing to bet that these All-Purpose Tires travel more 4x4 miles every year than any other off road tire. This is due to the vast numbers of these tires being used everyday on Light 4x4 Trucks, Jeeps and SUVs. Just be prepared for an off road tire repair.

All-Terrain Tires: All-Terrain tires are a step up from All-Purpose street tires. They come with a more aggressive open tread design that provides better traction on rocks and sand with fair to good tread cleaning in mud and snow. All-Terrain tires are built tougher to take off road abuse, but rarely ride as smooth as All-Purpose tires on the pavement.

Mud-Terrain Tires: Mud-Terrain tires, with their more radical tread design, extra tough construction and large assortment of sizes, provide the best all around traction and puncture resistance in off-road conditions. They excel in mud, rocks and sand, but don’t normally do as well on ice and wet pavement. Mud-Terrain tires are not as smooth or quiet on the highway as All-Terrain tires.

Specialty and Off-Road-Racing Tires: Specialty tires are the most extreme off road tires made, come in the largest sizes, are built the toughest, can provide the most traction in off road conditions, cost the most and, with few exceptions, are not well suited for normal highway use. The same applies to Off-road Racing Tires.

Off Road Tire Selection Tips!

Now it’s time to decide on what off road tire to buy. First let us look at the most common 4x4 owner profiles and try to match up the best tire for a particular situation!

Stock Jeep, Light truck or SUV

1... Almost 100% of all driving is done on the pavement with occasional rain, snow and ice. No towing or heavy loads carried. The All-Purpose tire works fine.

2... Over 90% on the pavement, but tows a medium travel trailer on weekends and goes off the pavement for some light 4x4 travel a few times every year. A properly load rated All-Purpose tire is still marginally ok.

3... Mostly driven on the highway, but enjoys light to moderate off-road adventures during the summer and trips to ski resorts or lives in snow country during the winter, and sometimes pulls a travel trailer. A proper load rated All-Terrain tire within vehicle specs is ok.

4... Mostly driven on the highway, but enjoys pushing the vehicle to its limits in various off road conditions. The biggest, toughest All Terrain or Mud Terrain tire that will safely fit the vehicle is in order. Consider which of the two off road tires best suits your situation.

Modified Jeep, Light Truck or SUV

Some 4x4 owners have these mods done for looks and never leave the pavement, while others want rigs that look good and perform well on and off-roads. What they have in common is the desire for the biggest, most radical off road tire that will fit the vehicle and their budget.

Top choices would be Oversized All Terrain and Mud-Terrain tires followed by Specialty and Off-Road Racing Tires. A good deal of highway driving in wet, snowy and icy conditions may limit your choices due to lack of siping

Highly Modified 4x4's and Competition rigs
Owners of these rigs have usually done their homework and choose the best Mud-Terrain or Specialty Off Road Tires and Wheels to match their traction needs.

My Tire Picks!

All-Purpose Tires:
The Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza offers, in my opinion, with the proper load rating, the best year around highway traction and performance while still tough enough for some light 4x4 action.

Sizes available from 205/70TR15 to 285/45HR22 – Priced from $92 to $232... More picks - The Michelin Cross Terrain SUV, The Firestone Destination LE and The KUMHO Road Venture HT.

All-Terrain Tires:
The Bridgestone Dueler A/T REVO would be the perfect All-Terrain Tire if it just had a little stronger sidewall. However, I’ve put over 40,000 miles on my Revos mounted on a Jeep Cherokee.

I've driven them in rain, snow, ice, rocky trails, dirt, sand and mud… without so much as a leak or getting stuck. I rotate all 5 tires every 5,000 miles and plan to get over 70,000 miles wear.

The REVO is the best… wet pavement, snow and ice tire I’ve ever seen, due in part due to factory siping and they still deliver outstanding off road performance.

Sizes available from 225/70SR15 to 265/70RR17 - Priced from $115 to $150... More picks – The KUMHO Road Venture AT 825, The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO, and The Dunlop Radial Rover RVXT.

Mud-Terrain Tires:
I like tires that perform well under all conditions. That’s why I chose the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R. This is the tire I’m putting on my Ford F150 4x4 for use in Northern Nevada. Here we have every 4x4 challenge imaginable.

The tough puncture resistant MT/R loves it all… on or off the highway, sand, mud, rocks, and snow. I am going to sipe the lugs for better traction on ice and wet pavement.

Sizes available from 235/75QR15 to 40X13.5R17 - Priced from $135 to $368... More picks – The KUMHO Road Venture MT 834, The BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM and The Firestone Destination M/T.

Specialty and Off-Road-Racing Tires:
The BF GOODRICH BAJA T/A is my choice because it is a tough as nails, proven off-road race tire that still does very well in sand, mud and rocks… while still displaying acceptable highway manners and tread life.

Sizes available from 31X12.50R15C to 37X12.50R17D - Priced from $390 to $550... More picks – The DICK CEPEK F-C KEVLAR, The PRO COMP XTERRAIN and The SUPER SWAMPER TSL.

Spare Tire or Not?
I notice that when I ride with many of my friends who sport fancy oversized, off road tires and rims, they either don’t have or carry a spare. I Sure these oversized tires are expensive and you can save some money by purchasing only four tires. The problem lies in that unless you sport the big tires for looks alone and stay on the pavement, you are asking for trouble.

Those who engage in off road travel, on occasion end up a long way from civilization on roads that punish the best of tires. So what do you do if you have a flat or blowout? without a suitable tire repair kit (that’s if it’s even possible to repair the damaged tire) You’re in trouble big time, especially if you have no way of communicating with the outside world. So you can only hope that another 4X4 happens by to take you out, otherwise you must walk out for help leaving your 4X4 unprotected in the woods.

Your troubles aren’t over until you find a suitably sized tire to take back to the crippled 4X4. Now if you have chosen to drive out on the rim, you have two problems to face. You will now require both a tire and a wheel. How many rural tire shops stock oversized tires and wheels? See where I’m going, the wasted time and expense can be devastating, just because you didn’t carry a suitable spare tire for such an emergency. I’ve been there, but not recently because this is not an experience I wish to relive.

Consider that slightly oversized/undersized tires with slightly mismatched spares also present problems. It’s not a good idea to place a different sized spare on one of the drive wheels and travel in four wheel drive, you don’t need possible drive train problems or failure to compound the situation.

The Solution I always purchase 4X4 tires in sets of five and rotate all five every 4,000 miles thus maintaining all tires at about the same diameter. This also pays off in longer tire life. Of course, you can get by with a different brand of spare as long as it’s the same size as the four on the ground. When off-roading, I always carry a small 12 volt air compressor, tire plugs and of course a SPARE TIRE!

Also See my ATV Tire Section... Here!

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