Choosing the Right Off-Road Tire
In order to select the correct off-road tire, you must first ask yourself some questions
What type of terrain do you typically drive on off-road: Mud, Rocks, Sand, Snow, Gravel?
For Mud Terrain and snow, look for tires with high void areas and a good self-cleaning design. This will give your truck or SUV more forward bite and ensure the tires do not clogged in very loose and wet terrains. On rocky terrains, look for tires with high puncture resistance, and plenty of biting lugs in the shoulder and sidewall. Rock climbing is all about finding traction wherever it can be found and having enough clearance to cross the obstacles below and ahead. In sandy soils and dunes, a more rounded shoulder design is preferred and a wider tire will typically provide better flotation and reduce “digging.” For gravel and hard pack with no elevation changes, a less aggressive tread is preferable, but puncture resistance and a stone ejecting tread are high priorities.
What is the grade of the terrain you typically drive on: Flat, Hilly, Mountainous, Extreme?
On flatter, harder terrains, look for off road tires with a less aggressive tread and broad shoulder. For hilly/mountainous terrain, choose a tire with plenty of biting edges to help claw up and over the ground.
Do you drive your truck, jeep, or SUV “on-road” as well as off-road? If so, is road noise, ride quality, mileage & tire wear important to you?
Like many things, off road tires represent a compromise in terms of ride quality and noise, in exchange for traction. If for example you only spend 5% of your vehicles time off road – and then only going off road in gravel and hardpack – consider an all terrain tire rather than a mud tire. In most cases, an All Terrain tire will provide a better compromise between on road manners and off road capability than a true mud tire. On the other hand if you spend a considerable amount of time off road, playing in mud, climbing rocks etc, and are looking for a tire that can take you there and back home again, look for an aggressive tread and plenty of extra deep lugs.
How is your vehicle set up: Stock, Lifted, Leveled, Flared Fenders...?
This will help determine the size of tires that can be fitted, and to some degree, the types of terrains that can be traversed.
Off-Road Tire Construction
Is the construction of a mud terrain tire different than that of a highway or all terrain tire?
Typically off road tires feature a more robust tire carcass than a standard highway tire. Obviously the visible part of the tire is different in that the tread lugs are larger and many designs extend the tread over the tire shoulders down on to the sidewall as well. The construction or tire carcass changes can range from additional plies below the tread surface- to increase puncture and cut resistance -to reinforced sidewalls to keep rocks and other debris from cutting the tires. Many off road tires also have carcasses designed to allow them to properly flex and engage the tread lugs against the surface during low air pressure, off road driving.
What’s the difference between mud terrain and off road tires?
There are many types of off road tires, mud terrain tires being one of the many types. Other off road tires can be designed for rock crawling, sand/dune terrains etc.
What is unique about the lugs or tread on Mud Tires?
Compared with a traditional highway tires, or even all-terrain tires, mud tires typically have much larger tread lugs, and larger spaces between them. This gives the tires forward bite in loose terrains, and keeps their contact patches free of terrain accumulation.
Left: Toyo Open Country H/T | Right: Toyo Open Country M/T
What is the “void area” of a mud tire, and what does it mean for traction?
The void area of a tire is the cavity or groove(s) that exists between its tread lugs. Off road tires typically have large void areas to allow for more bite in loose and rocky terrains. The negative aspect of the increased void areas is the tires are typically more noisy on the highway, and tend to wear faster due to increased tread squirm and the resulting heat accumulation.
Left: BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
I have heard that mud tires have poor ride characteristics and are loud on the highway, is this true?
All off road tires represent a compromise. While most Mud Tires have improved significantly over the years in terms of noise and ride quality, they are typically louder and rougher riding than their highway tire counter parts; however, advances in casing design and uniformity have made them much easier to live with on road than in years past.
Usage & Applications
What is meant by “Airing down”?
Airing the tires down is a common practice used when taking a vehicle off road. By reducing the air pressure in the tires, it is allowing the tires’ tread and carcass to be more flexible. This flexibility allows it to conform with the terrain it is travelling over, thereby creating more traction. Lowering air pressure in mud tires, also make the tire more difficult to puncture. How much pressure to drop relative to normal road conditions depends greatly on the vehicle, tire and terrain. Airing down – or running your tires with reduced air pressure, should not be practiced on paved, or even gravel roads as the tires can overheat and or develop unusual wear characteristics.
What affect will larger mud tires or off road tires have on fuel economy?
Tires create drag and friction as they travel across any terrain. Wider tires typically create more of both as they generate more heat and affect aerodynamics. The other variable involved for both wider and taller tires is they typically weigh more than equivalent original equipment tires. This additional weight and mass uses more energy (fuel) to rotate. How much the tire affects fuel consumption will depend greatly on the vehicle and the tires involved.
Are Mud Terrain Tires good in snow and ice?
Mud tires are usually good performers in snow, but surprisingly, are typically not good for icy conditions. This is generally because of the lack of small sipping in the tread area. For icy conditions, look for a tire rated specifically for use on ice – and consider a tire that is studable.
Do I want taller tires or wider tires, or both?
This depends greatly on what type of terrain you tend to encounter off road – and on the type of vehicle. Wider off road tires help with flotation - which is key in sand and to some degree, mud. This said, heavier vehicles may perform better in mud using a more narrow tire as they find traction at the bottom of the terrain, rather than “floating” on top of it. In almost every case, a taller off road tire is better, as they create more ground clearance, moving critical components away from the terrain below. This is especially true in rocky terrains.
How wide or tall of an off road tire can I fit on my truck?
This depends greatly on wheels, modifications (if any) and the vehicle itself. We have experts at Tread Depot that can help find the perfect size mud or off road tire for your application.