Picking The Right Tire

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There are more options today for tires than there has ever been. Every manufacturer has various versions of all-terrain tires, in varying levels of aggression. They have mud-terrain and maximum traction tires, and the specialty extreme tires. So while the more aggressive tires may look cool, they could be the incorrect choice available.When choosing a tire, answer these questions:

  1. How often will you be going off-road?
  2. What kind of off-road terrain will you be experiencing?
  3. What kind of vehicle do you have?
  4. How loud of a tire are you willing to deal with?
  5. Do you have unsprung weight requirements you are working with?

If you are going to be doing mostly highway travel, often an all-terrain tire will be more than sufficient. However, when you do get off the beaten path, is that all-terrain tire going to be able to provide sufficient traction based on the terrain you will encounter?

When discussing the terrain, consider all of the possible scenarios. Are you bombing through the desert? Will you be experiencing heavy, loose rock? Will this dry, solid ground turn into a mud bath if it rains? Answering these questions can point you towards what level of aggression you need to be shoeing your vehicle with.

Once we have the terrain down, examine your vehicle. Do you have a ultra-light Jeep that can get anywhere without much effort? Or are you rocking a full-size diesel truck/van that requires a team of spotters to navigate a trail? Larger vehicles, due to their weight and their size disadvantage, will need more traction assistance than lighter vehicles that can more easily use momentum as an aid. Additionally, the higher weight of large vehicles exerts stressors on the sidewall of the tire not normally dealt with, and in turn, higher load capacity tires must be used. And due to the increased pressure on the ground from a heavier vehicle, wider tires are often chosen to help facilitate floatation, increase contact patch and just generally give the best fighting chance possible.

That leads to noise—the more aggressive the tire, the louder it is going to be. The larger the void between lugs, the more it will howl at high speeds and vibrate at low. This is only a question you can answer yourself.

The final question is unsprung weight. Unsprung weight is everything below the vehicle that isn’t supported by the springs themselves. We will localize to wheels and tires in this example to help illustrate the importance of this in different applications.

Tires and wheels come in all different weights based on construction, load capacity and tread aggression. Light tire and wheel combinations allow for reduced load on the engine to get going, and on the brakes for stopping. The more weight that is there, the more effort it will take to either get spinning or stop it. BFGoodrich has famously always had the lightest construction tire, and paired with a light wheel will lead to reduced stresses on the driveline. That light construction comes at a cost though, it’s also less durable than heavier builds. Japanese tire manufacturer Toyo makes the heaviest tires on the market, but they’re also known as the highest quality tires with heaviest build and are time and time again race champions.

So, if you are running a light weight Jeep with a low-output engine, a lighter tire like the BFG might be your best bet to keep your performance at an optimum level without the risk of damaging the tire. If you are rocking that same full-size diesel that we talked about before, you will probably need something that is more willing to put up with the abuse you are prepared to throw at it.

In the market to buy new tires? Or want to upgrade from the tires your currently use? Check out the Tire Buyer’s Guide in the January/February 2018 issue of Tread on sale 12/19/17 for a wide selection of what’s available.

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