How to Choose the Right Off Road Tires

Looking to buy some new off road tires? Hold it right there. If you’re just looking to pick up the biggest, baddest, best-looking truck tires available, there are a few things you should take into consideration before finalizing that purchase.

The Real Deal about Off Road Tires

Whether you’re mud-plowing, rock-crawling, sand-racing, or whatever other off road activities conceivable, it’s important to understand why you need a set of off road truck tires.

A common misconception regarding truck tires is that you need them for improved traction on rugged terrain, and naturally, the general consensus suggests that the larger tire the more traction. While such an assumption makes sense, it is not 100% accurate.

True, the right off road tires can provide some additional traction in off road conditions, but there are better, more efficient ways to improve traction than simply doubling-up on rubber. If traction is your primary concern, a traction differential (locker) with stock truck tires is more beneficial for than just adding a set of taller, more aggressive truck tires. Or, a winch is probably a smart idea before any other aftermarket product. A locker could inspire excessive boldness, causing you to get caught in some real oh no moments and then you’ll wish that you opted for the winch instead.

The point is larger truck tires are meant first and foremost for the purpose of raising the height and ground clearance of your truck to take on steeper ascents and descents in off road terrain. Simply put, when driving over rocks, slogging through mud, jamming across the desert, or even just making your way through the occasional mountain trail, higher ground clearance facilitates negotiating certain obstacles.

Not to downplay the traction quality of off road truck tires, as a set of mud terrain bias tires will most definitely perform better in the mud than a set of all-seasons. Rather, improved traction is more of a secondary function that still bears importance, but is not the sole consideration when it comes to purchasing truck tires.

Are you ready for taller off road truck tires?

Buying a set of taller off road truck tires is like making a marriage work; it involves sometimes drastic changes, commitment, and sacrifices, along with constant care and maintenance. On the other hand, at least you won’t have to remember anniversaries.

The first thing to keep in mind is that upgrading to taller truck tires means upgrading a number of other components in your truck as well. Additional inches of vehicle clearance are needed for the truck tires to fit without rubbing against the fenders and fender walls. A body lift, suspension lift, or a combination of both can provide those additional inches. For off road uses, a suspension lift is preferable for the increase in wheel travel capability, whereas a body lift simply allows for the fitment of larger tires without any enhancements in performance.

Larger truck tires also mean that your vehicle will be working harder to move added weight, which can result in significant strain to your shocks and axles, and also alters the manufacture set gear ratio. To compensate for these increases, new ring and pinion gears and performance shocks (many complete lift kits typically include shocks) are strongly recommended. To counteract the loss in performance from additional weight, custom intakes, exhausts, computer chips, or any other performance-enhancing components are also recommended for consideration.

Bias Ply Off Road Tires vs. Radial Truck Tires

Any driver will tell you that radial truck tires have innumerable advantages over bias ply off road tires. In fact, the tire industry has almost completely abandoned manufacturing bias ply off road tires, save for a few exceptions. Yet despite that, bias off road tires come attached with a number of disadvantages, they still have their advantages when it comes to off road conditions.

Pros and Cons for Bias Ply Off Road Tires

Bias ply off road tires provide unmatched performance in extreme off road situations, such as rough trails, deep mud, and jagged rocks. The tread is designed to self-clean and release mud or foreign objects much easier to assist in maintaining traction and the rubber compounds are softer to produce better grip. Additionally, the tire sidewalls are typically reinforced to prevent damage.

On the downside, however, the ride and wear characteristics of bias ply off road tires on pavement are rather poor. High speed street driving is an uncomfortable and noisy endeavor, and a set of bias ply off road tires will not last much longer than twenty to thirty thousand miles. Even for Off Road situations, while low air pressure bias truck tires will deliver excellent performance, the center tread will still take a beating.

Pros and Cons for Radial Truck Tires

Although bias ply off road tires are ideal for an extreme off road enthusiast, this is not to suggest that radial truck tires aren’t effective enough on harsh terrain. On the contrary, the latest radial truck tires perform surprisingly well in off road situations, and are designed with versatility in mind to produce better road handling characteristics, even at high speeds.

While radial truck tires may not provide the same traction or performance as a set of low air pressure bias ply off road tires, their longevity, handling, and smooth ride on paved roads makes up for it. Radials are perfect for the weekend off road enthusiasts who sees a lot of driving time on paved roads and highways.

Sizing

Tire sizing can be tricky, mostly because the size of truck tires is dependent upon a number of factors. The most obvious question is first whether your truck is capable of handling the size of tires that you want, and if not, what modifications do you need to make in order for the tires to fit? Unfortunately, since customization and modification is vehicle-specific, there are not any universal, all-authoritative guides available to simplify the process. Your best bet for getting a better idea of your truck’s specifications is to contact the manufacturer. This will give you a general sense for what your truck is capable of so that you do not exceed its limits, or that you have the right parts installed in case you do.

In terms of choosing the right lift kit, accessories, and knowing what modifications to make, factory service manuals, Off Road magazines, internet message boards, manufacturer’s guides, and a number of other resources to assist you.

Choosing the Right Type of Truck Tires

Before plunging headfirst into the sea of off road truck tires and coming out with the meanest, most intimidating tires you can find, you have to at least know what type of tires will best suit your off road needs. First, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What type of Off Road activities will I be doing the most? How much on-road and off road driving will I do? What qualities in particular am I most concerned with -- ride quality, appearance, durability, traction, performance? How much am I willing to spend? Taking some time to consider these important questions can help you narrow down what type of truck tires are best for you.

All Season Truck Tires

All season truck tires usually have no business going off road, as their tread designs and composition are not built to handle Off Road beatings. They do, however, provide long-lasting tread that excels on wet or dry paved roads. Most stock vehicles come equipped with all season tires. For vehicle enthusiasts adding larger truck tires just for show, all-season truck tires are likely the most efficient way to go. Going this route won’t get that aggressive look that’s quite popular as of late, but that may be a small price to pay for truck tires that will last you tens of thousands of miles longer than more aggressive truck tires.

All-Terrain Truck Tires

When it comes to all-terrain truck tires, versatility is the name of the game. All-terrain truck tires are typically the jack of all trades but a master of none. As a result, a broad range of all-terrain truck tires are available, based on whether a tire’s focus is on or off road performance. Typically, all-terrain truck tires are built with off road standards in mind and then are modified in certain areas to improve street performance. The end result is truck tires that can handle everyday driving, as well as light to moderate Off Road conditions. For the most extreme Off Road performance, all terrains won’t perform as well as specialized Off Road truck tires, but on the road, they offer excellent longevity, even wear, and durability.

Extreme (Rock Crawling/Mud Terrain/Sand/Deep Snow) Truck Tires

Designed for extreme off road conditions and little else, rock crawling and mud terrain truck tires use aggressive tread designs that extend to the sidewalls, giant lugs with deep voids, and reinforced sidewall construction to create tires that will grip any surface and remain durable in the process. Extreme terrain truck tires typically carry many of the same features, and consequently many mud terrain tires make excellent rock crawling tires, and vice versa. Extreme terrain truck tires come in either radial or bias ply, but do their job best in a low air pressure, which allows the tread to conform to surfaces for increased traction. Yet despite that extreme terrain tires are composed of durable, cut and puncture resistant compounds, they usually do not produce very much mileage when driven on the street, particularly at high speeds. In addition, due to the wild tread designs and huge lugs, extreme terrain tires are quite noisy and can cause a bumpy ride on the road.

Need More Assistance?

Getting new truck tires can be a complicated process if you don’t know how to go about it. It is strongly recommended that you do some research and take advantage of the many available resources before making the purchase. Yet in the end, if you still have doubts, the best way to determine the right tires and modifications for your vehicle is to consult an experienced and knowledgeable person who has a vehicle similar to yours, and has it customized in a similar manner. Not only can such a person suggest the correct products, but also likely has experience with installation and general drivability.

 
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