Tire, Mud Terrain
and All Terrain Tires
It has been said that driving through mud is a cross between ice
skating and walking through quicksand. Though that may be
true with some types of mud, the truth is mud varies greatly
depending on where you are in the world.
From thick, goopy slop with a disappearing bottom to the
slick clay-like mud that has the stickiness of fly paper
several feet deep, you can't classify mud as just mud since it varies as
much as the 4 wheelers that are trying to get through it.
The variety of mud found everywhere requires a variety of driving
techniques and equipment applied to negotiating through the the mud one
might encounter. Suspension, mud tires, traction aid devices all
play a factor and demands vary dependent on the mud terrain.
Reviews of Mud Tires
Mud Tires, Mud Terrain and All Terrain Tire Reviews and Information
The one general common principle of mud is that it is a combination of
liquid and solid; that is water and Earth. The Earth may be sandy
soil, topsoil, clay, ice and snow, rocks and gravel, bog and peat moss,
all kinds of Earth material and/or a combination of all of that and more.
The common factor in all of this is that your tires are trying to find
traction through all of this. So how can to "read the mud" and know
what's the best approach with the right equipment?
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As mud varies, some tips help to address certain conditions. For instance
slick mud with a hard bottom layer is best attacked with a
narrow mud tires since a narrow mud terrain tire can cut through the top layer to
find traction on the hard
surface below. When a wide mud terrain tires encounters the same mud in this situation,
it tend to float or "hydroplane" on the slick top
layer without reaching the hard surface below.
A wider mud tire tends to do better in the thicker,
cement-like mud especially when the terrain varies below the surface.
It is this mud that wider mud tires will provide some flotation, much like
driving in sand. Wider tires also benefit from lowering the tire pressures
providing a larger contact patch and conforming over the uneven terrain.
How much you air down depends on the size of the tire and the stiffness of your
sidewall. Common air-down recommendations for mud and the average mud
tires is to
lower tire pressures down to about 15 to 20 PSI.
Another mud tire mud tip deals
with the tread pattern of your tire. Mud tires by definition are tires that have
a larger lug and wider and deeper space (voids) between lugs. In mud, these
wider, deeper voids should be designed to channel mud out of the tread and
self-clean the lugs so that as they spin through the mud, the lugs come down
clear of mud giving them better traction for the next rotation. With good mud
characteristics mud tires generally grab onto anything it can hook one of its
lug edges around, especially when aired down and channel the mud away from the
center. Tread designs typically are what make or break a mud tire and vary
widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. If a tire is not well designed for
mud, it may not self clean and will become clogged and packed with mud in the
voids, essentially making them a slick, flat tire with next to zero traction.
Tires that are more designed for street rather than mud are usually designed to
place a larger patch of rubber on the road and a quieter ride at highway speeds
with closer spaces between lugs. These road specific characteristics are more
prone to clogging and have a significant disadvantage in the mud but actually
benefit in sand where they tend not to "dig". Mud tires that have been designed
specifically to perform well in mud tend to handle worse and have a higher noise
level on paved surfaces where there is less of a contact patch on the road and
typically a lack of "sipes" that aid traction.
Mud Driving Techniques Mud Tires
One of the first things to do when
offroaders encountering mud is
to check it out first on foot. Not necessarily by walking though it but
get close and try to find the bottom with a long stick or object. If
vehicles have been driving through this mud hole before, check the tire
ruts below. The key is to find solid bottom and determine if you have
something to get traction on. Extremely soft mud or well abused mud
may cause you to lose traction very quickly and become high centered on
where tires have not been before, while the ruts go deep and sediment has
created soft mud with little traction. You also want to look for objects
like rocks, logs, sharp objects and anything that might damage or upset
the vehicle or the tires.
As stated above, airing down is one of those basic tips that
not only helps in mud but applies pretty much across the board as far as offroad
driving goes. However when it comes to mud airing down can be a double
sided sword. Airing down (reducing tire pressure) can help to gain
traction when mud seems to be bottomless and traction is hard to find. But
on the flip side airing down in mud that has a hard bottom can sometimes reduce
the traction since a tire aired up to higher pressures will have a sawing effect
on the bottom. Additionally reducing air pressure for mud means that
hidden obstacles in the mud (tree roots, rocks, sticks, etc) can present the
potential for more damage to your sidewalls. Airing down also means that
attacking these same obstacles might provide better traction as the tire
conforms over the obstacles. So it's a judgment call and more based on
experience in specific situations tan anything else. But since the
drawbacks to airing down primarily affect sidewall damage, a better mud tire
with a stronger sidewall helps to make the decision.
When choosing your line through the mud, your going to have a
better chance if your line follows the high spots such as the berm or peak
between the tire tracks of previous attempts through the mud. It's usually
these deeper mud tracks that have been worn down far enough that vehicles can
become high centered. It's also these tracks that you want to check
out before going through an unknown mud hole. On the flipside, it's these
existing wheel tracks that may have been cut down through the soft top layer
down to the firmer surface below where you find better traction.
Another tip that many times can be useful in mud is to move the steering wheel left to right from the center
in a sawing action. Many times this can help the front wheels find
traction when a direct ahead line isn't providing traction. When doing
this, do not
turn the wheel too far in either direction from your intended line as you can end up
reducing any momentum. Also always be aware of the direction your tires
are pointing. Your goal is to get through the mud so maintaining momentum
is key. If your tires ultimately don't point the way you want to go, they
will be working against you.
Choosing the the right gear is also important. With a
manual transmission and low range, you have to choice of different gears to run
in. One of the keys to getting through mud is keeping the tread clear.
To do that a mild to moderate amount of wheel spin is necessary. Sometimes
the lower the gear the less likely you will spin the wheels fast enough to clear
the voids of the mud and the last thing you want to do is damage your engine by
over-revving it. So choose a high gear when you need wheel spin low range
2nd gear for instance.
Don't dig holes. When forward momentum stops, you
should stop. The worst thing you can do is spin the tires and dig holes.
Now you not only have to contend with the mud but holes in the bottom of the mud
hole and clogged tread. When forward momentum stops, let off the gas.
Put the vehicle into reverse and back up a little. Put it back into your
forward gear of choice and give it another go. Rinse and repeat (do it
again). You may find that each time you backup and go forward you gain a
little distance. This is progress. When you spin your tires
excessively it typically pulls hard packed mud off the bottom and embeds it in
your tread. This mud is harder to remove with tire spin.
Mud driving is
as unpredictable as the mud itself. Different seasons, different terrain, different
types of mud all make even the seeming smallest mud hole a challenge.
Having an understanding of techniques that help get you though mud as well as
the right tires and the right equipment all help in each situation.
In the end a good set of mud tires with self-cleaning lugs will make a world of
difference but always have a backup plan with good recovery equipment.
How many of these Mud Tires can you identify?
Tire Chains, an alternative
to Mud Tires
In many cases a good set of mud tires are not always an
option. One way to overcome this shortfall is to use a set of tire chains
on your existing tires. Tire chains dramatically improve your traction in many
situations with mud being right up there with snow. However like
anything else tire chains can have their bad points as well. For one
you don't want to drive on paved roads with tire chains. Tire chains
also do damage to trails that may otherwise be relatively smooth.
That being said, it is best if tire chains are only used when you
absolutely have to use them to get through a muddy
section or as a last resort to getting out.
Maintenance After the Mud
Cleaning your vehicle is not just for aesthetics. Mud, especially
fine particle mud like clay, tends to stick to everything above and below.
Mud can build
up under the wheel wells, on the frame, it can pack around the radiator, into
the brake drums, on all the underside components, on the body in places
where you never saw before. It's important to remove as much of the
mud as possible before it turns into a permanent part of your vehicle and
ultimately cause damage to your vehicle. Mud on the rims can act as
a counter balance causing your vehicle to handle worse and causing
vibration at the steering wheel and can lead to uneven tire wear.
Mud also retains moisture. Moisture causes rust. Much your the
underside of a vehicle is either unprotected from factory or loses it's
protection of time and mud accelerates the rusting process. Mud is
also very hard on paint, causing it to deteriorate due to moisture and can
cause scratching and wear over time. So it is best remove as much of
the mud as possible after each encounter with the sticky stuff. A
good hose down to start with is good to get the large chunks off.
For the underside, it can be helpful to let a yard sprinkler run under the
vehicle for a little time to help soften and wash off under carriage mud.
Pressure washing works great too for surface and underside washing.
For a more through check examine items like differentials and gearbox oil
for contamination and change if necessary. Also examine your
differential and gearbox breathers to ensure they are functional and clear
of mud and debris. Check your air filter box for mud and water that
you might have inhaled and remove and clean the filter if necessary.
Check your radiator and hose out any mud blocking the cooling fins of the
radiator. Also check transmission coolers as well. Check all drain holes on the chassis
and in the doors to
be sure they are not blocked. Remove any caked on mud from brake
drums, steering linkage, shifting linkage and anything else that can
interfere with the mechanical operation of the vehicle. While your
at it, clean your recovery straps. When you give your vehicle a good
look for mud after a muddy day on the trails, you'd be surprised as to
where you find mud. If there is a crack or crevice, you can be sure
mud will find it's way in.
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This Article © Copyright of Offroaders.com
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Benefit Trail Rides were on
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in Rattlesnake Country
In this offroad report we have the opportunity to take a
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Check it out here
EVENT - Wheelin' with Tammy A rain soaked trip into the PA mountains.
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in the heart of
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