To Choose the Right Mud Tire
No Nonsense breakdown on shopping for Mud Tires
Rewind back a few decades when there were only a
few good choices in serious offroad tires and it was easy to make a decision.
Today, things are different. Tires are more complex and the tire market more
competitive. The advent of computer aided drawing had given birth to a whole
new generation of offroad tires designed with specific purposes in mind. Add
to that a multitude of tire manufacturers all wanting a piece of the expanding
mud tire market and you have LOTS of choices in mud terrain, all terrain and
any terrain tires. All of the manufacturers want you to believe that they
have THE best off-road tire on the market so they can get your business. So
how do you weed through all of the options and find the tire that youíre going
to be happy with and fits your budget. With so may to choose from, itís easy
to make a poor decision that youíll have to live with for the life of your
tire or until your budget will allow for another big expensive purchase again.
We think this article will help. This is a no nonsense breakdown of things
to consider before you dump your hard earned cash into a set of off-road
Here is a set of
Important Questions to ask yourself:
What is your budget? This might be your #1 limiting factor.
Sure youíd love to put that set of 37 inch
Nitto Mud Grapplers
on your beater 4x4, but at $475 a tire, you might think twice unless
you have money to burn. So you may want to start with a limit on
how much youíll spend in total. When considering the budget, donít
overlook some of those easily forgotten costs like your spare tire
(an automatic locker needs tires of equal size), new rims, a lift
kit if the size you want doesnít fit, the cost of shipping the tire
to you, mounting and balancing all of the tires, taxes, transfer of
your expensive TPM sensors (Tire Pressure Monitoring) and whatever
else might pop up. So start by getting a general budget figure in
your head if thatís a concern to you.
What size tire are you looking for? You
ask most 4x4 owners looking for tires and theyíre tell you they want
to go with taller tires than what they currently have. And why not,
taller equals more clearance, you sit higher and it looks great.
But be sure you do your research. Dependent on the size you want
to go for, thereís a good chance youíll need to do further
modification to fit those tires under your fenders. Check charts
such as this
tire fitment chart
Tire size Guide
to get a general idea if your choice in tire will clear your
fenders. Always be sure to consider a fully articulated suspension
where the tire is stuffed into the wheel well. The last thing you
want to do is buy a brand new set of mud tires, take them offroad
and put a big gash in the sidewall all because they didnít clear the
Optimal Power Band, Gear Ratio vs. Tire
Size. Besides clearance, taller tires also change your power band
and where you have optimal power at a given rpm. Put simply, a taller tire
will cause you to run at a lower RPM at a given speed. Depending on your
current axle gear ratio, a taller tire may cause your engine to bog down
excessively and may reduce fuel efficiency and performance on and off-road.
This in turn can lead to the feeling of under power and excessive use of your
clutch. Refer to this
gear ratio chart which will help
you compare tire sizes to a given axle gear ratio.
is the purpose? Tires constructed to handle offroad conditions come in a
wide variety of designs. They range from borderline road tires, to light
all-terrain to desert terrain, to the serious mud and rock crawling
competition grade tires. Realistically you want a tire that covers the variety
of terrain that it will see. Don't overlook the fact that you may spend the
majority of driving time on the road with the occasional offroad use. Factor
the qualities of a good road tire, good wear and good on-road traction in wet
weather by looking at tires that have
sipes, which will improve wet
weather traction. The tire that may be the all-star in the mud bog, probably
wonít do so well going down the highway at 65 mph and those super tacky soft
rubber tires that are awesome on the rocks may not last very long as the road
eat up the soft compounds like a pencil eraser on sandpaper. Beyond highway,
what type of offroad terrain will you drive on primarily? Rocks? Better read
the reviews on sidewall damage and the durability of the tread. Rocks are
pretty rough on your average mud tire. Mud? How well do they clear mud out of
the tread voids? Desert? How well do they do at floatation on soft sand? Do
you drive on a variety of these terrains? Maybe what you're looking for is a
moderately aggressive mud tire, or one of the more aggressive All Terrain type
Do you need rims? Another
consideration that comes with changing your tire size is the rim on which itís
mounted. An increase in tire height usually means an increase in rim size,
especially over stock tires. Always pay attention to the minimal rim size for
the tire you want and never under-size your rim. If it turns out you do need
rims, MAKE sure they clear things like break calipers and suspension
components. Review the backspacing requirements for your vehicle. See
for more information on understanding rims.
Educate yourself on tire construction. A little knowledge can go a long way. Knowing what the difference between a
radial tire and a bias ply tire is as critical as knowing the difference between an automatic and a manual transmission. Knowing what
and voids are and how they improve your traction can help you visually look at a tire and have some insight into what it will do offroad.
Knowing what the difference between
tread plys and sidewall plys could mean the difference between blowing out a tire or having a great day on the trail.
how to read the sidewall of a tire
how to decipher the age of a tire
is basic information that will make you a better buyer. Also knowing
how to convert P-Metric Tire Sizes into Inches
can be helpful when youíre shopping around comparing one tire to another.
For more on tire construction, see this
tire tech page.
Avoid shopping by appearance alone.
There are a lot of really cool looking tires out there on the market.
But looks are not always equal to performance on road and off road. A lot of
times, that is what you are paying for, the look. Get past the look and
shop for quality and tires with favorable reviews. Long after you get
used to how they look, you'll be driving on these tires.
Avoid the Hype. Once you have a general idea for what your looking for now is the time to
start shopping. The number one thing to avoid is the marketing claims
that "this" tire is the best on the market. Avoid reading the
manufacturers ads that make all the claims, theyíll cloud your judgment.
Your best tool for getting a feel for finding the difference between quality
at a bargain and over-prices tires or tires that fall way below your
opinions of other people using the same tire. Read
of the tires you're
considering. Visit bulletin boards and join discussions on tires.
Ask your friends and others on the trail. When you see a rig doing what
you want to do and see their tires perform, ask them what they think of their
tires. Opinions of people who actually use the tire is by far the most
valuable tool for making a choice.
When shopping, do plenty of price comparisons and always factor in shipping costs into your
final cost. Call around and ask tire shops for their best price they can offer
on a specific set of tires. Be honest and let them know what other
prices you have acquired for the same set and see if they are willing to match
or beat that price. A lot of tire shops are willing to work with you to
get your business.
After you make your
purchase, practice good tire maintenance. You want to get the most
out of your investment so follow a few basic tire maintenance rules.
Number one, always drive on the road fully inflated. Yes, you'll be
airing down for the trail but ALWAYS air up afterwards for your daily driving.
The number one killer of tires driven on the road is under-inflation.
Driving on an under-inflated tire fatigues the tire and causes excessive heat
and tire separation. To avoid tire failure, air up to the recommended
PSI for your daily driving. For long-term even tire wear, rotate your
Lastly make sure you do
the offroad tire community a service and share your opinions of your mud tire
purchase. Leave reviews and post your opinion on bulletin boards.
Ultimately its the end user's opinion that really matters.