5 Things To Consider When Buying Off Road Tires March 25, 2013
5 Elements Of An Off-Road Tire You don't need to be a master off-roader to know that tires are vital to driving. While this is an understatement, choosing the right tire is a little more tricky than just picking one that looks cool. Tires deliver all the power your engine has to the dirt. You can get the best engine and transmission upgrades out there, but if your tires aren't up to it, that power will be wasted and you'll either get nowhere or even worse, stuck. Remember, if your truck plays double duty and drives on the trail as well as the road, tire choice is even more important so you're safe in both environments. Let's check out the 5 key elements to choosing an off-road tire. 1. Tire Size If you are going with the same tire size as stock, this is an easier choice, as you just run with what you have. If, however, you want to go big, there is a little more work involved. First, larger tires are great because they help by increasing ground clearance. A wider tire means more traction, since there is more surface area. Both great things. If you go too big, however, you start running into all sorts of issues. Increasing tire size means you generally need to upgrade your braking setup, change your gearing ratios, and possibly install a lift kit. More on that in a bit. Basically get the tire you need for the type of off-roading you want to do. If you are building up a truck for off-roading, tire size should be the first thing you choose, and everything else should be based upon them. 2. Tread Design and Depth The first thing to remember here is that the better a tire is on the street, the worse it will be in mud. If you are using this as an off-road toy as well as a daily driver, you may want to look into getting a second set of tires and rims so you can run the right tires for the right task. Once the size of tire is chosen, it's time to pick out a tread pattern. This affects how your truck handles in the mud, and how well it can grab rocks. There are hundreds of tread patterns and depths out there, so take your time and match it up with the type of off-roading you will be doing. Knowing this is the best case, you cans till pick something that will be OK in both arenas. A tire with a good, off-road focused tread design can still drive on the road, but you will notice decreased maneuverability, speed, and stopping distance performance. Picking a mid-level aggressive tread tire is the best option here. Make sure it has a nice deep tread depth and the pattern can be less intense. Deep treads help to act as paddles when in mud, freeing themselves of trapped mud as they spin. Deep treads are also great for rocks, as the individual treads can grab on to corners of rocks and conform to various surfaces. 3. Fitment Just because a tire says it will fit doesn't mean it will. Basic numbers are all nice and fine, but one company's tire might fit perfectly while another one's might rub. With fitment, it's best to go with the manufacturer's specification sheet, as it will have exactly what you need to make sure the tire will not rub. If the tire you need does rub, it may be necessary to do some modifications to the truck to help the tires fit. If they are running suspension parts, you most likely need to go with a different size. 4. Aspect Ratio When talking about tires, aspect ratio refers to the distance from the ground to the wheel in relation to the width of the tire. In other words, when you see a tire size as P225/50R16, the "50" is the aspect ratio. This means the sidewall height from rim to tread is 50% of it's section width. The higher this number is, the higher the sidewall. Make sure to choose an aspect ratio that gives you enough tread when you air down for the trail while still having a solid sidewall. Also, this helps you to understand how tall the tires will be, and how much ground clearance you will add. 5. Additional Upgrades It has been said that the devil is in the details, and with tire upgrades, this couldn't be more true. There's a reason I said you should start with choosing a tire size before doing any other upgrades and that is because everything from brakes, suspension, lift kit, and transmission are tied to this decision. Safety is number one in upgrading, so make sure the braking kit you have can handle the tire sizer you choose. Larger tires mean the rotating mass of the tire is more and further from the axle, which means it will be harder to stop. An upgraded brake kit will help with this. With larger tires comes the need for a re-geared transmission. Larger tires will affect your transmission so make sure if you are going big, you update the tranny as needed. The biggest noticeable upgrade would be the lift kit. Lift your truck for the tire size you need. Bigger isn't always better, so take the time and figure out what size tire you need, and base the lift kit off of it. Decide if you need a suspension lift or if you are just going with a body lift. This will affect your budget greatly. I know I said to start with tire size before doing anything else, but the un-official #1 to-do her should be to figure out your budget and what you want the truck to do. I am assuming that you do this first, but this is ideally the most important question you could ask yourself. How much can I spend, and what do I want it to do when I'm done. After that, figure out the tire size and move from there.