THE RIGHT TIRES MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE IN YOUR FUN TIME!
A few simple tips and some safety reminders
Tires can be the difference between fun and fiasco; between life and disaster; and between conquering and crashing. Proper attention and care of your tires are extremely important, along with brakes, to keep you safe on the road and gettin’ it on the trails. Here are some tech tips to help you learn more about tires in our off-road world.
Wet road conditions = loss of traction!
Depending on what kind of off-roading you do, an aggressive lug tire like the BFGoodrich Mud Terrain (KM3) or the Milestar Patagonia M/T will take you anywhere you need to go, at a fair price, with reasonable road life. But did you know that on the road, if you leave your tires at low air pressure, you can experience 1/2 (yea, 50%) loss of the traction in wet conditions — with any tire! And that is if you reduce your pressure by merely 15 psi (from 35 to 20).
On wet roads as water builds up at the front of the footprint, if the wall of water increases and there is not enough void/open space for the water to be stored, then when the water pressure exceeds the inflation pressure it lifts the center of the footprint off the pavement which then scoops in even more water and hydroplaning occurs.
Another consideration is the technical specs of the tire in motion. Because of the weight they bear, pneumatic tires’ sidewalls bulge and their treads flatten as they roll into contact with the road. This results in dimensional differences between the tire’s “unloaded” radius (i.e., between the center of the axle and the top of the tire) and its “loaded” radius (between the center of the axle and the road). Tire engineers call the difference between the two radii “deflection.” Increasing vehicle speed will cause the tires to deflect quicker, and increasing vehicle load will cause the tires to deflect farther (if tire pressure isn’t increased). You can find charts that will tell you in simple terms: the faster you go the more air pressure you need!
Off-roading and rock crawling are the times we like to use low air pressure — for sure. And that’s the right way to do it; but I’m suggesting that when you get back to pavement, and you face possible wet driving conditions, to air back up!
Oh, and did you know that low pressure tires in dry condition cause more heat build-up in your rubber compound — and could lead to tire issues.??? I am sure we have all seen that jeeper that failed to properly inflate their tires after a trail run, only to have a blow-out while traveling at high speeds headed home or returning to camp on pavement. Lower tire air pressure can also lead to as much as a 25% lower tread life, increased stopping distance and tire blowouts as tires flex and generate more heat.
That is why most all tire manufacturers recommend a certain tire pressure for road driving, and want you to be diligent in checking your tire pressure. Newer vehicles have Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that will alert you when you have low pressure in one or all of your tires. This is an important alert once you get back onto the highway for a long or short drive back to camp for the night. If I am on a multi-day event, and have to run the pavement for a short distance at lower speeds, I will not refill my tires prior to pounding the pavement. If it is going to be a longer trip back to camp, with higher speeds, I will take the time to put some air back into my tires for my safety and the safety of others on the road. No tire manufacturer, though, will ever tell you to run your tires at less than the tire stated inflation specifications.
Tire rotation is important
This brings up the next tip: ROTATE your tires. And yes, even your off-road rig tires. Rotating tires extends tire life, ensures a better footprint all around, and forces you to check your tires more often!
Depending on your vehicle, there are different rotation patterns that can be utilized and this also depends on if you have directional tires on your vehicle.
For our off-road rigs, the spare replacement patterns are best utilized as we usually have a full-size spare. But remember to keep your spare properly aired up and checked frequently.
One last tip: remember the old days when we used to buy two tires at a time, rather than 4, to spread out the cost? Well, if you do that today, or if you run mis-matched tread wear tires, PUT THE GOOD TIRES IN THE REAR!
Yes, the rear tires, even with front-wheel drive rigs, is where you need the stability of good tires — your best tread goes in the back. Your chances of spinning out of control in wet conditions is hugely reduced with your good tires in the rear. They will stabilize you as you push through a puddle or wet surface, even if your front tires want to lose traction. Discount Tire web page has more information on replacing two tires; https://www.discounttire.com/learn/replacing-2tires
So, the bottom line; make sure you are in the habit of checking and rotating your tires. Keep the proper air pressure for the conditions; and don’t be lazy about safety.
Discount Tire has a great page on tire safety here; https://www.discounttire.com/learn/tire-safety
BFGoodrich Tires has a great interactive rotation pattern graphic for all types of vehicles here.’
Milestar Tires has a helpful graphic on tire inflation tips and conditions here.
Discount Tire Tips page; https://www.discounttire.com/learn
When it comes to safety, and your life, the two things that can most likely ruin your day are tires and brakes. Retired BFG guy with over 40 years in the tire business, Richard Winchester said it best: “The only thing between your butt and the pavement are the four contact patches of your tires.” Keep your tires in good shape; inspected often; and maintained within specs. Pay attention to your tire inflation pressure and keep the rubber side down!