If you’re thinking of taking your crossover or SUV off road, you need to be equipped for the ride and that means more than a cooler full of frosty beverages. You need to wrap your wheels in the off road tire that best matches your off roading style. Wheelfire knows everything offroad wheels and tires, and we’ve put together this guide to help you pick the best tires to get your crossover or SUV off the pavement and onto the trails for adventure.
Types of Tires
Picking an off road tire begins with considering where you want to ride. The tire you pick will primarily be determined by the terrain you want to conquer. You also must consider how much time you will spend off road versus time on pavement. Off road tires aren’t built for paved surfaces. They have a different tread pattern. Their tread blocks are radially arranged. This means the tread blocks go across the tire, usually from the outside of the tread to the middle of the tire. This allows them to grab the surface as the tread goes by. That added grab results in a tradeoff in comfort and wear on paved roads.
All Season Tires. These tires are made for cruising city streets and highways. Their tread blocks are arranged circumferentially. Wrap your crossover rim in these tires if you stay on the pavement. They are not for off roading. Enough said.
All Terrain Tires. When you are ready to venture off the beaten path, the all terrain tire is the entry level for off road tires. All terrains are good for gravel, sand, stone and dirt surfaces. They can hold their own on snow covered pavement as well, making them a great option for a daily driver in snowy climates. These tires are built with larger tread blocks and more voids than standard all season tires. If your adventures don’t take you into deep mud or you aren’t into rock crawling, then it’s the perfect fusion of stability on the highway and grip off road. If you are an occasional off roader and run most of your miles on paved surfaces, this is the tire for you. It will give you off road traction, quiet ride on pavement and an aggressive look. While it has a slightly shorter tread life than a regular all season tire, you can count on it to last you almost as long as an all season tire on most crossovers and SUVs. They are more expensive than all season tires. The treading on an all terrain tire is tighter than the treading on a mud tire. If you plan to go off roading in deep mud, this tight treading will bog you down. If that’s the plan, go for a mud tire.
Popular All Terrain Tires
The best selling all terrain tires are made by Toyo. Nitto and Falken have reliable all terrain options as well. The Toyo Open Country AT is the gold standard in all terrain tires. The Falken Wildpeak AT and Nitto Terra Grappler G2 are also popular with week-end off roaders.
Mud Terrain Tires. Mudders are tires with enough muscle to get your off road beast moving and keep it rolling in deep mud. They are designed with extremely aggressive lugs and very large voids. This makes them great for very soft terrain such as deep mud and sand. They have little to no siping to bog you down. They are the tires of choice for rock crawling, because those voids are great stone ejectors. They are built with reinforced sidewalls to resist puncture by rocks, abrasions and tears and often have large shoulder lugs to boot. This doesn’t give you license to scrape them on the curbs in town, but if you do, they can take it. And while those aggressive sidewalls make your SUV look great, they have a function: to get a better grip and enhance traction. But keep in mind, all that traction in mud doesn’t translate well to pavement. Wide voids channel away mud and eject gravel, but they don’t leave much room for contact with the pavement. This is not the tire for a rainy day on a paved surface. They just can’t grab. But on a day with a foot of snow or more on the driving surface, they will dig in and get you where you need to go. These are not comfortable tires for highway drives. They are noisy and have a shorter tread life. When compared to all terrain tires, they are more expensive.
Popular Mud Tires
The most popular mud tires are made by Mickey Thompson, Nitto and Toyo. The Nitto Trail Grappler, Toyo Open Country MT, and Mickey Thompson Dick Cepek Mud Country are all prime examples of durable mud tires.
Finally, A Word About Cupping and Off Road tires
Cupping is a problem with most off road tires. The uneven terrain off road makes the tire bounce as it travels, no matter how much you’ve upgraded the suspension. This up and down motion means some parts of the tire hit the surface harder than others. The result is cupping, or a pattern of uneven wear on the tire. If you see cupping on a highway tire, it indicates a problem with the suspension. If you see cupping on an off road tire, it means the tire has been driven off road. This is just a fact of life if you ride beyond where the pavement ends. Sure you know it’s important to rotate the tires on your SUV if you drive on the road, but cupping makes it crucial to rotate your off road tires regularly to maximize tire life.