Off-road tires are big, tough and aggressive. They dig through loose gravel, sand or mud and claw their way over hills and rocks, taking you wherever your off-road adventure leads.
There are a few things you should know about off-road tires before committing to the set that will make your truck or SUV bigger and badder.
As with any tire selection, you should choose the one that is best suited to the type of driving you do and the level of performance you want out of your vehicle, both on and off road.
Off-road tires: What are they?
Off-road tires, sometimes called mud-terrain (MT) tires or “mudders,” provide extreme traction for off-road conditions. They are designed differently than passenger or all-terrain tires and are constructed specifically to meet the unique challenges of driving off the beaten path.
They are typically larger in size and have aggressive tread blocks that bite into sand, loose gravel or muddy surfaces. They also feature more space between the tread blocks to allow the tire to “self-clean” by throwing off debris. The rubber compounds of off-road tires tend to be softer to enable a better grip on rough terrain.
Depending on the type of off-road adventuring you plan on, consider the tire’s size. The main purpose of the larger sizes of off-road tires is to raise your vehicle, so you will have an easier time going up and over boulders and logs, driving through mud and traversing any obstacles that require a higher ground clearance to navigate successfully.
If the truck or SUV you plan to use off road will also serve as your daily driver, it’s important to know what you’re giving up to get the off-road capability and aesthetic look you’re going for.
Off-road vs. all-terrain tires
All-terrain tires are designed to be versatile. They strike a solid balance between off-road traction and on-pavement stability. They have a stiffer sidewall than an off-road tire, so they won’t sway or wobble when cornering like you may experience with a dedicated off-road tire. All-terrain tires are moderately aggressive and feature a tread design with little cuts called “sipes,” which help the tire grip and stick to the road.
Typically, all-terrain truck tires are built with off-road standards in mind and then are modified in certain ways to improve street performance. The result is truck tires that can handle everyday driving, as well as some light to moderate off-road conditions. Although they won’t handle the more extreme off-road challenges, on the road, they’ll perform better, last longer and provide better ride comfort.
Off-road tires are “built for purpose,” meaning they’re meant to perform in extreme off-road conditions. They feature a flexible yet more durable cut and are composed of puncture-resistant compounds on the sidewalls and tread blocks, but when you put them on the street, they wear down quickly and don’t offer the road handling characteristics of an all-terrain tire. The large tread blocks can cause a very bumpy, noisy ride. Another thing to note about off-road tires is that, despite their large tread blocks, they are not designed with the same road gripping sipes you’ll see on all-terrain tires, which can be a disadvantage when driving in slush, over packed snow and on ice.
The type of tire you choose should be determined by the terrain you encounter and what type of performance you want. It ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Generally speaking, off-road tires can provide the confidence needed to face the conditions you encounter when leaving the pavement, and most are suitable for your daily driving needs if you can handle the added noise and decreased road performance, especially at higher speeds. And, we all know — they just look cool.
Vehicles do not always come with a spare tire, but you might not notice this until it’s too late (when you are on the side of the road with a flat). It’s important to always have a back-up plan. Tireamerica.com has a guide created to help you understand the best options for you.