The process of choosing the perfect tires goes much deeper than the type of vehicle you drive and the measurements of your wheels. Every driver has a unique life style, commute, and application for their vehicle. The tires you select need to account for everything including:
- Weather conditions
- Seasonal changes
- Daily commute
- Your job commitments
- Desired driving experience
When you are buying tires you need to understand the common terminology and how it relates to your needs. Here are the major terms to familiarize yourself with:
Tread is perhaps the most important factor that differentiates tires. The tread is the part of the tire that comes in direct contact with the ground. The pattern is designed differently based on the requirements of the vehicle, terrain, weather conditions, or application. Tire tread is made of rubber or rubber compounds. In general tire tread has four main characteristics; lugs, grooves, voids and siping.
Tread lugs work to provide stability, support, and performance capabilities based on the manufacturer’s goals. The lug compresses as it makes contact with the ground, then returns to its normal shape. This process is commonly referred to as force variation. Lugs act as the main contact patch and grips the edges of the road. In the off-road world the lug pattern is an extremely important part of the tire. The lug pattern often dictates the capabilities of the tire.
Grooves are the large gaps in the tire tread patterns and are designed to channel water and mud clear from the center of the tire. This helps to clean the contact patch allowing for more grip. The style of grooves in a tire vary on what the tire is designed to do. The design of the groove will vary based on the need of the tire. To put this into perspective, all-terrain tires will have smaller grooves and mud tires will have larger grooves. The smaller groves help to minimize tire noise when city or highway driving.
Voids are the space where the lugs are allowed to shift and flex. Void ratio refers to the space between the lugs. Lower void ratio = more surface contact. Higher void ratio = less surface contact. Often times you can spot the difference between mud and all terrain tires simply by the lug and void patterns of the tires. The larger voids aid the tires in gripping onto rough surfaces such as rock ledges.
Sipes are the cuts that run perpendicular to the grooves on a tire and gives the lugs more room to flex. This allows for water to escape from the center of the tire outwards. Additionally, they pinch and grab snow for enhanced traction in winter conditions. The sipes are critical in maintaining grip and preventing the vehicle from hydroplaning. Sipes are often lacking on mud terrain tires as opposed to all terrain tires.
Types of tires
Mud and aggressive
Off-road tires have come a long way in recent decades. Nowadays, there are all kinds of options for mud terrain tires and the market is extremely competitive. Often times these tires may appear extremely similar. They all differ because the compounds of rubber will affect the driving experience.
With so many options out there, how can you choose the right mud tire for you? For what reason do you need mud tires?
Mud terrain tires are incredibly diverse. At the very minimum, all mud tires are designed for regular off-road use; however, manufacturers also work to give these tires on-road manners. The variation in certain models is based on the types of conditions and terrain requirements.
In general, mud tires are built with deep tread blocks for extra traction on treacherous roads. These tires are designed with compounds for extreme puncture, chip, and cut resistance. The more deluxe (and expensive) mud tires are built with a higher sidewall ply count. This adds durability and allows the tires to run on lower PSI creating better traction.
In order to purchase the best mud tires for your intended use, you should consider the most extreme type of mud and terrain you will potentially have to drive in. As a general rule of thumb when buying mud tires, it’s best to plan for the worst. The last thing you want is to get stuck because you bought a mud tire that was too modest for the terrain.
All-terrain tires have been promoted as a “jack-of-all-trades” among all types of tires. They are ideal for drivers who need on-road comfortability and stability combined with efficient off-road ability.
Previously all-terrain tires were viewed as a middle ground between on and off-road driving; not built for extreme terrains but not completely ideal for extended highway driving. Now the technology of an all-terrain tire provides exceptional performance on pavement and can rival dedicated trail tires. Most combine the signature open-tread design of off-road tires with the handling ability of on-road tires. The result is a versatile option that can be used year round.
When buying the best all-terrain tires for your needs, there are many different factors that come into play. What does your average day or week look like?
The justification for investing in all-terrain tires lies in the variety of driving experiences you normally have. Keep in mind, all-terrain tires are meant for all-purposes; you need a healthy mix in order for these to be your best option.
For example, if the majority of your driving is done on the highway or in-town, investing in this type of tire is not a smart choice. The rubber is specially designed to be easily manipulated and adaptable to a wide range of surfaces. In turn, you won’t get optimal fuel economy on paved roads and the ride will be noisy. If this is what your daily route is like, investing in a good highway tire is a better choice. However; some of the more advanced all-terrain models have great on-road capability, in addition to stellar off-road performance.