HOW TO CHOOSE ALL-TERRAIN TIRES FOR YOUR TRUCK
All-terrain tires are some of the most versatile tires for off-road and 4x4 truck drivers. You can find them on trailers, campers, 1-ton tow rigs, 1/2-ton pickups, full-size SUVs, Jeeps, pre-runners, overland campers, and almost every other type of off-road vehicle. There's a good chance you've purchased or rolled on one of these tires, and even some original equipment (OE) 4x4 off-road packages fit their assembly line with all-terrain tires already installed.
However, it's important to note that not all all-terrain tires are the same. Some small differences can make one product a better choice than the other for your application. Knowing the features and differences to look out for, such as tread design, overall carcass construction, and sidewall features will help you determine the best roller for your 4x4.
WHAT ARE ALL-TERRAIN TIRES?
All-terrain tires are designed with the agility of on-road tires as well as the traction featured on off-road tires. This design allows them to remain balanced, even on uneven surfaces, while maintaining excellent maneuverability on paved surfaces. Many of these tires come with the A/T mark.
All-Terrain Vs. All-Weather Vs. All Season Tires
Before we dive into how to choose the ideal all-terrain tires for your truck, it's essential that you know the differences between these three tire types.
Many people mistake all-weather tires for all-season tires. This is because of the assumption that all-season tires are effective during winter, which is a fallacy as all-season tires are built with a very hard rubber that has the potential to turn into solid ice in freezing temperatures.
All-weather tires are designed with softer rubbers that are adequate for every weather, even extreme cold conditions. Their capability to handle cold conditions is why they have the Three-peak Mountain Snowflake logo on them. While their performance may be similar to what you get from snow tires, it's essential to note that all-weather tires are meant for freeways and streets, which is why their surfaces have smoother textures and designs.
All-terrain tires, on the other hand, are designed with thicker rubbers that are capable of playing well on both paved and rugged paths. Additionally, they tend to feature reinforced sidewalls that help them distribute the load evenly, making them the best of both worlds. And thanks to their open-shoulder lug patterns, they hold up well even on slippery surfaces.
Below is a summary of the differences between these three tire types:
They are useful all year round
They feature the Three-peak Mountain Snowflake symbol
They are highly efficient even in winter
All Terrain Tires
They are useful all year round, just like all-weather tires.
They are considered to be hybrid tires as they are ideal for both on and off-road use
They may feature the Three-peak Mountain Snowflake symbol
These tires are less efficient during winter
They are ideal for road use
They come with the Mud+Snow (M+S) symbol instead of the Three-peak Mountain Snowflake symbol featured on all-weather and all-terrain tires.
WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE AN ALL-TERRAIN TIRE OVER A MUD-TERRAIN TIRE?
All-terrain tires are perfect for almost every type of surface; snow, sand, dirt, rocks, ice, slick rock, gravel, grass, loose surfaces, and more. Unless there are specific conditions, such as thick clay, you simply can't go wrong with off-terrain tires.
The only conditions where these rubbers don't shine are thick, muddy situations, like heavy clay. All-terrain tires are capable of holding their own in light, muddy conditions, but tacky clay muds can be too much to handle. This is because the heavy mud will clog the tire treads, turning them into giant slicks, thereby rendering them useless.
If you love driving on wet clay, you may want to choose aggressive all-terrain tires with wider treads and sidewall lugs. Or simply work with tires with mud-terrain tread patterns.
WHAT ARE THE BEST CONDITIONS FOR ALL-TERRAIN TIRES?
Even though these tires can handle a wide variety of situations, there are some specific areas where they truly come to life. If you're a weekend warrior, enjoy long commutes, or need to use a flotation-sized tire, all-terrain tires are your best bet.
Most all-terrain tires come with sipes - the small cuts in the tread lugs that enhance the grip. The sipes help with traction on icy and snowy surfaces. These are conditions where mud-terrain tires don't perform well.
Additionally, all-terrain tires are great for sand games when aired down properly. Your 4x4 will remain on the sand thanks to their less aggressive treads. Mud terrain tires, on the other hand, are built to move material. This can cause your vehicle to dig into the sand instead of staying on top, thereby getting stuck. All-terrain tires are also better than mud-terrain rubbers in wet weather on-road conditions.
HOW TO CHOOSE AN ALL-TERRAIN TIRE FOR YOUR VEHICLE
Check The Tread Patterns
A tire's tread pattern is its surface design, and it determines the main purpose of the tire. All-terrain tires feature open tread blocks that allow solid grips and stability, as well as sipes that help drain water instantly, making them ideal for wet and icy places. These tires also feature thicker sidewalls, thereby having more resistance to punctures than normal tires.
Carefully Consider The Tread Depth
The tread depth of a tire helps you determine its lifespan. You can easily determine the tread depth of a tire by holding a Lincoln coin upside down and inserting it in the gap between the treads.
If the coin's head is visible, the tire tread is said to be below 2/32" and needs to be replaced immediately. The same trick works for all-terrain tires. However, all-terrain tires need to be changed at around 4/32" because their grooves won't have the capability to repel water to ensure the smooth running of your vehicle.
Consider The Tire Mileage
Your tire's mileage is simply the distance it can travel before getting worn out. When your tires go beyond the recommended mileage, their surfaces start to lose traction. All-terrain tires can last up to 40,000 miles; anything beyond this may damage or compromise their functionality.
All-terrain tires fall into two categories in the pricing department; those under 200 bucks and those higher than $200. For those below $200, you get the standard features, such as staggered shoulder lugs to help enhance traction, while those above $200 come with extra features, such as special rubber treads to help prevent cracking and chipping.
Many all-terrain tires feature treadwear warranties. These warranties often cover all or part of the tire’s cost if you don't reach the expected mileage during the warranty period. All-terrain tires with longer treadwear warranties are designed with a harder rubber compound in the tread area. This compound allows the tire to last longer, but it can also minimize the amount of traction the tire offers. Additionally, these harder compounds are prone to chunking especially if they are combined with aggressive driving on rocky trails or gravel games.
Softer rubber compounds, on the other hand, will allow you to enjoy more traction in almost all conditions, especially on wintery and wet roads, but they tend to wear out quickly. All-terrain tires designed with softer tread compounds may have no treadwear warranty or have lower treadwear mileage numbers. You'll have to decide between longevity and performance to choose the best option for you.
While normal off-road tires are noisy on the highways, all-terrain tires tend to be relatively quiet. All-terrain tires aren't as noiseless as normal, all-season tires, but they are significantly quieter than most mud-terrain tires. If you're concerned about the noise levels of your tire, you may want to choose tires with less aggressive tread patterns. However, note that doing this will have some negative impact on your off-road performance.
Choosing the perfect all-terrain tire for your pickup truck isn't an easy task. However, if you're able to assess your needs and driving conditions, you'll be in an easier spot when picking out a tire. Leave a comment below and let us know if there's any other factor you consider when choosing an all-terrain tire.