Summer is here - and if you are like most other off-roaders, you are out rock climbing and playing in the mud with your great truck outfitted with custom bumpers. Winter is still months off and is the last thing on most people’s minds.
Yet if you enjoy trail riding in the snow, this might be the best time to think about snow tires. The cooler weather will be here sooner than you think. Do you know which tires will give you the best traction once the snow begins to fall?
Snow, Mud, or All-Terrain Tires?
The first thing you need to understand when it comes to getting traction in the snow is that snow behaves a lot differently than mud and dirt. Bigger treads do not necessarily mean great snow performance. Those aggressive treads dig in and eject snow from the tire, which may seem like the best way to get through the snow. Well, it is not. Snow tires have smaller treads that fill up with snow to keep the vehicle moving on top of the snow.
All-terrain tires can be better than aggressive mud tires; however, they are still not ideal. Tires designed for use in the snow are the better choice. If you cannot afford a separate set of tires for a few days of winter trail riding, you can still have some fun with a set of all-terrain tires. Just understand that your traction will be limited according to your specific truck, bumpers, etc. Snow tires would be better.
Is Wider or Narrower Better?
When trying to decide whether wider or narrower wheels are better for that fantastic truck of yours with its brand new front bumpers, remember that snow tires perform just like mud tires. If there is a solid base under a few inches of snow, narrower tires that can reach down to the base more easily will provide the best traction.
If there is no solid base or the snow is pretty deep, wider tires that prevent digging in give better results. Since you cannot anticipate every snowfall when choosing your tires, keep this in mind so you at least know what to expect once you get out there.
What About Air Pressure and Tire Flexibility?
Just like dealing with mud, lowering tire air pressure will give you slightly better traction when going through snow with your truck and its custom bumpers. Whether you have dedicated snow tires or are trying to get the most from your all-terrain tires, let out a bit of air to increase tread contact and tire flotation. A softer, radial tire that has fewer plies and will flex at the sides is better for deep snow.
You still need to keep in mind that flexible radials that are aired down are more susceptible to damage over rough terrain than are stiffer, bias-ply tires. The choice of one over the other depends largely on what you want to do with your truck in the snow.
The Importance of Siping
One of the main differences between snow tires and other tires is the addition of siping to the snow tires. Siping is the horizontal cut in the tread made all over a tire to help increase its traction. As the tire contacts the ground and flexes, these little cuts open up and grip the snow, improving traction. You can have siping added to all-terrain tires if you want to improve snow performance.
Based on this information, it seems your biggest challenge in deciding which snow tires to purchase for your truck with its custom bumpers is going to be determining your actual needs, then matching those needs. Just like buying tires for handling the mud, there are always tradeoffs to be made according to how and where you want to drive in the snow.
While dedicated snow tires with their closer and more grippy treads are preferable, you should still be able to have some fun with all-terrain tires as well. By understanding what provides snow traction and how to get the most from any set of off-road tires, you should be able to have some fun without getting stuck and possibly ruining your off road truck!