Tires are usually the first modification that off-road owners make to their trucks and Jeeps.
Before the steel bumpers, engine, and trans mods, good tires are where it all starts.
The right set of tires can take you far and even help you decide what other mods you want or need, like open fenders and suspension lifts.
Yet with all the options available, how do you choose the right ones?
Use this guide to help you determine what off-road tires are best for your needs.
1. What Do You Want to Do Off-Road?
The first detail that you have to know before you start looking for new off-road tires is what you expect them to do for you.
Define this by deciding what off-roading activities you want to participate in and to what extreme.
Tire upgrades, as well as any other modifications, are best made by first considering your truck or Jeep, what you do with it, and what it’s actually capable of doing.
The right tires should support these activities.
2. How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
If money is no object, you can skip to the next point.
Since most of us have a budget we can spend on different mods, figure out how much tire you can afford before you go shopping.
You can, at the least, begin by looking at tires in your budget range.
You may find that the best tires for your needs cost more than you have right now.
If that's the case, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of buying a lesser grade or quality tire that could limit your activities or just make do with what you have now until you can save for the right tires.
3. Know the Different Types of Tires
There are different types of off-road tires that are good for different activities.
Be sure you buy the type that will be most beneficial for what you plan on doing with your truck or Jeep:
===> All-Terrain Tires - This is a somewhat aggressive interlocking, open-tread type tire that performs well on the road, off-road, on snow, and to a certain extent, in the mud.
A/T tires are most popular, available in the most sizes and widths, and cost the least of the tire types you’d choose for off-roading.
===> Mud-Terrain Tires - Similar to A/T tires, M/T tires are designed for general off-roading with better mud traction.
They have bigger, deeper treads that can get through deeper mud, although the treads are not as deep as those on rock crawling tires.
===> Rock Crawling Tires - Made with the biggest, deepest treads, these tires are designed for more extreme rock crawling and are good general off-road tires but not so good in mud or snow.
Their strong point is in being flexible, yet tough, giving the best traction for climbing and crawling more extreme terrain.
Standard A/T or M/T tires can also handle a certain degree of crawling and climbing.
===> Off-Road Snow Tires - These tires are similar to A/T tires but with a design, construction, and treads made to provide more traction on snow and snow-covered off-road trails.
Snow tires stay more pliant in colder temperatures and have a tread design that grips without the treads packing full of snow.
4. Tire Sizing
After you decide what type of tire you need, the next detail is determining the size you need.
Understand from the start that there are pros and cons to going bigger.
The bigger and wider you go in tire size, the more ground clearance and traction you’ll have.
There is a downside you need to know about.
Once you go beyond about 33”, those larger tires will start to interfere with your fenders and other parts of your vehicle.
To use 35” or larger tires, you’ll need to consider one or more other mods including open fenders, a body or suspension lift, or a leveling kit.
If you have the right truck or Jeep, you could add the Fab Fours new Open Fender system which allows for bigger tires without needing a lift kit.
In addition, big tires over 37” could affect your gear ratio and power band since bigger tires turn at a slower RPM. You may have to adjust your gearing.
5. Matching Tires with Rims and Wheels
When you put bigger, wider tires on your Jeep or truck, you run the possibility of needing to also buy bigger rims or wheels.
Sometimes, stock wheels can be modified with spacers to fit bigger tires; when that’s not possible, you need to choose a new set.
Don’t forget to budget this into your purchase as you cannot use the tires unless you have correct-sized wheels to put them on.
As for the wheels themselves, there are two main considerations to make:
===> Wheel Construction - Wheels/rims are typically made from either steel or aluminum/alloy.
Alloy wheels look great but cost a lot more and are more easy to damage.
Steel wheels are less expensive and can take a beating.
When designed for off-roading, either type can be fine. It’s just a matter of whether you want to spend the extra money for the looks knowing they will probably end up scratched and dinged after a while.
===> Beadlocks - Functional beadlocks as opposed to decorative-only beadlocks are important if you plan on doing anything that requires you to air down your tires.
This could be driving in mud or sand, climbing aggressive rocks and trails, and more.
The beadlock prevents the bead on your tire from separating from the wheel and letting all the air out.
You can get wheel sets with the beadlock built in or add beadlocks to existing wheels.
6. Shopping Around for Tires
Like anything else, there are countless places you can go to buy off-road tires and wheels for your truck or Jeep.
Keep in mind that tire prices are not standardized, so they can vary widely.
Shop both online and offline carefully, with a specific list of what you need in terms of size, width, and tread type.
Research lesser-known brands online and see what experience other buyers have had with them.
Check places like Craigslist, eBay, and local advertising sites as well, since you never know when you’ll find a bargain or even come across a used set of what you’re looking for that might be worth a try.
You can also sell the tires you’re replacing to recover some of what you spend on new ones.
Some Final Thoughts
As simple as switching out a set of off-road tires may be, it can take some time to actually find the right tires to buy.
Hopefully using this step-by-step guide, you can quickly determine what you need in an off-road tire and find plenty of options for sale.
Just remember how tire size can affect your vehicle. You could need bigger wheels, open fenders, lift kits, gear ratio adjustments, and more.
Once you’ve tackled the task of getting those new tires, you can move on to other upgrades like steel bumpers and other protective parts!