Airing down your tires when hit the trails with your off-road truck can be beneficial, giving you better traction on different surfaces.
The question is, how low should you go?
It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation since too little air pressure can actually make your traction worse on some surfaces, the same as too much can.
You also have to think about your tires and wheels and what they’re capable of before indiscriminately letting the air out or something could end up damaged, including your off-road truck or Jeep.
Every off-road vehicle and situation is different and a lot about airing down depends on trial and error.
These tips on wheels, tires, and reducing pressure can at least help you understand what is happening as you air down and what you can expect or should avoid!
Tire Construction Is Important
Safely airing down to go off-roading requires using a tire that can withstand it as airing down puts a lot more stress on the sidewalls, which can become a vulnerable part of the tire.
The lower the air pressure, the more vehicle weight the sidewalls must bear, so it’s essential that you know what your tires can withstand before you start letting the air out.
Tires with higher load ranges, typically Load Range E tires, are best for off-road as they are made with thicker, sturdier sidewalls that endure airing down so you can get that added traction with less risk of damaging the sidewall.
Wheel Specifics Matter
Wheel diameter and width will also come into play when you’re looking to lower your air pressure.
Generally speaking, the larger the wheel diameter, the smaller the sidewall of the tire is that goes with it.
If you want to have larger wheels and also air down when hitting the trails with your off-roader, it’s important that you match your larger diameter wheels with bigger tires that have taller sidewalls.
Where wheel width is concerned, the width of the wheel and tire means that the contact patch is wider which equates to better traction.
Even basic off-road tires are slightly wider than standard street tires and you can go much wider than that with replacement wheels and tires.
Know Your Vehicle’s Weight
How low can you really go?
A lot of that will depend on the weight of your vehicle and the tires and wheels you use on it.
Keep this in mind when you want to go really low with the air pressure as the heavier the vehicle, the greater the chance your rim could ride on the tire and give you a pinch flat while the lighter the vehicle, the more you may need to air down to achieve desired results.
Reduce air pressure a little at a time and make sure the tires on your heavier rig are not so low that you end up damaging the tire and rims.
When to Air Down Going Off-Road
Keeping in mind these details about how your wheels, tires, and vehicle all affect decisions about tire pressure, when are the best times to air down? Basically, whenever you need more traction.
Overall, it’s good to air down a few PSI when you hit the trail to soften your tire tread a little bit so it grips better; however, there are lots of times when you’ll want more than that.
Air down a little more for an even softer tread for rock crawling so your tire grips those uneven surfaces while the wheel is turning.
For extreme rock crawling, you’ll want to go even softer yet with a bigger, meatier, more rugged tire on your off-road truck.
On softer or wet surfaces like snow, sand, or mud, the goal is to create a flatter, wider contact patch to give you that added traction.
You may wind up gradually airing down to as low as 10-15 PSI to achieve that.
Just avoid lowering your pressure all at once without testing things out with your off-road truck so you don’t wind up driving on flats.
Take Care When You Air Down for Better Traction
Letting some air out of your tires is one of the best ways to improve traction when going off-road.
Don’t just arbitrarily air down without understanding why you’re doing it and how much you should start with; you’ve got to add up the components you’re working with to estimate a good pressure level.
Trial and error until you get good results without causing damage to your wheels, tires, and even your off-road truck is the name of the game!