Legendary Off-Road Tyre Tips for Top Performance
While we play rough with rocks and take on tough terrain in the Australian outback, we need to make sure that we are doing some key things in order to keep us performing at our best, and to keep us safe.
Here are our Top 10 Off-Road Tips, PLUS our extensive Tyre Pressure Guide for when you take your tyres on and off the blacktop.
Choose the right tyres for your vehicle and the road conditions - remember to adjust your tyres pressures to suit the conditions (more on this here).
Use common sense and know the limits of your vehicle and your ability.
Avoid unnecessary wheel spin that can damage tyres or tracks for the next person.
Always carry basic recovery gear including a jack, snatch strap, rated bow shackles and a shovel.
Go with a friend whenever possible. It's more fun and you can pull them out if they get stuck (or vice versa).
Avoid the risk of rollovers and don't turn around on steep hills.
In sand, use just enough momentum and avoid sharp turns and braking suddenly.
In mud, follow already established tracks. At least you know someone else has made it!
Rockcrawling can be fun, but take it slowly and concentrate on wheel placement
When driving on gravel, reduce your speed and watch out for washouts and other obstacles.
Tyre Pressure Guide
EFFECT OF ADJUSTING TYRE PRESSURES ON THE SIZE OF A TYRE’S ‘FOOTPRINT’
Reducing pressures and increasing the size of your tyres’ footprint spreads the weight of your vehicle over a larger area so when driving on sand, for example, your tyres will drive ‘over the top’ of the sand.
If you maintain high pressures and a small footprint, your tyres are more likely to ‘dig down’ into the sand and even get you stuck! Reducing pressures and increasing the size of your tyres’ footprint will also increase traction in off-road conditions. Remember, whenever you reduce your pressures, re-inflate to the proper levels as soon as you drive back onto the bitumen.
This diagram illustrates the effect of reducing tyre pressures on the size of the footprint of tyres.
BITUMEN 32-38 PSI*
For standard size tyres, use pressures specified on your vehicle’s placard. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy loads.
SAND 18-26 PSI*
This depends on the depth and coarseness of the sand and also the grade. Lower pressure improves your longitudinal footprint and flotation. You want enough momentum to stay on top. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy loads. Sudden or heavy movements of the steering can be dangerous and speed needs to be appropriately reduced depending on the depth of the sand. Sand can vary rapidly in patches. Sand can also build up a lot of heat in your tyres because you are running lower pressures for flotation, so you may need to rest your vehicle regularly. Sand creates the most constant resistance to tyres, gearboxes and motors out of all mediums and applications.
FAST/SMOOTH GRAVEL 32-36 PSI*
Too low on this surface and you lose good steering response and stability, especially if you are driving fast. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy loads. When driving over corrugated roads, you should reduce your speed as heat builds up quickly on these roads.
SLOW/ROUGH GRAVEL 26-32 PSI*
This depends on how slow, how rough and with what load. Keep in mind that the higher the speed, the more heat generated in the tyre according to your load and the terrain being covered. The high temperature in the belts of the tyre is not something you can always feel by hand either. Chipping of the tyres is minimised by lower speeds and lower pressures to improve the tyres’ resistance to objects and also heat build up. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy loads.
ROCKY GRAVEL/ROCKS 22-28 PSI*
This is really assuming that the going is very slow, driving in low range, and not generating a lot of heat in the tyre. The low pressure allows the tyre to improve its traction and flexibility over the obstacles without impact fracturing. Higher pressures can be used but the trade off is more wheel spin and less grip. Very low pressures, around 20 psi and below, can create the risk of pushing the tyre off the bead of the rim and therefore 22 psi is generally an acceptable minimum low-pressure limit for most sizes. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy loads.
Malleability or flexibility at low speed is what you want to achieve and improve traction without spinning your tyres and often shredding or chipping them up. Lowering tyre pressures will increase the length of your tyres’ footprint along the tyre, which is what you are trying to achieve
for maximum traction.
While lowering pressures does reduce the risk of overall damage, it could increase the risk of sidewall damage. Ever noticed how easy a balloon pops at higher pressures when it hits something, but when the balloon has low pressures its harder to damage or pop? Same with tyres on rocks in most slow situations.
If you go to any offroad competition event where slow rockcrawling is involved, ask the drivers what pressures they run. Sidewall damage can be reduced by careful wheel placement and again, slowing down. Obviously, there are tyres better suited to rock work than others by design.
MUD 22-28 PSI*
This depends very much on what sort of mud, the steepness of
slope and what sort of base you have under the mud. You may
not even need to lower your pressures.
If it’s thick mud, with a loose, deep base, lower pressures and
less wheel spin is best but maintain momentum.
If the mud is watery and has a solid base, you can maintain
higher pressures, again maintain momentum but never drive
fast as you can lose control of the steering, damage engine
components and the environment.
Mud is the medium where you want enough momentum while
maintaining traction, without losing steering control and causing
minimal damage to the track for others behind you or in the
future. Higher pressures will be required when carrying heavy
TYRE PRESSURE GUIDE FOR DIFFERENT TERRAIN
SAFETY NOTICE: This is just a guide based on an average range of sizes, not a specific size. Narrow commercial style tyres require higher pressures. You must consult your Authorised Mickey Thompson Tire dealer to get the right pressure for your specific vehicle’s weight and tyre size. Lowering pressures may be necessary to get your vehicle through an extreme section of terrain or reduce tyre damage in offroad conditions. However, lowering tyre pressures below the manufacturer’s recommended pressure for your vehicle is at your own risk and judgement and doing so could cause over-heating and long term tyre damage. So, you must drive slowly over obstacles and re-inflate your tyres to proper levels once your vehicle is returned to normal road applications and conditions.
PRECAUTIONARY NOTICE *Disclaimer: All pressures stated are
based on an average range of sizes, not a specific size. Tyres must be
re-inflated to proper levels once your vehicle is returned to normal road
applications and conditions. All pressures stated are suggested for light
truck construction tyres only, and should not be advised to any person
driving on passenger construction tyres. Consult the manufacturer for
recommended tyre pressures relevant to that brand.