February 2002

Land Use

Wheels, Tires and Things That Don't Go Bump in the Night.

by Del Albright, BlueRibbon Ambassador

(Note from Editor: This month Del doesn't really address Land Use directly. However, I found his article useful regardless and chose to go ahead and publish it here.)

For those of us whoís recreation depends on some sort of wheeled vehicle, there is little more important that your tires.  I've seen a lot of trail and highway breakdowns related to inadequate tire selection and maintenance, that I thought I'd share a few thoughts in this article. And believe it or not, I get nearly daily emails from folks asking about choosing the right tire for their wheeler or their tow vehicle.

The information here applies to RVís, four-wheel drives, ATVís, assorted tow vehicles (pickups and horse trailers) and about anything else that runs on rubber.

First off, you must select the right tire for your rig.  By that I mean size, tread and application.  Don't get the biggest ugliest tire on the market just because you like the looks of them.  They may be a nightmare for you.

Pick a tire that fits what you do most.  You MUST study your ownerís manual of your rig and follow it.  If you make modifications to your rig to accommodate some heavy duty towing, then youíve thrown the rules out and can start over.  But donít mess around with your tires until you do your homework.

If you're 80% pavement, face up to it and buy a tire that does great on pavement.  If you're 80% trail, then look at being set up for that 80% but don't forget the 20% application also.  If youíre towing anything, then be sure to get a tire made for the job.  If you carry a heavy camper or load, do not scrimp on your tires.  Get ones that are rated for the job youíre doing.

Visit the popular web sites and magazine web sites for their evaluation of tires.  You can link to many popular web sites by starting with my link site: http://www.delalbright.com/links.htm.  Read magazines like Consumerís Digest and other evaluators of commercial products.  And most importantly, talk to folks who've done what you do and ask them what they use and why.

Size is a biggie.  Many folks upsize their tires not realizing that it affects many other components of their rig.  On Jeep type vehicles, for example, fat, large diameter tires might rub the stock wheel-well during a tight turn or under severe articulation.

Small tires won't give you much pumpkin (differential) clearance.  If you're a four-wheeler, then you probably have already figured out that the only thing that will give your pumpkin any extra height is a larger diameter tire.  Everything else is a body/suspension lift.

Tread type is important.  Don't waste your money on something you really don't need or want.  I did that.  Early on in my wheeling career, I bought heavy-duty mud terrain type tires for my application, which was over 80% pavement at the time.  It was a noisy nightmare for me.  I ended up trading them in later for a huge loss monetarily and buying more of an all terrain type tread.

For those who RV or have a macho tow rig, loosing a tire on the road can mean a serious accident Ė or at least a ride youíll never forget.  A tread that is not designed to handle your load can mean a handling disaster.  Do it right.  Spend the money to get the right tire so youíll get to your destination safe and sound.

Wheels (rims) can certainly be showy and accent our rig.  But just a word or two of caution.  There are a few types of construction Ė some cheap; some spendy.  Pick a wheel type and material that fits your application.  The old fashion steel wheels on older Jeeps are hard to beat.  Pretty chrome and aluminum wheels are common too.  Itís merely a matter of doing your homework, again.

Again, the bottom line is to assess what it is you do and how you will use your tires/wheels.  Be honest.  Buy what you need.  If you need something really cool, dress up your tires with a nice shiny rim.

Feel free to visit my web site (http://www.delalbright.com) for more on products and tech talk in general.