- Mud Tyres vs All-Terrain Tyres
- Top off-road tyre features to look out for
- Part Worn Second Hand Off-Road Tyres
- How to select the right size mud tyre for your vehicle
- How to get the maximum performance out of mud tyres off-road
- How to use mud tyres most effectively on the road
- Which brand produces the best mud tyres?
Mud Tyres vs All-Terrain Tyres
Which are the best mud tyres for your use case? This can sometimes be a tough question to answer, simply because your off-roader might need to do more than just off-roading.
The better question to ask is probably “How often do you go off-road?”
If you’re looking to take your 4×4 off-road only occasionally and it constitutes mainly of gravel tracks then it’s easy to suggest an all-terrain tyre, often marked up A/T.
An all-terrain tyre is usually good enough for the occasional bit of off-road mostly involving gravel roads or beach driving. Generally, these would be the choice for those going on longer touring trips where there will be a large mix of terrains and a large amount of road driving too.
If you go regularly do serious off-road work where your vehicle will be put through its paces then the superior choice will certainly be mud tyres, often marked M/T or Mud Terrain.
The best mud tyres are dependable and will get you much further off-road, they’re much more resistant to punctures and can help you avoid getting completely stuck in mud, sand or snow.
Mud tyres generally have more substantial tread blocks which offer greater grip when clambering up rocks too.
See the below key points to consider when choosing between All-Terrain or Mud Terrain tyres.
- Road – Excellent
- Gravel – Excellent
- Sand – Good
- Mud – Useless
- Rocks – Good
- Snow – Okay
They’re noisier than road tyres but not excessively loud.
They get good MPG, comparable to road tyres.
You can get good mileage out of them of around 45-50k miles.
They have a weaker construction for off-road use.
Mud Terrain Tyres
- Road – Okay
- Gravel – Excellent
- Sand – Good
- Mud – Excellent
- Rocks – Excellent
- Snow – Excellent
They are excessively noisy on the road, especially at higher speeds.
You will use more fuel and return worse MPG due to their additional rolling resistance.
They don’t last too long; you can expect only 25-30k mileage out of mud tyres.
They have a stronger construction meaning you can run lower tyre pressure off-road.
Top off-road tyre features to look out for
If you’ve determined that mud tyres are right for you then your next step is to work out what features you most need and narrow your search down to the right set.
There are multiple tiers of mud tyres and generally, they offer a variety of compromises between road and off-road use.
With modern tyre technology, most mud tyres are very capable when used on the road too, and safety is less of a concern if you are running the right tyre sizes and pressures for the vehicle in question.
For road use, you will want to consider the speed rating of the tyre which is often indicated on the sidewall as a letter that usually follows the tyre size and load capacity markings.
A common rating for a mud tyre would be Q, which equates to 99mph. Probably more than enough for an off-road 4×4 vehicle.
As far as off-road capability goes, it’s good to look out for mud tyres which offer a substantial tread pattern featuring technology designed to eject stones from the tread which can hamper their effectiveness.
The other benefit of a larger tread pattern is the ability to clear mud preventing the tyre from becoming clogged up and turning into a slippery slick.
Rubber compounds used in mud tyres are quite soft which is one of the reasons they return poorer MPG and lifespan, but the upside to this is that they offer a considerable amount of friction between the rubber and the terrain, which means maximum grip levels.
With this additional grip, your 4×4 vehicle can clamber up the most challenging ascents and ease down steep descents in a safer and more controlled manner with much less wheel spin or slip.
Mud tyres usually used a solid multi-ply construction including steel and polyester plies to make the carcass of the tyre very sturdy. Keep an eye out for additional plies as these can mean the tyre is more resistant to puncture and can be run at lower pressures safely.
You can often spot a mud tyre with a strong construction by its additional tread blocks on the sides of the tyre which are utilised when the pressures are dropped to tackle serious rough terrain.
Part Worn Second Hand Off-Road Tyres
With mud tyres, it’s quite common to find part-worn bargains on the second-hand market. If you’re going down this route, then it’s wise to do some research and be sure of exactly what you’re looking at.
With normal road tyres, it can be obvious when they are low on the tread as they appear close to bald. This can warp your perception of treadwear and cause you to make poor decisions when it comes to buying off-road tyres second-hand.
Mud tyre treadwear
Mud tyres tend to have traditional features which indicate wear including wear markers which can be spotted between the treads which are raised about 3mm from the tyres main carcass.
If these 3mm wear markers are contacting the road then it indicates that the tyre is no longer legal to be used on the road.
It’s not uncommon for normal road tyres that are close to these wear marks to have a few thousand miles still left in them, but if a mud tyre is close to these markers then it will be absolutely useless off-road.
The general consensus is that once a mud tyre is getting to around 50% of its original tread depth (still very deep compared to a road tyre) it’s effectiveness in clearing mud and stones will start to become greatly impeded and its performance will be far poorer.
If you’re going to consider part worn tyres then its good to look up the original tread depth and compare it to what’s left on the tyre before making any purchase decision.
Another key concern when purchasing second-hand tyres is their age. Its common knowledge that the rubber compound used in tyres has a limited shelf-life.
Off-road tyre aging
Generally for mud tyres its around 5 years. After this the rubber will start to become brittle and stiffer, again harming performance. Old tyres can often pose a safety risk too so it’s worth being aware of their dates.
Manufacturers usually offer around 5 years warranty on their tyres which can be good to know too.
You can tell the age of a tyre by the markings on its sidewall. Generally, it’s displayed as a code on a small rubber plaque next to the other specs on the sidewall of the tyre. It usually looks something like this: HRA4718
In this case, the HRA would indicate the manufacturers batch code which is useful for checking up on recalls for tyres which can occasionally be issued if they create a bad batch.
The first two numbers in the code, 47 in this case, indicate how many weeks into the year of manufacture the tyre was produced, and the second two digits indicate the year.
So in this example code, HRA4718, the tyre is batch HRA produced in mid-November 2018.
How to select the right size mud tyre for your vehicle
Each vehicle can accommodate different sizes of tyre, this is especially important for mud tyres as they tend to have a larger carcass and taller tread pattern leading to a larger overall size.
If you’ve got a dedicated off-road vehicle such as a Landrover Defender, a small Suzuki Jimny or a larger Ford F150 then mud tyres will likely be readily available in your size, and with larger wheel arches you can even consider sizing up for additional performance.
Softroaders such SUVs and Subarus have a much more limited selection to choose from and additional care needs to be taken when selecting a tyre size which isn’t manufacturer recommended.
Clearances in the wheel arches of softroader SUVs can be much tighter and more suited for road applications. Other factors which can limit tyre size on these vehicles is suspension component clearances, so even if you think you’ve got enough wheel arch clearance, it’s important to check that the tyre won’t be clashing with things like spring perches.
Many aftermarket kits are on offer for all manner of vehicles including lift kits which usually consist of strut and spring spacers to give you additional ground clearance. As a side effect, these can often give you additional wheel arch space for some beefier mud tyres.
Many also elect to equip their 4×4 with aftermarket wheels that are a size down in rim diameter before choosing their tyres. This enables them to select mud tyres with taller sidewalls offering more sidewall room to drop tyre pressures for off-roading and additional ride comfort and grip.
Imperial Tyre Markings
There are two commonly used scales for tyre sizes. Many mud tyres are available in the easy to deal with the imperial system which looks something like this: 32×11.50R15LT
- 32 Inches of tyre diameter
- 11.50 Inches of tyre width
- R15 indicates to fit a 15” rim size
- LT indicates it’s designed for Light Truck use
This imperial scale is nice and easy to use when selected mud tyres as its easy to read the tyre diameter and compare it to the space you have on the truck.
Metric Tyre Markings
The other, these days more widely used tyre measurement is the metric one. An example of a metric mud tyre size is this: 285/75/R16
- 285 Tyre width in mm
- 75 Aspect ratio (sidewall height), 75% of 285 so 213.75mm in this case
- R16 indicates it fits a 16” wheel rim
When selecting mud tyre sizes, it’s important to consider the amount of suspension travel your vehicle has and ensure you do not spec tyres which are too large for the space when at maximum compression.
It’s especially important to also consider the load rating of the tyres in off-road applications. The best mud tyres are often rated for high loads, but cheaper alternatives can sometimes look the part but fall short on this aspect.
You’ve got to bear in mind that when you are attacking challenging terrain in your 4 wheeler you will be putting a considerable amount of additional load on the tyres, and sometimes putting almost the entire weight of the vehicle onto one axle or even wheel in some cases.
When your truck is loaded up with heavy equipment and passengers it can also gain a considerable amount of weight. Load ratings are marked on the sidewall of each tyre and are well worth careful consideration when you’re selecting the right tyre.
How to get the maximum performance out of mud tyres off-road
There are many guides on how to prepare your car or truck for an off-road venture, however, there can be lots of mixed advice which can get unclear and confusing.
Generally, if you’ve elected to fit mud tyres to your all-terrain vehicle and you’re faced with a challenging off-road adventure, then you’ll want to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the tools at your disposal.
One of the key advantages to mud tyres is their ability to run lower tyre pressures.
Letting some of the air out of the tyres and finding that optimal pressure for your situation can make a huge difference to the off-road performance of the vehicle.
Running a lower pressure increases the contact patch or footprint of the tyre, and with more rubber contacting the ground comes more grip. When you’re trying to crawl up a hard rocky climb you’ll find that lower pressures allow the tyre to mould around the surface and grip on securely with the tread blocks.
Conversely, if you’re taking on a particularly soft or boggy surface, that additional footprint will aid your vehicle in staying on top rather than sinking in, much like snowshoes allow you to walk on top of the snow instead of sinking down into it.
Another advantage is that sharp rocks and branches will have a harder time piercing the tyre as the tyre will flex more to accommodate sharp points, this is great in preventing punctures and inconvenient flats.
When you’re tackling a rough gravel track, then “airing out” your tyres can really smooth out the surface and allow you to traverse with a bit more speed comfortably. It’s effectively like adding in an inch or maybe even two of soft suspension travel before your springs and struts even start to compress.
This will also help reduce wear on the vehicle’s suspension components and drivetrain.
Deflating your tyres when you arrive at the start of a green lane can feel painful and time-consuming, however, you can pick up a nifty kit which can help you deflate all four tyres at once and save you lots of time here: https://amzn.to/2DSHi7N
Advised off-road tyre pressures
As previously mentioned, tyres come in many shapes and sizes and the vehicles resting on them do too. This will seriously influence what tyre pressures you decided to run in different circumstances.
As a general guide on an average-sized mud tyre you’ll want to be running tyre pressures similar to below for each of these off-road surfaces.
- Paved Road: 30 psi
- Gravel: 25 psi
- Rocks: 20 psi
- Mud: 20 psi
- Snow: 15 psi
- Sand: 15 psi
- Bog: 15 psi
If you are using specialist mud tyres, appropriate wheel rims and with bead sealer applied then you can potentially get even more benefit out of running even lower pressures. On a particularly light vehicle maybe even as low as 5 psi to maximise traction and grip.
However, the above suggestions should be safe in general situations if you’re smart and observe all other potential factors which affect tyre pressures.
If you push it too far and have your tyres too underinflated when off-road you will be effectively reducing their load rating and can be taking a considerable risk. Your mud tyre can literally pop off the rim if the pressure is too low, especially when the vehicle is on a steep angle putting a lot of weight onto the tyre in a sideward direction.
When your tyre pops off the rim it can be a real struggle to swap for your spare wheel when you’re knee-deep in mud or on a steep hillside. In some scenarios, it can damage the rim beyond repair, especially if you’ve had to limp your truck to an appropriate place to swap your spare wheel on.
Aside from the tyre losing its seal on the rim, another risk of running too low pressure off-road is that the sidewall of your tyre will bulge excessively at the bottom of your wheels.
The sidewall of the tyre, although usually reinforced on mud tyres, is the weakest part.
If your tyres are so underinflated that the sidewall bulge is contacting the ground then you can be seriously exposed to side-wall punctures stopping you in your tracks.
It’s important to know exactly what tyre pressures you’re running at any given time as it cannot be reliably eye-balled. I always advise keeping a handy tyre pressure gauge with you to make sure your pressures are in check. You can pick a good one up for a cheap price here: https://amzn.to/2PjaGte
How to use mud tyres most effectively on the road
If you’re a green-laning enthusiast, you can quite often find yourself travelling for quite a distance on the road to get to and from your favourite off-road lane.
You can also find yourself needing to use your 4×4 equipped with aggressive mud tyres for on-road duties from time to time too, and it’s good to take extra measures to ensure your safety and comfort in these more mundane conditions.
If you’ve equipped your vehicle with mud tyres and are travelling at higher speeds on roads or even motorways, then you must ensure you’re running higher tyre pressures, preferably the manufacturer’s recommended ones considering your tyre size and vehicle’s weight.
It’s a common mistake to make when you’re travelling home from your off-road adventure and it’s getting later in the day, you can quite often forget just how much you aired out your tyres earlier.
If you fail re-inflate your tyres to the correct pressure and cruise at high speeds on a motorway then the tyre sidewall will be flexing at a rapid rate and heat up. When this heat gets to a certain level it can trigger a catastrophic blowout which can be deadly for you and other road users.
If you’re lucky enough to avoid this worst-case scenario, and your tyres are only slightly deflated then things will be much safer, but still not without their drawbacks. You’ll use considerably more fuel having introduced even more rolling resistance for starters.
Under-inflated mud tyres will ride on their shoulders and not on their middle. The cross-section of the tyre will make a slight W-shape as you cruise along with low pressures and this can rapidly wear out the tread blocks on the shoulders of a mud tyre.
Over-inflated tyres will cause the central part of the tyre to wear so this should also be avoided.
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Which brand produces the best mud tyres?
All tyre brands are inclined to say that their tyres are the best, but ultimately every tyre for every application is a compromise. The trick is to think carefully about your use case and select the optimal compromise for you and your off-road vehicle to select the best mud tyres for you.
See below a selection of well-regarded mud tyres suited to the job.
BF Goodrich T/A KO2
BF Goodrich is a big name in off-road tyres and they are considered one of the best. Their KO2 is an all-terrain tyre really, but a particularly good one which holds up against the mud tyre offering will give you a massive amount of additional off-road grip and reliability on the trail removing a lot of doubts.
The KO2 are our pick of the bunch as the best mud tyre for their sheer versatility and longevity, proving to be just as effective as more dedicated mud tyres without some of the drawbacks. They are not the cheapest option, but they are certainly one of the most effective.
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Federal Couragia M/T
Federal is often thought of as more on the cheap end of the tyre market, but this doesn’t impede their performance and the Couragia M/T tyre tears through the thickest of mud with remarkable ease thanks to its deep and aggressive tread pattern.
Its multi-ply design also offers solid puncture resistance and protection from other off-road hazards.
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Cooper Discoverer STT PRO
Another aggressively treaded mud tyre, Coopers Discoverer range are notoriously tough to beat and as an all-round package, they’re one of the best options on the market.
These tyres offer incredible traction across a multitude of terrains including sand and snow as well as mud. The white sidewall lettering also gives them a distinctive classic look.
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They have the expected drawbacks compared to the tamer all-terrain tyre but each of the above mud tyres would see you well on the most extreme off-road adventures.
Just remember to always have your spare wheel also wrapped in good quality rubber ready to go at a moment’s notice.
After all, it’s the unpredictability of off-roading is what makes it such an enjoyable endeavour.
Check out our BMW M3 review post for our review of performance road tyres.
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