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Off-Road driving tip #4, a choice of Tires.

The Tire debate explained.

When I first began the tour bizz 25 some years ago at San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours, I remember my boss always ran bias-ply tires on our 4×4 tour rigs.  The reason being was that the sidewalls are stranger because the plys/belts ran across the bias or from inside rim edge to outside rim edge.  So this made for a side wall with stronger side walls so you are less likely to put a rock through the sidewall, which in theory ruins the tire, I will share my Sidewall repairs in a bit.   The problem with the belts running opposite of the direction of rotation they do not want to roll as easily as a Radial, where the belts run around the radius or in the direction of rotation.  Bias-Ply also tend to wonder and get worse fuel mileage on the pavement, so unless you drive off road all the time a radial is more pleasurable to drive.  Also because of the nature a radial tide has a flatter contact zone so inherently more traction.

So which tire do I prefer on a 4×4?

I will admit that over the years I have gotten some sidewall damage in radial tires, but very little so I have grown to prefer radial tires on all my rigs.  I do try to do my best to prevent sidewall damage by keeping the sidewalls away from rocks by keeping them aired up.  I do know many 4x4er’s like to air down the tires for traction, which it certainly does provide more traction but is it worth the risk?   I find it funny to watch these super hard core rigs airing down to go over Black Bear Pass.  I have successfully driven this road hundreds and hundreds of times and I only felt the need to air down once, because there was 6 inches of fresh snow on top of the pass and I needed the traction to get over the top.  But the whole rest of the trip I was worrying about punching the sidewall out on the stair-steps, thank God I didn’t.  But I just don’t get it, these roads are solid sharp rock, take it easy on your tires.

  Emergency 4×4 Tire Sidewall repair.

As I said earlier, the Tire shop will tell you the tire is shot if you have a side wall slit, mostly because if they stuck a patch on it and it did blow out, they would be liable and in today’s  Law Suit world,  I understand.  I will admit that the spot where the repair is will be weaker and if you do happen to push a rock edge on the very same spot it could go flat.  Do that I say ” so?”  Just to be on the safe side I would put that tire on the rear so if it does go flat at highway speed you should be able to safely pull over with out issue.  I say should because I really do not know if you know how to drive or not.

Once I was able to convince my personal friend who worked at a tire shop to patch a side wall  by swearing not to hold him responsible no matter what, and I ran on that repair for the rest of the life of the tire which was 20-30 thousand miles.  On another occasion in the Canyon Lands of Utah I slit the sidewall and actually slid 3 or so Plugs into it (note photo) and it not only made it out of the Desert but I ran them for a couple of years until I finally spun them out in a deep muddy rut on the way home.

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So my concluding advice is that Radial Tires are preferred on your 4×4/offroad vehicle, but I suggest in trying to protect the sidewalls but you can

Radials vs Bias-Ply Tires A sidewall slit repaired with multiple Tire Plugs!

try to repair them and see what happens!

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