Tires, tires, and more tires

A few weeks ago I outlined my recommendations for the first ten things you should do before setting out on your first overland adventure (part 1; part 2). On that list was tires. In that vein I’ll to a multi-part series looking at tire tech a little more in depth

Tires are one of the most important things on your vehicle
They literally connect it to the terrain you’re traveling.
The wrong tire can ruin your day and the right tire can make all the difference for a successful trip.

To kick off this article series I’m going to give you a look back at the tires I’ve run on the LJ since I got it.
Let me preface this article series by saying my goal isn’t to have you follow my process and come to the same conclusions I came to. I’m not expecting you to duplicate anything I do. Expecting you to choose the exact same tires I did would be like expecting you to choose the same favorite music artist and album I like (which is Eric Church’s album Chief by the way) or choosing the same favorite pizza topping combo (which is pepperoni, bacon, and pineapple). What I can do is tell you what I like and why I like it. I can also explain the process. So don’t get caught up too much in the end product but rather focus on the process.

2014 – Stock: 30×9.50R15 All-Season Tires

The day the LJ followed me home.

When I got the LJ in 2014 it was bone stock. The only modifications on it was the hardtop (although a factory option this particular LJ was not sold with the hardtop which meant it was swapped on at a later date) and different tires. The OEM tire for the LJ was the Goodyear Wrangler GS-A (which is currently no longer in production – thank god) but it was equipped with Firestone Destination LE 2 series all-season highway tires. These had to go. There was no way they would hold up to sustained off-pavement travel.

These are a “P” rated passenger tire not suited to off-pavement travel.
It wasn’t a hard choice to pull these off.

2015 – 31×10.50R15 All-Terrain Tires

2015 No Highways Tour – Monongahela National Forest, WV

One of the first modifications I made in Phase 1 of the build was to add a 1″ body lift so the LJ fenders would clear 31″ tall tires. I did this mainly because I had a perfectly good set of 31×10.5R15 all-terrains sitting on my ZJ which wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. By holding off on new tires I was able to save a few bucks and make use of the nearly new tires I already had. Having run all-terrains for more than a decade I knew they would serve me well and work well both on-pavement as well as off-pavement. The other advantage to an all-terrain like the ones I was running is that have plenty of sipes to handle wet weather and are a pretty decent winter weather tire.

2016 – 255/75R17 Mud-Terrain Tires

2016 No Highways Tour – “Top of the World” trail in Moab, UT

For the bulk of 2016 I ran a set of 255/75R17 Mud-Terrains off of a JK Wrangler. They measured out at 32×10 and were larger than the 31’s I was running (which only measured out at 30.5″ tall). These lined up better with the 4.88 gears I had installed in preparation to run 33″ tall tires. Sadly due to some unexpected upgrades the LJ needed I had to post-pone buying tires. Sadly these tires proved to be more annoying than anything. The large blocks of the mud-terrain tread meant they were noising on the road. They also lacked any sipes making them prone to hydroplaning in wet weather. I also felt they were a waste for me because the tread was more aggressive than I needed. In the ten years I ran all-terrains never once did I get stuck, or denied on an obstacle, where it was the tire’s fault.  Plus the drone of the mud-terrain tread on the pavement was annoying.

On borrowed 33×10.50R15 All-Terrains in Uwharrie National Forest, NC
For the North Carolina trip I was lucky enough to borrow a set of 33×10.50R15 All-Terrains from a friend. Switching to these tires confirmed two things. I really liked how the Jeep looked on 33’s. It also confirmed that all-terrains were more my style. The tread was more suited to the “overland” lifestyle in terms of a mix of on-and-off-pavement travel as well as the fact that my Jeep was also my daily driver.

Selecting new tires for 2017

I’m not yet ready to reveal what tires I’ll be running next.  I will say that I spent a lot of time considering what to run.  The selection process was rather involved and I considered a lot of different options.  In my next post I’ll go into more detail on the process.  As I mentioned my goal isn’t to have you come to the same conclusions I came to.  It’s more to just outline the process and give you some questions to ask yourself.  That said, I think you’ll approve of the tires I selected and I don’t doubt you will start seeing them more and more on overland adventure rigs across the country.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with a few variables to consider in the tire selection process:

  • On-pavement time vs. off-pavement time?
  • Is the vehicle a daily driver?
  • Does the vehicle see multiple seasons?
  • What are the advantages of going up in load range and are they worth it?
  • Is there an advantage changing wheel size?
Those are just some of the things I dealt with.  Tune in next time to see how I answered those questions.

0 thoughts on “Tires, tires, and more tires

  1. Any upcoming plans for an overlanding trip? I live right outside of Philadelphia (King of Prussia) and I'm looking for another rig to accompany me. I have a 1999 Jeep Wrangler TJ and I'm pretty well equipped to go. If so I would appreciate the help and guidance in getting this started and having someone show me the ropes. Thanks!