There are a lot of things you can do to make your current adventure vehicle more capable. But in terms of the maximum bang for your buck, you can’t beat upgraded tires. The reason is simple: no matter how many sensors or computers your car comes equipped with, its connection to the ground will always be limited by the tires. So whether you’re looking to explore rougher mountain roads this summer or want better traction in the snow this winter, here’s how to pick the right rubber for your rig.
First Question: Is it Time to Upgrade?
The first and most obvious way to answer this is by checking your current tires for wear. “You’ll want to start considering new tires when your current tire tread reaches about an eighth of an inch in depth,” says Todd Bergeson, senior product manager of light truck tires at Toyo Tire USA. If you don't have a tread depth gauge, here's an easy way to determine your tires’ usable tread: take a penny and insert it with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head (or more) it’s time for new tires. Another way to know if new tires are warranted? “If you find yourself lacking traction, it’s time to upgrade,” Bergeson says. This can happen anywhere. If you’re on a steep dirt road and lose grip, you’ll want a more aggressive all-terrain tire. If you love to ski or snowboard and want reliable and safe traction on snowy roads, you’ll want either a dedicated snow tire or a winter-rated all-season tire (more on that below).
LT vs. P-Metric: What's the Difference?
Most SUVs, crossovers, all-wheel-drive wagons, and half-ton or smaller pickups (like the Ford F-150 and the Toyota Tacoma) come equipped from the factory with P-Metric tires. These tires are load-rated for the vehicle and provide a comfortable ride. Larger full-size trucks generally come with LT-Metric tires, which are constructed with higher ply ratings to carry heavier loads at higher inflation pressures and match those trucks’ greater hauling and towing capacities.
It used to be that if your vehicle came equipped with P-Metric tires but you wanted a more capable off-road tire, your options were limited. To step-up to a more capable off-road tire you were forced to adopt an LT-Metric tire. The trade-off? A harsher ride, reduced fuel economy, and no benefit to your vehicle’s towing or payload capacity (sorry folks, that is determined by the vehicle manufacturer, not the tires you put on). But here’s the good news: Toyo Tires makes a variety of P-Metric all-terrain, all-weather, and winter tires so you’ll be able to customize your vehicle to match your needs.
The Trade-Off: Grip vs. Gas Mileage
It’s true that you may see a slight decrease in gas mileage if you upgrade from a dedicated highway tire to an all-terrain tire like the Toyo Open Country A/T III. But that’s mostly because these tires are typically heavier than those built for on-road use. “Weight plays a significant role in the overall performance and efficiency of your vehicle,” Bergeson says. Ultimately, if your goal is increased grip and durability, this is a tradeoff worth making.
Matching Tires to Your Vehicle and Conditions
When choosing a new set of tires, it's important to think about your vehicle, your driving habits, where you live, and the terrain and weather you typically encounter. If you principally drive on pavement but plan to spend a fair amount of time on rough dirt roads, Bergeson recommends looking for a tire like the Toyo Open Country A/T III. With a more aggressive tread pattern and sturdier build than a standard all-weather tire, the Open Country is designed for lots of miles on dirt and rock and will provide more traction and protection against flats. It also comes with up to a 65,000-mile treadwear warranty and a three-peak mountain snowflake rating, meaning it does well in the snow. And, it's available in a wide variety of builds and sizes for vehicles ranging from a Subaru Outback or Honda CRV to a Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma, or Ford Super Duty.
If you spend more time off-road but want to maintain lower road noise and comfort for the times you are on pavement, Bergeson recommends a hybrid tire like the Open Country R/T, which offers excellent off-road handling and added durability with the on-road manners of an all-terrain tire. It also comes with a 45,000-mile treadwear warranty. Finally, for overlanders that frequent ungroomed roads with lots of mud, dirt, and rocks, Bergeson points to the legendary Open Country M/T, Toyo Tires' most durable, aggressive tire. The "M/T" in this case stands for Maximum Traction, which is reflected in this tire's seriously burly tread and purpose-built sidewalls designed for traction in the most severe terrain.
Still not sure which type of tire is right for your needs? Check out Toyo Tires' Tire Finder, which takes the guesswork out of the process. The bottom line: Whether you’re driving to a local campsite for the weekend or traversing hundreds of miles on dirt at a time, choosing the right tire for your vehicle and lifestyle will ensure you're happy in the driver’s seat and ready for adventure.
Toyo Tires® has delivered innovation, quality, and performance for 75 years. Well-known for the Open Country® line of light truck and SUV tires, the company offers a tire for nearly every vehicle including crossovers, sports cars, and luxury sedans. Many of the tires are built in the United States at their state-of-the-art factory in Georgia. Find the right tire and an authorized dealer at toyotires.com.