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Off Road 101: Tires & Wheels

Written by  Shane Williams
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While the FJ Cruiser is one of the most capable off road vehicles when stock, most come with a significant limiting factor: tires. The Dunlop tires that come with most FJ Cruisers are good for pavement driving and offer decent tread life, but they're not very well suited to most off road situations.

When the time comes to upgrade your tires, the choices are almost limitless. It's not within the scope of this article to cover EVERY tire on the market, but we can talk about the two basic options: All Terrain (A/T) vs. Mud Terrain (M/T). A quick disclaimer, the benefits and drawbacks that we'll talk about for each type of tire are general, and may not apply to EVERY A/T or M/T tire. Please research the specific tire you're interested in before making your decision.

All Terrain's

All Terrain Tire

The A/T will be the preferred tire for many people that use their FJ as a daily driver. Traditional A/T's provide a very good mix of on and off road capability. They come in various tread patterns, and most have a tread life of over 30,000 miles. While A/T's are very good off road tires, they're not rock crawling grapplers or mud boggers. All Terrain tires will tend to slick over in deep snow and mud, which will definitely limit their trail use in some climates.

Mud Terrain's

Mud Terrain Tire

Most M/T tires are easily identifiable by the large lugs in the tread. They're much more aggressive than most A/T's, and provide increased off road performance. Mud Terrains will tend to 'self clean' in deep mud and snow, and provide excellent contact area when aired down and crawling on rocks. If you use youre FJ as a daily driver like I do, there are some definite drawbacks to M/T's. First, many (but not all) M/T's tend to wear out quicker than other types of tire. Mud Terrains also tend to slide around more on ice, and can provide less traction in heavy rain.

Tire Size
The stock FJ Cruiser tires are a very good size for most situations, it's very rare that you'll need tires larger than 32” in diameter. However, there are very good reasons to upgrade the size of your tires. Larger tires increase ground clearance, provide more traction, and enhance the look of your vehicle. They'll help you crawl over and through more difficult obstacles, and certainly give your FJ that 'cool' look. These benefits do, however, come at a cost. When upgrading to 33” or larger tires, your gas mileage will certainly suffer. The cost of tires goes up dramatically with the larger sizes as well.

Tire Size Comparison from FourWheeler.com

We could write an entire issue of FJC Magazine covering the different wheel options available. Alloys, steelies, bead lockers, and custom wheels are a very complicated subject to discuss. When choosing an aftermarket wheel, you have to make sure details like offset, backspacing, and vehicle clearance are all within specs. Once you've found wheels that will fit, you have to decide which ones will look the best with your FJ. Tires, lift kits, and other mods will all affect which wheel you'll choose. For more info on wheel dynamics, visit this thread onf FJCruiserForums.com:

Tire Pressure

Aired Down tire by 4x4OffRoads.com

Another topic that can be confusing to individuals new to off roading is tire pressure. Maintaining a proper street pressure is just as important as airing down when on the trail. When you upgrade to A/T or M/T tires, this importance is amplified.  Pressure that is too high or low will cause your tires to wear unevenly and will need replaced more often. Proper pressure also ensures that your suspension and drivetrain are working properly, and keep your gas mileage up.

By lowering your tire pressure, or airing down, on the trail allows your tires to conform to terrain, resulting greater traction. Lower pressure also helps to absorb some of the bumps on very rough roads.

Choosing the right tire and wheels for your FJ will not be an easy process. How you use your truck, how often you'll be off road, and your climate will all determine the solution that's best for you.  Hopefully we've given you some information to help in your decision.

Read 16487 times Last modified on %AM, %22 %675 %2014 %09:%Aug

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