All Spun Up: Prepare For The Terrain

June 2020 Column Colin Peterson

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.

For more than two years on and off, I worked in landscape maintenance and have a fair amount of experience driving a pickup and hauling yard waste simultaneously with a trailer full of lawn equipment on varying terrains. Multiple times I got stuck in the mud while trying to dump grass, tree limbs and leaf clippings in the pasture behind my former company’s home base. Of course, it enraged me every time it happened as I was on the clock and trying to accomplish as many quality mowing and yard cleanup jobs as I could each day.

I found myself wishing my employer had purchased truck tires better suited for the mud than the standard all-season ones they went with. With the summer season basically here now (and landscaping jobs in full swing) I figured it was the best time to talk tires as I secretly hope my former employer happens to read this.

With different tread patterns, tires play a significant role in shaping how our trucks perform. As they’re similar to shoes and making contact with the ground, they comprise the end of the power flow on all road vehicles.

When you look closely, your stock all-season highway tread (H/T) tires are the best way to go if you’re doing the majority of your driving on highways, as they’re the ones that last the longest on the hard surfaces. However, they’re only designed to be second-rate for the off-road as they wear out rather quickly. While you have several different types of tires to choose from, I recommend looking at the all-terrain (A/T) or mud terrain (M/T) and suggest this to management if your job requires you to frequently take your truck across the mud.

All-Terrain Tires

A/T tires are basically the tire answer to football cleats. While they do have a similar internal structure to all-season tires and can be used year-round, they have thicker and stronger rubber with large tread blocks and more void to withstand the off-road torture that comes with a muddy job like I used to have. The A/T tires are your best bet if you’re looking for a good balance between something for long road trips and something to hold up to general off-roading. They provide a nice, smooth and quiet ride on the tarmac and other hard surfaces. While they might not be the best choice for winter conditions, they generally handle the ice and snow better than H/T tires. If you travel a lot and want something that does well off-road overall and is mediocre on the highway, the A/T is your tire.

Mud Terrain Tires

If you spend most of your time off-road, you’ll probably want to invest in the M/T tires. If your truck is a company vehicle that spends time in the mud, I’d suggest talking to management about getting M/T tires installed if you don’t already have them. The M/T tread blocks and voids are even larger than that of all-terrain tires. As the mud, dirt, rocks, and sand can squeeze through the voids more easily and don’t cling to your tread, the tires allow for better traction and more rugged performance on the soft surfaces. The everyday off-roader is guaranteed to have the best experience possible with the M/T. While they do offer premium protection against punctures, abrasions and tears, they do not perform as strongly as A/T tires on hard surfaces. Additionally, they’re noisy and rough on long road trips.

Decision Time

If you really wanted to, you could just stick with H/T tires. They’ll help you a lot if the vast majority of what you do is highway driving, and several manufacturers offer H/T options suited for higher performance than stock. Just be careful to consider how much off-roading you want to do or are already involved in. Additionally, if you live in an area with harsh winters, you may consider buying winter tires. I was once asked to drive to a job when the roads were icy, and I ended up getting stuck in a ditch; of course, at that time, I was wishing my work truck had winter tires. If your truck is a regular daily driver and you’re not sure what to buy, maybe it’s worth doing some light off-roading with your stock tires just to get your feet wet. Then consider how often you travel with your truck, along with the weather conditions in your area. Choosing the right tires is a systematic process, so don’t rush this decision.

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