Everything You Need to Know to Buy A/T or M/T Light Truck Tires
Tire tech has become more specialized over time. New materials and the latest research mean more options tailored to your type of driving; that's the upside. The downside is figuring out how to sort through the wealth of options available to us. That's as true of light truck tires as it is performance cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and so on. Narrowing down what's best for your truck is a matter of figuring out what you don't want as much as it is what you do want.
Be it off-road action or street cruising comfortably, Nitto packs high-quality options in the tire department. Their Grapplers have you covered whether you're assaulting mud, trails, rocks, or just looking for longevity on the road. Not only do they come in popular 16 to 24-inch rim sizes, but you can get Nitto tires in bigger overall sizes if your truck or SUV is lifted, as well. Moreover, Nitto uses its latest tech to ensure the tires are exceptionally uniform and easier to balance, too. Here's our quick primer on sorting through those options to find the right tire for your truck.
You'd think the name says it all, wouldn't you? All. Terrain. On-road, off-road. That's not necessarily the case, though.
Like the name says, all-terrain tires are the kings of versatility. Meaning, they're great for casual driving both on and off the pavement. What they aren't are the quietest street tires nor specialized for aggressive off-roading. Their tread design, sidewall strength, and towing capability are all designed with that sort of versatility in mind. Get more in-depth insight into all-terrain tires here.
What Can a Mud-Terrain Do for You?
Mud comes into play in most places off-roaders like to play. Not so much the desert but most anywhere else. Mud has been the Great Enemy of forward momentum since armies fought each other from chariots.
Original "mud tires" were little more than glorified tractor tires, but its modern descendants pack advances like radial construction (which helps them on the road), improved tread design, and better rubber compounds. Factors like tread spacing to clear mud from the tire ASAP, separate mudders from their all-terrain cousins. Modern mud-terrain radials are well-engineered marvels that dig through the roughest terrain while remaining smooth on the highway. While there are many contenders on the market, few hit the mark like the Nitto Trail Grappler. Find out more about mud terrain tires here.
What's the Difference Between All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain?
Knowing your terrain is as important as knowing your options when choosing tires for your truck or SUV. The basic tire choice, of course, is mud versus all-terrain.
Other environments are more favorable to one type or the other, though. Sand, for example, demands a large footprint so you can stay on top of all that looseness. Mud tires don't cut it there so well. Other than running specialized sand paddle tires on the rear of your vehicle, all-terrain rubber is generally better for sand. Similarly, other than a specialty tire, snow is another area where a specialty tires are better over all-terrain or mud-terrain tires. If you need a studded snow tire, consider the Nitto Exo-Grappler. There's some debate over which of the two tires is better for tackling rock but in areas with high traction, all-terrain tread patterns generally give better traction than mud-tires do. If you run in desert two-track terrain in the Southwest, you know higher speed is more common. Both the Trail Grappler and Terra Grappler G2 are built with a heavy-duty carcass, making them suitable in this terrain. If you want something in between a mud tire and an all-terrain, though, consider the Ridge Grappler. Nitto spaced it between the Trail Grappler and Terra Grappler G2. Get more insight into all-terrain and mud tires here.
Come on, Feel the Noise. Or Don't
Road noise isn't a factor if you're not, um, on the road. Most of us drive to where we off-road rather than trailering a dedicated rough-terrain only four-wheeler with us, so, road noise may be factor in choosing tires for your light truck or SUV.
While modern mud tires are worlds quieter on the road than in previous generations, all-terrain tires still edge them out. Hybrid terrain tires like the Ridge Grappler, though, offer more bite than a dedicated all-terrain tire with less road noise on the pavement than a mud-tire. Having said all of that, you may want to bear in mind that the latest and greatest truck cabs are engineered to be extremely quiet as well. Read more about tire noise here.
Numbers Racket: DOT Code
Perhaps the most detailed source of information in choosing a tire is written on the tires themselves. Unfortunately, not all of us read tread patterns like so many gypsy tea leaves.
Luckily, the tire size, DOT code (Dept of Transportation code for date, location, and product size), load range (how much weight each tire safely carries at maximum inflation pressure), and weather rating (types of terrain and weather the tire are suited for) are all printed right on your tires for you to read. That is, if you know how. For example, the LT285/70/R18 on a Nitto Ridge Grappler speaks volumes. LT stands for "light truck." If the numbers were preceded by the letter “P,” it would mean it was a passenger car tire. The next set of numbers, “285” tells you the width of the tire’s tread in millimeters while the second number, 70, is the aspect ratio of the tire (ie 70% of the total width of 285mm). The letter “R18" lets us know this is a radial tire with an 18-inch wheel diameter. It should be noted that metric sized tires usually pack more variety in sizing, ranging from short, wider tires, to tall, skinny tires. Decipher the code here.