It didn’t take me very long to learn how to tell a brown trout from a rainbow or brookie. And I easily mastered the differences between a pumpkinseed and a bluegill. But when confronted with the redear, redbreast, or longear sunfish, things got a good deal more complicated. Even now, I occasionally consult a field guide to be sure.
So it is with tires for a 4x4. With so many designs available, how can you identify the correct tire for your pickup or sport utility? Consulting the simplified “field guide” below can make things easier. Use it to narrow the choice to a particular type of tire. Then go to a dealer for information on the specific model within tat tire type.
Essentially, there are four types of tires of concern to outdoorsmen: 1) highway rib; 2) highway/all-season; 3) offroad/all-terrain; and 4) maximum traction offroad.
1) Highway-rib tires usually have a four-or five-rib design. (A rib is the standing tread that circles the tire.) Each rib is siped, which means the ribs have little slahes that help provide biting edges for traction in dirt, slush, and snow.Their design provides good, even wear, low noise levels, and a smooth ride. These tires often have low rolling resistance that helps increase fuel economy.
Highway rib tires usually have a four- or five-rib design. Each rib is siped, which means the ribs have little slashes that help provide biting edges for dirt, slush, and snow traction. The grooves between the ribs can be jagged to provide even more of a bite. The shoulders (the inner and outer ribs) are wider to help cornering and braking performance. These tires are designed primarily for highway use, but will perform adequately in light to moderate snow and on level gravel and dirt roads.
2) The highway/all-season tire maintains the rib-type look, but the ribs now consist of small, independent blocks positioned around the tire, which help it deliver greater performance in dirt and rain. The zigzag sipes in the blocks also help traction on snow and ice. This type of tire is an evolutionary step up from the tire profiled above. The more aggressive tread design helps it better deal with dirt and snow, so that as loose dirt and snow are compressed into the openings, you actually end up with more traction. At the same time, the rib-type design helps the tire maintain on-road performance very close to that of a highway-rib tire. The highway/all-season tire works well on dirt roads, gravel roads, sand, and in moderate snow.