- john goreham
Original photo of John Goreham's Falken WildPeak A/T Trail tire
Off-road crossover models are developing rapidly in the American auto market. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodlands Edition, Mazda CX-50 Meridian, Subaru Forester Wilderness, Outback Wilderness, Crosstrek Wilderness, Honda Pilot TrailSport, Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition, Kia Telluride X-Pro and many other crossover SUVs with off-road tires. Let's examine an important design feature of these tires: the sidewall tread.
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Original photo of 2023 TrailSport rider with Continental Trail tires courtesy of Honda
What is an all terrain tire?
Trail tires are new to the crossover market. These tires are often designed for year-round use, and many now have the three-peaked mountain snowflake stamp, indicating they are designed for severe snow conditions. Unlike off-road tires, which can look similar, off-road tires provide a smooth, quiet ride on the highway and do not lead to a significant reduction in fuel economy. Manufacturers mount these tires on their special off-road finishes, knowing that owners will likely be traveling on unimproved roads, logging roads, sandy seaside trails, and dirt roads that often lead to boat ramps, boat launch points, and more. canoes and hiking trails.
Graphic of tire sidewall in action courtesy of Falken
side wall reinforcement
The first thing to know about off-road tires is that the sidewall is stronger than touring tires or all-season utility tires. It is more resistant to tears and punctures. When traveling on an unpaved road or dirt road, the sidewall is exposed to rocks, roots, and branches that can scratch or puncture the sidewall. That's why they are tougher.
Photo of 2023 Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition with Toyo off-road tires courtesy of Nissan
What is downward ventilation?
You may not realize it if you're not in the off-road community, but many crossover and SUV owners reduce tire pressure, known as "ventilation," when traveling over soft mud and sandy terrain. If the vehicle manufacturer suggests a tire pressure of, say, 30 psi for daily use, those who drive off-pavement can reduce tire pressure to about 20 psi. They do this by simply letting air out of the tire's Schrader valve. Some use a tool to speed it up. After the adventure is over, they use a portable 12-volt pump to let the air in again. Some trails offer compressed air for those who do as well.
The reason for ventilation is to increase the contact area of the tire with the road surface and make the ride smoother. When it goes flat, the surface area of the tire in contact with the ground becomes larger. With a normal sidewall, this extra area is soft rubber. For tires with a sidewall tread, this contact area has a tread. By increasing the contact surface with the track, the tire provides better traction and stability.
Original photo of 2023 Subaru Forester Wilderness with Yokohama off-road tires by John Goreham
Stepping on the side wall
There are many reasons why manufacturers place tread on the sidewall. These include extra grip in mud, better grip in sand, grip in rocky areas, and aesthetics. We have already explained how ventilation works. Basically the tire becomes "bigger". This is useful on soft, muddy or sandy ground when you want more footing on a larger surface area. In some off-pavement scenarios, ruts and deep ruts from natural causes and previous vehicles mean the sidewall may be in contact with the road for a short period of time. The tread-reinforced sidewall construction makes the tire an advantage in this case.
Of course, sidewalls that can grab rocks are better than ones that can't. While we stretch out a bit here, treading along the sidewalls of the tire makes sense if you know ahead of time that the area will scratch or drag on any rocky surface.
Original photo of the Falken mud tires on a 2016 Subaru Forester by John Goreham
Applied Test Side Tread
It's easy to see how the tread works on the side of the tire. Just drive on a muddy trail and then look at the tires. The mud remains on the side of the tire where it contacted the muddy ground. As our photo shows, the mud meets the sidewall much higher than you might think.
Original photo of a Continental Trail tire on a 2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro by John Goreham
Does tread really work on the sidewalls?
We tested many crossovers and SUVs equipped with off-road tires from brands like Falken and Yokohama, as well as off-road tires from Toyo, Goodyear, BFGoodrich, and others. There is no doubt that tires have a big impact on grip and comfort. In addition, the community of vehicle owners using off-road and off-road tires have shown that a solid sidewall construction equipped with a tread reduces the risk of a tire puncture due to a tear in the sidewall.
Original photo of 2023 Subaru Forester Wilderness on the forest trail by John Goreham
If you own a crossover or SUV equipped with all-season utility tires and want to venture off-road, the first thing you should do is consider replacing your tires with all-terrain or off-road models. To get you started, we've included some links to several high-quality brands.
- Sendero Opony Falken WildPeak A/T
- Yokohama GEOLANDAR A/T Tires
- Sendero Opony Toyo Open Country R/T
- llantas goodyear wrangler
- BFGoodrich off-road tires
- Opony Continental TerrainContacto A/T
Read more aboutThe best tire deals available here.
see ourgeneral recommendations for the best tires
see ourrecommendations for the 10 Best Tire Brands for 2023
- Is it worth buying off-road tires?
Yes, replacing the all-season utility tires with off-road or all-terrain tires on your crossover, SUV, or truck is a great way to improve your vehicle's off-road capability and reduce tire damage on the road.
- Are off-road tires more expensive than all-season tires?
Our research has shown that trail tires are generally no more expensive than all-season touring tires. However, some off-road tires can be more expensive than general purpose tires.
- Can I use off-road and off-road tires in winter?
Yes, off-road and all-terrain tires are considered all-season tires. In fact, some feature the same three-peaked mountain snowflake symbol, denoting approval for the heavy snow conditions that winter tires come with. However, nothing beats a studded winter tire on ice.
- Where to buy tires online?
The answer to this question really depends on what you're looking for, butThe best places to buy tires onlineto save money and get good deals aretire carrier,single tireIdiscount tire.
- What tire brands are the best?
The short answer is: a brand you've heard of. There are differences between the main brands of tires (Goodyear, BF Goodrich, Pirelli, Michelin, etc.) and you must understand what their advantages and disadvantages are. However, there is a big difference between these brands of tires and some no-name brands that are sold off the van along with home stereo speakers. For more on this, check out Car Talk's Top Picks forThe best tire brands for 2023.
- What are the top 10 tire brands?
Michelin, Goodyear, Pirelli, General, Bridgestone, Cooper, BFGoodrich, Continental, Yokohama, Hankook. You can read more about these leading brands atThe best tire brands for 2023.
Editor's Note and Disclaimer: Car Talk is supported by our fans, readers, and listeners. When you click on certain links on our website, we may receive referral compensation. However, you should know that our recommendations are based on our independent editorial review and analysis.
Why do some tires have a tread on the sidewall? - Speaking of the car.? ›
When you air down, the tire's surface contacting the ground becomes larger. With a normal sidewall, that added area is smooth rubber. With tires that have tread on the sidewall, that contact area has tread. By increasing the surface area in contact with the trail, the tire offers more grip and stability.What is sidewall tread for? ›
Usually there are multiple ribs across the tread area of a tire. Shoulder: The area of tire where the tread and sidewall meet. Sidewall: The Sidewall protects the side of the tire from impact with curbs and the road. Important details like the tire size and speed rating are written on the sidewall.Why do some tires say inside and outside? ›
Asymmetrical tires have an inside and outside to their tread. Tire manufactures will often do this to optimize the traction and wear capabilities of the tire.Why are some tires marked outside? ›
How to tell if tires are directional. The performance consequences of running directional tires incorrectly (backwards) can be significant, so tire manufacturers clearly mark directional tires with an arrow/rotation direction on the outside tire sidewall.What is the rubber on the side of a tire? ›
Those little rubber hairs are a byproduct of tire manufacturing. In a tire mold, rubber is injected and air pressure is used to force the liquid rubber into all the nooks and crannies. In order for the rubber to completely fill the mold, small pockets of air need to be able to escape.What are the three types of tire tread? ›
Let's look deeper at both the elements of tire tread patterns as well as the three types you might run across in your search for new tires: Symmetric tread, asymmetric tread, and directional tread.Can you plug a sidewall tread? ›
Unfortunately, sidewall punctures on passenger or light truck tires can't be repaired. That's because: The patch won't hold - Tires have cords that run all around the tread of the tire, the part the makes contact with the road. But on the sidewall, those cords aren't there.Does it matter which way a tire faces? ›
The special tread cannot work properly if directional tyres are mounted the wrong way round. This means that the tyres will not hold the road very well and the risk of aquaplaning will be greater. Incorrectly mounted tyres will also wear down faster and they will be louder when driving.What happens if tires are mounted backwards? ›
Installing and Rotating
On directional tires, there's an arrow on the sidewall of the tires — when correctly mounted, the arrow points toward the front of the vehicle. If directional tires get mounted backward, you won't get the hydroplaning resistance and other performance driving benefits the tread is designed for.
If you examine your tire and discover that the inner or outer edge of the tire is wearing down faster than the rest of the tread, your vehicle's wheel alignment is likely out of specification. This wear pattern indicates that your wheels are leaning too much to one side, which can typically be blamed on misalignment.
What does 101 mean on a tire? ›
When it comes to Light Truck (LT) or Special Trailer (ST) tires, there are two load indexes branded (example - LT235/75R15 104/101S). In this example, the 104 corresponds to 1,984 pounds (see chart below), and the 101 corresponds to 1,819 pounds.Why do tires have orange dots? ›
These are markers or guides to be aligned with particular points on the wheel. The alignment matters for the balancing of the wheel: If these dots on the tires are properly aligned with certain points on the wheel, minimal weights will be used for balancing.Does it matter if tire is inside or outside? ›
Not usually. It is common to put the letter or whitewall side “in” if the customer prefers a black sidewall look. It may matter in the case of asymetrical tread. Why are my car's front tyres wearing out the inside of the tire faster than the outside?Why do new tires have little hairs? ›
These little rubber hairs that you see on every new tire. Technically, they are called vent spews which doesn't have anything to do with riding or the adhesion of the tire at all. Those little rubber hairs are a byproduct of tire manufacturing by rubber molding or steaming processes.What is the thing on the outside of a tire called? ›
TIRE SHOULDER. The outer edge of the tread that wraps into the sidewall area.What are tires with no tread called? ›
Bald tires are risky to drive on for two reasons - they're more susceptible to punctures, and they no longer have adequate tread depth to channel water from under the tread.Why do you slash 3 tires and not 4? ›
The three-tire rule states that your auto insurance won't pay for damages if only three tires are slashed. No one is certain as to where this idea originated, but it is false. However, your liability-only coverage won't pay for any damage to tires. You need more than merely basic coverage to be fully protected.How often should tires be rotated? ›
Tire rotation means periodically changing the position of each of the tires on your vehicle. You should rotate your tires as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, or every 5,000 miles.What tires can you not plug? ›
A tire puncture greater than 1/4 inch (or 6mm) cannot be repaired. A new tire replacement is needed if a puncture exceeds this limit. Large tread punctures, irregular gashes or cuts exceeding 1/4 inch cannot be repaired.Is it OK to replace just one tire? ›
If your tires are pretty new, you may be able to get away with just replacing one or two tires. If your tires have worn down and there will be more than 4/32” difference between the new tires and old tires, you should get all new tires.
How many miles do tires last? ›
Your tires should last 50,000 to 60,000 miles on average. But that really depends on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers build their tires to last up to 80,000 miles, while some design their tires to last as little as 30,000 miles. You can see how many miles to expect out of a tire by checking its treadwear rating.Which tire position wears faster? ›
Under normal driving circumstances with a front-wheel drive vehicle (passenger cars, minivans, etc.), the front tires will wear at a slightly higher rate than the rear tires.Where should the tires with the most tread go? ›
According to Tire Review, new tires should always go in the back. Rear tires provide the vehicle stability, and if they have little tread, then stability is lost.Which side of the tire wears faster? ›
Since most vehicles wear their front tires faster, within a few thousand miles, the front tires will be more worn than the backs so you won't want to rotate them then.Can tires be installed incorrectly? ›
An incorrectly fitted tire can become damaged and burst. The energy released in a blow-out could lead to traffic accidents involving vehicle damage and serious personal injury.Can a tire be installed wrong? ›
If you believe your tires have been mounted incorrectly (with either the directional arrow pointing the wrong way, or the inside mounted to outside), we recommend having them remounted by a professional.Are directional tires bad? ›
While tires with symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns do not require a specific direction when installed on a car, installing directional tires improperly can not only lessen the benefits of the tires, but it can also cause them to wear down faster than the manufacturer intended.Why is one front tire wearing faster? ›
In general, your front tires will wear faster than your rear tires. Why? Weight: Your front tires often bear more weight than your rear tires because of the engine placement. Steering and turning: Most cars have front-wheel drive (FWD)—meaning only the front wheels turn to steer your car.Why are my front tires wearing out so fast? ›
Two common causes of early tire wear out and irregular tire wear are improper inflation pressure and out-of-spec alignment conditions.Why are my back tires wearing faster than front? ›
A rear wheel drive vehicle will wear its rear tires faster than its front tires due to the drive (pulling) wheels being on the back of the vehicle. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend rotating your tires every 5000 to 7500 miles. An easy way to remember to rotate your tires is to do it with every oil change.
What does R mean on a tire? ›
This is indicated in percentage of the tire width. “R” stands for the construction method of the tire indicating the tire is a radial tire. The following two numbers (16) indicate the diameter of the wheel rim in inches.What does P mean on tires? ›
P identifies your tire as a Passenger Tire. The P stands for PMetric. If your tire size starts with LT rather than a P than it identifies the tire as a Light Truck tire.What does LT mean on a tire? ›
An “LT” on your sidewall before that long string of numbers and letters denoting your tire size signifies the tire is a "Light Truck-metric" size; it was designed for use on a vehicle that carries heavy cargo loads or tows a large trailer.What does blue dot on tire mean? ›
If you see any blue, green, purple, white, pink or orange dots, just ignore them. They are “mystery” dots and are there for factory purposes. Once the tire leaves the manufacturing plant, dots of those colors have no use. Some manufacturers do not put any dots on their tires.What does a red dot on a tire mean? ›
The red dot indicates the tyre's high point. Most of the time a wheel will also have a dot—either a drilled dot or a sticker to indicate its low point; if you have these marks, you should align the red dot with the mark on the wheel and ignore the yellow dot.What is the blue stuff on my tires? ›
The blue stuff is actually a soap stuff that they put on there to protect the white lettering in transport so it won't get damaged and look as good as it can look when you finally get the tyres on your car.Is it better to have too much or too little air in tires? ›
Low tire pressure always is more dangerous than high tire pressure. When tires are deflated, more rubber touches the ground, the tires heat up and you're in danger of a blowout.What does XL mean on a tire? ›
XL (or Reinforced) tyres are 'extra load' tyres – they indicate that a tyre is reinforced to be able to withstand a higher load than other tyres of the same size. This is done through a number of ways, but most usually by adding strengthening material to either the tyre's bead or face.What does M&S mean on a tire? ›
M+S stands for Mud+Snow, indicating that the tires are suitable for use in the winter (studded or non-studded winter tires). The official winter tire marking is the snowflake symbol, also known as the 3PMSF marking. (the techinical name is 'Servere Service Emblem".What are the prickly things on new tires? ›
They are called 'vent spews', a weird name for something extremely common. Other names include sprue nubs, tyre nibs, gate marks or nippers. The hairs actually play a vital role in the tyre manufacturing process.
Why are new tires slippery? ›
During manufacturing, a release lubricant is used to help remove tires from their molds. This substance remains on the tread until it wears off on the road. Before it has completely worn off, it could reduce your traction.Why do new tires look dirty? ›
Tires bloom because antiozonant pushes its way to the outer edge of the rubber casing with time. As the element comes into contact with oxygen, it leaves a brown residue on the surface of the tire. Antiozonant is organic and helps tires last longer as it slows deterioration due to oxidation.What is a police tire? ›
Made for comfortable cruising and quiet patrolling, these tires can also handle the strain and bumps of high-speed pursuit. In fact, most pursuit-rated tires carry the speed rating of W – meaning they're approved for speeds up to 168 mph. These are used on all of these vehicles currently: Chevrolet Caprice 9C1.Why do people put cardboard on their tires? ›
If your tires are stuck, use cardboard to help them get traction.Why do you wrap tires? ›
Tires lose solvents and moisture over time but keeping them covered helps prevent tires from drying out. Wrap also helps contain or reduce the amount of chemicals used during "soaking" by minimizing evaporation.Why can't you plug the shoulder of a tire? ›
The use of a standard puncture repair unit in the shoulder (S-T) area will result in the repair unit being exposed to more stress in the upper sidewall, due to the characteristics of the tire. This could potentially result in a premature repair failure.When did car tires stop having tubes? ›
The other major development in the evolution of the modern tire was the tubeless tire, which basically replaced the inner-tube version by the early 1960s, with the first factory standard tubeless tire coming equipped to the Packard in 1954.What is the black thing on tires? ›
They are simply a by-product of the tyre manufacturing process. Their technical name is vent spews but they can also be referred to as sprue nubs, tyre nibs, gate marks or nippers.Is more sidewall better for snow? ›
A taller sidewall will not only ensure a better ride, it is the preferred choice in winter where the slightly narrower tread can cut through the snow or slush, down to the surface of the road.How does tire sidewall affect ride? ›
So, the lower the profile, the shorter the side wall, the stiffer the side wall, the better the car goes around corners. Well, that has a lot of advantages, but, it also has some disadvantages.
What does more sidewall do? ›
More sidewall creates a cushion between your vehicle and the road. Meaning that many vehicles with 18-, 19- and 20-inch tires have narrow sidewalls. So although the end result may be improved handling and a trendy look, it also makes the car less comfortable to ride in and drive.Does more sidewall better traction? ›
The taller sidewall doesn't offer any traction advantages, but it does make it less likely that you'll bend a wheel when you hit a pot hole or curb. This is a common reason to run a smaller wheel and taller tire in the winter. Smaller wheels also tend to be less expensive.Is the sidewall the weakest part of the tire? ›
The sidewall is the most fragile part of the tire. Compared to the tread, the sidewall is not only thinner, but also has insufficient steel wire to adhere, so it is more fragile.What is the 3 percent tire rule? ›
As a general rule, you want replacement tires that are within 3 percent of the diameter (height) measurement of your existing tires' diameter — assuming your current tires are what your owner's manual recommends.Are over or under inflated tires better for snow? ›
What About Traction? Some drivers may think overinflating their tires will give them better traction on slippery winter roads. However, this is not the case. In fact, properly inflated tires with adequate tread depth provide the best traction in winter weather.Which side tire wears out faster? ›
Front tyres tend to wear faster, up to 2.5 times faster on some cars. The left front tyre has it the hardest. It is the most heavily loaded and responsible for transmitting most of the steering during right hand turns.Should I run my tires at the pressure shown on the sidewall? ›
There is also a tire pressure number shown on the sidewall of the tire itself. Don't inflate your tires based on this pressure. The pressure listed on the tire is the maximum amount of air it can hold, not the recommended pressure for optimum performance.Is it better to have wider or taller tires? ›
High-profile tires with plenty of space for air are more comfortable than wide, low-profile tires. From a safety point of view, both types have their good sides: On a dry road, wider tires will offer more grip than narrow ones, but the risk of aquaplaning will be higher with wide tires.What is the weakest part of a car tyre? ›
The shoulder of the tire is the weakest part. So only those holes in the middle of the tire can be repaired.Why low-profile tires are bad? ›
You actually increase the likelihood of blowouts and tire failure on rough roads and potholes. Because low-profile tires don't have as much space to absorb the impact of bumps, ruts, objects or potholes, it's not uncommon for low-profile tire failure to coincide with catastrophic wheel and rim damage.
Which tire has the most traction? ›
As far as grooves and tread, a slick tire offers the most amount of traction on a paved road.Which tire has the best traction rating? ›
Traction (the safety rating)
The highest traction grade is AA, followed by A, B, and C. Tires with an 'AA' traction rating should stop at a much shorter distance than a tire with a 'C' rating.