Tires for occasional dirt/mud roads

Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Curious to hear any experiences and recommendations for tires for the occasional dirt or spotty mud roads. I know that nothing makes you invincible and I'm not looking to start doing extensive chasing on sketchy roads, but would like to be equipped to get through unexpected hairy situations that are always a risk when going off of the paved grid.

In doing so I don't want to compromise on wet road performance (I see that as the priority with chasing tires).

Will be driving an Outback in 2020.
 
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Jan 6, 2019
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Tyler
I put a set BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT on my Ford Explorer XLT 4x4.
Haven't got stuck yet and have been on county mud where i was sliding all over the road.
Went down this one county road that turned out to be just a double track through a flooded rice patty.
Had back out for about 1/2 mile.
The key up there would have been to have more aggressive tread.
I actually wishing i have tire chains with me to put on.

Problem there is the trade off between what tire will do for you and road noise the tire generates.

What most people with 4x4 don't know is that putting on a set of snow chains (F/R) will help more than anything.
Put'em on when u first notice/see what your fixin to go through.

I learned that lesson from and old man back in the 80s.
That Dodge Power Wagon of his seemed to climb straight the bank from the river.
Even though the DPW was a 4x4 with over size tires. Still had to put the chains on because of pulling that big Boston Whaler up the bank at the same time. The path had been made with a bulldozer. Can't even start to describe the slope of that bank.

So my opinion would be to go with a tire like above and carry tire chains with you.
 
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May 25, 2014
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I've had some luck in the past with Goodyear All-Terrain T/A's, as well as some very aggressive Cooper Discoverers.

Not sure if they make either in a size that will fit an Outback without significant modification of the vehicle.
 
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Jan 14, 2011
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From what I can tell, the issue with mud/AT tires vs all-seasons is similar to winter tires vs all seasons. There aren't really any tires that do a good job at both. You have to compromise on something. I think for chasers, good wet-road performance in a tire is the most important safety consideration. Any tire that does well on mud might require sacrificing some of the surefootedness in the rain, particularly with heavier rain when ponding begins. The chains option wasn't something I had considered before for mud, but it makes sense for something to help with getting unstuck.

Again, I usually avoid dirt roads and don't plan on changing that strategy much. But after last year's getting stuck incident on a road that turned into soft sand suddenly, I was hoping for something that gives a better chance of powering through a similar ordeal and/or backing out. The AWD and higher ground clearance will help with that, but with those types of situations, the tires are as important.

Definitely looking for something I can put on on the stock 18" wheels.
 
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May 25, 2014
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Mud terrains are usually decent all around. I drove lifted SUVs with aggressive mud tires for years that did about as well as can be expected all around.

I guess if you consider winter weather, some chains might help.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
I've never had an issue with ATs on wet surfaces myself, and I have a ton of miles under my belt. If you add together every vehicle I've had ATs on over the years, it's probably over half a million miles. Because of the large tread valleys, they do a very good job of keeping water off the contract surfaces. The main tradeoff in some cases is road noise and fuel economy, because there's more rolling resistance. Road tires are designed more to be quiet and maximize fuel economy, and often don't have as much rubber actually contacting the road surface, in addition to having narrower treads that can be clogged and overwhelmed more easily.
 
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May 25, 2014
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With the MT's I've had, the road noise is definitely something to be considered. I had a 98 Mountaineer that was FT-AWD and had been lifted 3 inches, and put a new set of Bart black steelies with Dick Cepek Extreme Country 33x10.50R15s on it. I had to trim about 2 inches of plastic off of the bottom of the bumpers on both sides to get them to clear in a turn, and the road noise was incredible. Just a constant low-frequency roar that made conversations in the cab almost impossible. The only way to tune out the noise was to turn the stereo up, and then the scanners and two-way radios had to be turned up a little louder to be heard.
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
You're probably not going to find many options for "all terrain" to fit an 18" wheel and maintain your rolling circumference. I hunted for a long time to decide what to do on my Sorento for better tires for both chasing and camping on BLM land/unimproved roads. I ended up going down to 18's from the OEM 19's, but after much deliberation, the commute took precedence for quiet/comfort/mpg and I went with all seasons.

Still havent gotten stuck and I used to chase in my Subaru on Ultra High Performance All Seasons. Sorento has General all seasons, but also a "diff lock" so, so far so good.

IIRC, the tires I was considering were the Yokohama Geolander AT2 which are generally known to be a pretty good btu not top tier all terrain. I believe it's quite popular with the Subaru folks.

Also, to help with options, consider, if possible, dropping down to a 17 or 16" wheel. These can be found ad nauseum on craigslist.
 
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Jun 4, 2018
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Altus, OK
I chase in a 2004 Subaru Forester. There are a ton of facebook groups dedicated to offroading and over landing Subarus that could have some tips. I'm an enthusiast and I don't know how far you are willing to go, but I have a small 2" lift on mine and went with smaller wheels to open up options for A/T tires. I use General Grabber AT2 tires and never have had any issues. Plus it does great on some serious trails that are much worse than anything you'd encounter on your typical unpaved road. Feel free to PM if you have any other questions.
 
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Mark Blue

Owner
Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
3,103
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Colorado
Do you know the actual size for your Subaru Outlook? For example, 265/50R20, is the size I run on our CUV.
 
Mar 6, 2019
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Mesa, Arizona
I know myself and knew before that I would likely not abandon a good storm due to a muddy road after traveling so far to get in position. I like Michael am running a set of General AT’s on a Subaru Forester (1999) and have no complaints after a couple years even. They are less expensive than many brands, have about 40k miles on them with plenty of life left, are quiet and perform very well on the road, in ice/snow and in the mud. I would highly recommend them. C95A46E6-B698-4015-A689-C132A911DAEB.jpeg
 
I'm another Subaru Foz owner and I purchased Goodyear WeatherReady (replaced the awesome TripleTred). So far pretty good. I'll report more (via IG and other social media) about my experiences once rainy season returns. I may have to add AT tires myself. Original plan was to take the Ford Escape (2009 v6 awd with 247,000 miles currently) but a few too many repairs may mean switching. That sucks cause I bought some decent for the price BF Goodwich Rugged TA Tires. As others have said, multiple Subaru groups on FB that'll help with finding what works on the Outback. If a newer Outback you can probably fit AT tires without much modification. May have to get small spacers. Main thing with Subaru is the strut perch being where issues occur. Leave as much space as possible. What the FB groups can't help you with is understanding how bad that Texas mud can cake up and interfere with functionality.
 

Joey Prom

EF1
Feb 11, 2020
74
27
6
St. Paul, Minnesota
Slightly off the original topic, but I am looking to buy new tires for my car, which I use for everything from storm chasing to making runs to the grocery store. I recently had a very bad experience with hydroplaning (in Iowa of course) and that pushed me over the edge to get a nice upgrade. My car is a 2016 Honda Civic, with wheel size: 215/55R16. I am looking at 2 specific tires, just wondering if there are any storm chasing specific pros/cons of each tire, which may not be shall we say listed on the standard description. Also, if there are any additional ones that you think I should consider, please let me know. The tires I am looking at are: Michelin Defender T + H, and Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus. Thanks, I look forward to the responses.
 
Jun 12, 2019
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Michigan
Hey Joey, I’ve settled on Michelin tires for my vehicles. I’ve tried a few others, and had various tires that came on vehicles from the factory, but I’ve never had an issue with Michelins, and they tend to last a long time as long as you get them rotated and keep your alignment, um... aligned.

The tire guys that I buy them from also seem to be in agreement that Michelin makes a top shelf tire.

I’m partial to the Michelin LTX M/S, which is what I have on my F-150, Explorer, and work truck. I think it’s part of the defender line, too. They’re siped pretty heavily, and are fantastic in snow and on wet roads. I take the F-150 chasing, and on the few muddy roads it encountered down in the plains, the Michelins did fine. BUT, the roads had just gotten wet, and had not devolved into well-oiled silly putty consistency yet. I checked, and you CAN get them in a 215/55R16.

I hope this helps. Good luck.
 
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Joey Prom

EF1
Feb 11, 2020
74
27
6
St. Paul, Minnesota
Is there any value to say only getting 2 for now, (which may be what I can afford) then getting the other two say at some point over the summer once I get a job after the hullabaloo is over? If so, should I get front? (its front wheel drive vehicle)
 

Mark Blue

Owner
Staff member
Feb 19, 2007
3,103
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Colorado
That’s what the experts recommend if you cannot buy a complete set of four at the same time. I’d try to get the other two as soon as you can though so they are roughly the same age. I’d put the first two on the front, then when you buy the other two, rotate the front to the back and put the two new tires on the front again.
 
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Drew Terril

Staff member
Ok. Here is my $500 question: Is there an appreciable difference between the Michilin Defender T + H and the Michilin Defender LTX?
Joey, my understanding based on a little reading is that the biggest difference is the load rating, and that all season truck tires are engineered with at least light off roading in mind (think forestry roads or gravel roads around farmland). With those two specific tires, it comes out to something like a 900 lb difference per tire in load capacity, with the LTX having the greater load rating.
 
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