Time waits for no man and there is never enough of it. We get emails from time to time asking questions that range from simple how to, to in depth technical questions. We always have the best of intentions and try to answer them in a timely fashion but in reality we do a terrible job of it.
One of the more recent questions is a discussion we have had lately anyway so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Answer the “Ask 4WAAM” question of “Wide or skinny tires” and share the tire discussion at the same time.
Wide versus Skinny Tires:
Wide tires are all the rage. They look good, they handle well on road, and they have benefits in certain situations off road. If you run in sand or are trying to run on top of packed snow wider is definitely better.
4WAAM is based on the East coast so a lot of the off road we do is completely different than what the West coast deals with. Rocks, trees, mud, and narrow trails versus the wide open spaces and dunes. As such the way we build or rigs and the tires we need to use differ.
Couple items to think about throughout. Wider tires use more fuel due to a higher rolling resistance and more rubber on the road, they tend to hydroplane more, and take more energy and effort to turn. A small price to pay for the benefits of that wider tire when you need it.
Let’s look at some terrain to see what might work better.
Big wide tires seem like the perfect choice for every situation on paper. In practical terms they are usually no more effective and in some cases less effective than their skinnier counterparts. Mud is one of the biggest areas where wider is definitely not better.
Take a look at this video of a mud truck. Tall, skinny tires backed with insane horsepower.
The wider the tire the more power you need to push it though the mud. Which is the point we were making. Wide tires push the mud, they offer more resistance, and require far more power to try and motor through the muck. A thinner tire cuts through the mud, slicing through the terrain and offering significantly less resistance.
Snow is another area that wider seems like the better choice. Once again it depends.
Wide works excellently when you need to stay on top of the snow. Hard pack on the Tundra of the Antarctic, packed snow in the frozen North. How often are you going to be running those areas?
Those skinny tires cut through the snow instead of compacting and pushing the snow just like our mud scenario. You have to decide what works best for you but in most circumstances I would choose a thinner tire.
Rock is a mixed bag of what might or might not be better. A wider tire will offer more tread width to span openings, a thinner tire can weave through obstacles, wider tires protect your rim better.
We still prefer a thinner tire because of the aforementioned benefits above and when aired down still give that enhanced contact patch you want. The narrower tire width allows the Jeeps overall width to stay under the fender flares allowing you to still fit though openings a stock Jeep squeezes through.
We are a bit biased as you can tell from the article. We have soft spot for the thinner tires. In a perfect world there would be an abidance of 35 10.5 tires on the market to satisfy our desires. Those fat 12.5 inch tires look sweet under any rig and certainly work well.
One last benefit of those thinner tires is more clearance to hard parts. They allow you to run a taller tire and still have room to control arms, inner fender liners, and other parts that a wider tire would normally rub on.
The best tire for any given job is what you choose to fit the terrain and what you think looks good. We would opt for tires that fit what terrain we are driving on and met the needs of every day use over looks and cost. Not everyone has that option.
Tell us what you think in the comments. Wider or thinner tires?