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3 Scientific Experiments to Settle This | Wide vs Narrow Off-Road Tires - Tinkerer's Adventure


ekrampitzjr

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The pros run very wide tires on ice and snow at low PSI, sometimes < 10 psi. Of course, they're moving at very slow speeds.

Then for the loose sand that's common on the Outer Banks of North Carolina those with permits use wide tires and reduce tire pressure to < 20 psi. The Outer Banks south of Nags Head were notorious for vehicles getting stuck in sand until the paved roads were built starting in the 1950s. That sand is still very loose. Cars that pull over to park by NC route 12 on Pea and Hatteras islands still routinely get stuck.

The tire pressure is as important as the tire width.
 


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At what depth do you decide the snow is too deep for narrow tires ?
When forward progress ceases? lol :D

I have fairly wide tires (35x12.50), I had to plow through a bunch of snow drifts (wet melting snow) about 2 maybe 2½ feet deep a few months ago (bottom not within reach of the tires)... Technique apparently has much to do with how likely you are to get stuck.

While on a group run, the lead guy got himself stuck in a drift. His mistake was not letting off the throttle quick enough before he dug in and planted his truck to it's frame. I took my turn gunning it into the drift, but shoving the clutch in right before forward momentum stopped... Each time I was able to back out and then hit it again. By the 3rd or 4th time I managed to pack it down and clear a path where the rest of the group could then proceed through.

This is one of the (smaller) drifts we were dealing with:
IMG_20230512_134655.jpg


Eventually we all decided to turn around because the higher we got in elevation, the drifts were getting deeper, longer, and taking much longer to plow through (and guys with smaller tires were getting stuck even after several rigs had already plowed through). Still had a fun day though.
 

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Wheel and tire matchup is a thing.

If you can only afford one set of tires..and like to go off road. Height is key attribute.

..the lightest one saves on parts and fuel.

That is a static test. Then there is what really happens.
 

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Just my observation but narrow tires will do way better in deep snow than wide ones will... it somewhat depends on snow consistency though, powdery dry snow is different than wet, thick stuff or old snow that has melted & re-frozen a few times and packed down. A couple anecdotes:

Went out with a buddy who had an early Bronco that was on 40x15.50x15 Gumbo Monster Mudders, mounted on 12" wide wheels. I had my Ranger on 33x12.50x15's on 8" wide wheels. He just instantly sank into deep snow and I was able to drive circles around him. It was kinda funny to watch him get impossibly stuck with those giant balloons, that was the point we realized that narrow works better and I felt that was a pretty fair comparison between trucks. I think both weighed about the same, mine was just a little longer.

Another time I took my little stock beater '88 out with the club on a snow run and kept up with literally everyone, even the big tire/big truck guys. Mind you I'm just running 235/75/15 Cooper all terrains on it. The one who struggled the most was a stock diesel Dodge, that sucker is really heavy. We put some chains on the front about halfway through the day and it became totally unstoppable.... so traction does matter somewhat.

That said we went out on a snow run last year and I was driving my F250... I believe I have either 265 or 285/70/17 Firestone mud tires on it. That whole day was a struggle, let off the throttle and it sinks... too much gas and it sinks... oversteer a bit and it sinks. I had 500+ lbs of weight in the back too. So sometimes traction hurts?
 

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Tread design makes a big difference depending on what the media you are driving in is.

Small blocks with lots of grooves, channels, and sipes is good for snow because it traps the snow in the grooves. Snow grips snow best.

Mud clogs the grooves and turns a tire into a racing slick if the grooves are too small. This why mud tires have large block and large grooves. So the mud can get expelled more easily to clear them.

All terrains are the best and worst of both worlds because they are a compromised blend of the two.
 

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Just my observation but narrow tires will do way better in deep snow than wide ones will... it somewhat depends on snow consistency though, powdery dry snow is different than wet, thick stuff or old snow that has melted & re-frozen a few times and packed down. A couple anecdotes:

Went out with a buddy who had an early Bronco that was on 40x15.50x15 Gumbo Monster Mudders, mounted on 12" wide wheels. I had my Ranger on 33x12.50x15's on 8" wide wheels. He just instantly sank into deep snow and I was able to drive circles around him. It was kinda funny to watch him get impossibly stuck with those giant balloons, that was the point we realized that narrow works better and I felt that was a pretty fair comparison between trucks. I think both weighed about the same, mine was just a little longer.

Another time I took my little stock beater '88 out with the club on a snow run and kept up with literally everyone, even the big tire/big truck guys. Mind you I'm just running 235/75/15 Cooper all terrains on it. The one who struggled the most was a stock diesel Dodge, that sucker is really heavy. We put some chains on the front about halfway through the day and it became totally unstoppable.... so traction does matter somewhat.

That said we went out on a snow run last year and I was driving my F250... I believe I have either 265 or 285/70/17 Firestone mud tires on it. That whole day was a struggle, let off the throttle and it sinks... too much gas and it sinks... oversteer a bit and it sinks. I had 500+ lbs of weight in the back too. So sometimes traction hurts?



That is a big depends . Depth of snow and consistency. If you can't get to bottom. You can't move. If that is the case ...You need to snow shoe on top...can't do that with normal tires..

On roads..or snow under 3 feet deep, I would rather run pizza cutters....and dedicated snow tires at that ..

My big tires with 2 to 5 psi work totally different....where they stay on top out in the deep.... ...they rule the day ...anywhere near hard surface...especially plowed roads that are wet or frozen ....they suck. Those are 42 inch iroks...one is about bald...and gets better traction on pavement.... I had gumbo 44s I used for awhile as well. But they had to be nearly empty in the back... were 16.5 so a total pia to keep beaded... I used some 44 boggers and they were a bit too big....and totally useless on pavement wet or dry.


Out in the desert....you just need some tire when it's dry.
 

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Snow consistency is a big part of the equation, sometimes you can get really stuck in 8" of snow, others you can bomb down roads hood deep... when I go snow wheeling in good snow in my '90 I'll do like in sand and air down to like 8psi... there was one trip I was bombing around and instantly lost power, boost gauge showed vacuum at full throttle, the air filter was jam packed with snow :), took it out and cleaned it up (K&N) on the bumper and was good to go, I've since pulled one of the baffles from an Explorer to keep the airflow from coming in through the grill instead of under the bumper...
 

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