If you are not planning to take your vehicle four-wheeling, then you can walk on past the all-terrain tires, right? Maybe not. While the name may seem to imply that these tires are designed for the road less traveled, they are actually a great tire for all driving surfaces. All-terrain tires or A/T are an all-purpose tire that performs well on dry, wet, muddy, or lightly snow-covered roads. Before you decide to put a new set on your vehicle, it is best to understand the unique characteristics of these tires.

Understanding All-Terrain Tires

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Cons:

As with every tire, there are pros and cons to all-terrain tires. I’ll give you the bad news first.

Reduced Fuel Economy
All-terrain tires are intended to grip the road. They have a blockier tread than the average road tire, and the rubber used in the tread is softer to allow it to hold onto rocks and other debris. Both of these characteristics combine to increase the friction between these tires and the road. While you will see a decrease in the number of miles you can drive per gallon of gas than you would with a straight touring tire, A/T tires still claim better fuel economy than off-road tires.

Faster Tread Erosion
The softer rubber used in the tread of all-terrain tires can wear down more quickly. The friction and heat generated through contact with the road will physically erode the tire’s outer layer. Thus, most A/T tires only have about a 40,000-mile warranty. However, some higher-end tires can reach 50-70,000 miles.

Tire Scalloping
Also known as cupping, tire scalloping is an unusual tire wear pattern. It happens when spots in the rubber tread wear down more quickly than the surrounding tire tread leading to a bumpy ride. The rumbling feeling this scalloping generates is similar to the rough ride passengers experience when the wheel bearings are worn out. The more aggressive your tire, the more prone it may be to cupping.

You can mitigate this problem by keeping on top of your tire maintenance. Check the tires regularly for signs of irregular wear and rotate your tires every 6-8,000 miles to promote even wear and tear.

Increased Road Noise
Road noise may not be an issue splashing down a muddy path in the mountains. However, it can get old driving long distances down the highway. The tread pattern on an A/T tire is very open. It is arranged in blocks with open channels between them. Noise is generated as air is forced through these channels. By comparison, most road tires’ channels are narrower and lead away from the center of the tire, providing a quieter and smoother ride.

Pros:

While these potential issues with an all-terrain tire are important to note, there are plenty of benefits to outweigh these drawbacks.

Adaptable to Four Seasons
Utah residents enjoy all four seasons, and all-terrain tires can perform well in different types of weather. While there’s no substitute for snow tires for heavy snow, the aggressive tread of all-terrain tires will definitely beat your summer treads when there is light snow on the ground.

Open Tread Pattern
The tread pattern on an A/T tire is similar to that of an off-road tire. The broader channels between tread blocks improve the traction of the vehicle. It allows the tire to grab onto rocks, branches, or mud on unpaved trails. This feature also improves traction on city streets and highways.

Side Wall Support
Some A/T tires have extra reinforcement in the sidewall of the tire. Because of this added support, these tires can support heavier loads than most tires. Reinforced sidewalls are great for company pick-up trucks hauling heavy loads to and from the job site. They are also regularly used for campers, as they must carry heavy loads over various types of terrain.

Most all-terrain tires are manufactured for use on trucks, SUVs, and campers, but the market for A/T tires for four-wheel drive cars is growing. Note that if you choose to put A/T tires on your car, you will need to make sure that the tire is a perfect fit for your car. Due to the limited selection of A/T car tires, you may have to invest in new wheels that will fit the tire and allow enough clearance for the thicker tread in the car’s wheel well. If you need help navigating this change, your local Salt Lake City tire store can help you find the right fit for your vehicle. While they have all the right characteristics for off-roading adventure, they also work well for everyday driving in a variety of weather conditions.