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Mud Terrain Truck Tire Test - Putting Mini M-Ts To The Test

Posted in How To: Wheels Tires on October 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Alan Huber

What's the best mud tire for my 4x4?" It's a question we're often asked, yet there's no clear-cut answer. While purchasing a set of mega-mudders for your trail toy is a big investment, we find that most wheelers have a tougher time deciding which is the best mud terrain for their modest daily drivers and weekend wheelers.

To give you a clue on what to look for and what we found to be great tires, we put together a tire shootout using five of the most prominent 33x12.50 mud-terrains on the market. Our parameters included: (1) a price around $200 each at the time of the story; (2) tires must be available for 15-inch wheels; and (3) radials were preferred since we considered these tires great candidates for everyday use.

Another important factor to consider was the vehicle or vehicles we should use to test the tires. If we went out to the pit with a super-high-horsepower rig equipped with every wiz-bang gadget, would we really be testing the tires? Of course not, so instead of bulletproof, we opted for budget prone.

Using a '97 Jeep Wrangler equipped with a tired four-cylinder engine, five-speed transmission, and 4.88 differential gears, we teamed the creampuff TJ with a '47 Willys flatfender equipped with a carbureted Chevy 4.3L V-6, automatic transmission, and 5.38 gears. To ensure that all the mud-terrains had a biting chance, both Jeeps were equipped with lunchbox lockers (Lock-Rights).

Behind the wheel of the TJ was Feature Editor Ali Mansour, while Editor-in-Chief Rick Pewe sat at the helm of the classic flattie. The two drivers not only had different vehicle configurations, but also different experience levels and driving styles. This driver and vehicle dynamic created two very distinct perspectives, thus equating to a well-rounded tire evaluation.

For the mud pit we headed up to the central coast of California and had the experienced employees of the Hollister Hills SVRA build us a fresh and challenging mud pit. During the test we ran all of the 33-inch tires on both Jeeps, using the same 15x8 Pro Comp Xtreme Alloy wheels, and placed the air pressure at 24 psi for all of the competitors. This was a mud tire test, not a vehicle engine dynamics laboratory, and we admit that it was far from a perfect scientific evaluation. Instead of breaking out calculators, we relied on rev limiters, driving technique, and forward progress to help us determine which of these five tires pulled the best in the fresh muck and sticky clay.

Did we find out which one worked best? We think so. We ranked the tires in order of which one we thought excelled. For the record, we only tested the tires in the mud, since that was our focus. For that reason we concentrated on each tire's mud performance. So who prevailed as king of the pit? Read on to find out.

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Rubber Runners-Up

BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/AKM
The BFG M-T came into the test as the veteran of the group. We hoped that the original KM, which has been succeeded by the KM2, would maintain its place in the Goodrich family. The BFG appeared to have the narrowest footprint, but that didn't seem to hinder its performance. While low speeds made it a tad more difficult for the tires to clean themselves, a few hits off the rev limiter and the radial M-Ts began propelling the goo. Sawing the wheel helped a bit, but the lack of side bite seemed to kill the momentum once the tires were packed. For a radial mud-terrain it had nicely sized lugs and tread voids. Overall, the legendary M-T worked well as long as you kept up the rpm and stayed out of the super-sticky stuff.

Specs
Size: 33x12.50x15
Load Range: C
Tread Depth (in): 21/32

Source
BFGoodrich Tires
www.bfgoodrichtires.com

Goodyear wrangler MT/R
The completely redesigned MT/R arrived with a more staggered and spaced tread pattern than previous models, and we were all anxious to see it in action. With beefy bulletproof Kevlar sidewalls, these skins may have been the toughest in the test. The larger spacing between the outer lugs helped to move the Jeeps along at the start of the pit, but once the tires got plugged and in the thick of it, they simply couldn't cut through the muck as well as the others. Though sawing the wheel and high revs helped a little, once they were packed it was time to get pulled out. Overall, the tire performed well, and for loose or mildly muddy trails we think they would work fine.

Specs
Size: 33x12.50x15
Load Range: C
Tread Depth (in): 19/32

Source
Goodyear Tires
www.goodyeartires.com

Maxxis MT-762 Bighorn
If there was a sleeper in the pack, the Maxxis Bighorn was it. The aggressive pattern could be felt instantly, as the tires did a great job of chewing through the mud. Tread clearing was decent at low speeds and excellent once you reached higher rpm. Definitely one of the most aggressive tires in the group. We enjoyed the consistent performance throughout the pit. Where to rank the Bighorn was a tough call, but the side bite of our Second Place participant just edged it out.

Specs
Size: 33x12.50x15
Load Range: C
Tread Depth (in): 21/32

Source
Maxxis
www.maxxis.com

Pro Comp Xtreme Mud-Terrain
To call a tire a mud-terrain is one thing, but if you throw the word extreme into the mix (or Xtreme, as they spell it) it better excel. Though we've had experience with the larger versions on the Xtreme Mud-Terrain, this was our first time with the smaller units. Luckily for us and Pro Comp, the Xtreme M-T handled the pit like a pro. Whether it was romping at low or high speeds, the tires cleaned out with ease. Throughout each end of the pit the tires continued to perform consistently and maintained a steady pull, and with a little sawing action of the wheel the functional sidewall tread bit in and kept moving. The Pro Comp was a pleasant surprise and a tire that is clearly designed with mud performance in mind.

Specs
Size: 33x12.50x15
Load Range: C
Tread Depth (in): 20.5/32

Source
Pro Comp Tires
www.procomptires.com

King Of The Pit

Interco trxus Radial Mud-Terrain
Interco prides itself on creating some of the largest and most mud-dominating tires on the market. So when the Trxus radial mud-terrain showed up for battle, it had a lot to live up to. It's difficult to pick a winner in test like this, especially when all of the competitors performed well. But to say that the Trxus is just another radial mud-terrain would be far from the truth. Throughout the entire mud-romping shootout, the Trxus performed excellently. They had no problems cleaning out their tread at both low and high speeds. When the Jeeps did get slowed down by the muck, a few saws of the wheel and the aggressive side cleats dug in and kept the vehicle moving. Though we can't speak for how they would perform anywhere else, they would most definitely be our choice of tire if we were stranded on a mud-covered island.

Specs
Size: 33x12.50x15
Load Range: C
Tread Depth (in): 19/32

Source
Interco Tire
www.intercotire.com

Test Notes
While we all know that not all mud tires are created equal, we did our best to ensure that each tire got a fair shake. Each set entered the pit multiple times, and between passes we would accelerate on the hard-packed dirt to see how well they cleaned up outside of the wet dirt. From dead-stop attempts in the deeper slop to a little experimenting in two-wheel-drive only, we feel we put the tires through their muddy paces, and we stand by our rankings.

Rankings
1. Interco Trxus Radial Mud-Terrain
2. Pro Comp Xtreme Mud-Terrain
3. Maxxis Bighorn
4. BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain
5. Goodyear Wrangler MT/R

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