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.