Traction is the magic we are all searching for off-road. Locking differentials, big, aggressive tires, and low gearing are common upgrades to help rigs get farther up the trail. A decade ago “sticky” tires took traction to the next level when they were introduced for rockcrawling competition. Similar to how a slick hooks up at the dragstrip, these competition-only sticky tires sacrificed tread life for unmatched traction.
"Was the idea too good to be true?"
A recent trip to Summit Racing Equipment got us wondering if we could take another cue from racing to add traction. We picked up some Allstar Performance CTS Tire Softener with hopes of turning our well-worn Pit Bull Rockers into rock-conquering stickies. The softener is a chemical formula designed to add traction for roundy-round racers.
Most sticky compound tires are not DOT approved for use on the street, and few manufacturers offer them to the general public. Plus, they are expensive, particularly when compared to the $40 we paid for a gallon of CTS. Was this idea too good to be true? We headed to the trail to find out.
While we were at Summit Racing Equipment we picked up a tire durometer gauge from Intercomp Racing. Our 8-year-old Pit Bull Rockers had a reading of 68 when we began our testing.
“Makes Tires Super Sticky!” “Makes Old Tires New Again!” How could we resist? The “undetectable” claim is in response to tracks that have banned “tire soaking” as an unfair advantage. We even read one story of a track that employed a drug-sniffing dog to determine who was using tire softener!
Our Allied beadlock rims allowed us to air down to 8 psi without concern of pealing the Pit Bull Rockers off of the wheel, regardless of how much traction the tire generated.
The CTS looked and smelled like wood stain. We have not tried any on our deck yet, but we still have a little left over from the gallon we started with, so it is still an option.
We started with untreated tires, attempting various lines at our local wheeling spot until we found some climbs that were beyond the limits of our Death Proof Bronco’s traction.
There were no instructions with the CTS, so we turned to the internet to provide us the unfettered truth. We didn’t find anyone who had used tire softener for rockcrawling, but some circle track racers claimed that they applied the tire softener every two hours for 12 hours and then stored the tires in plastic bags for 48 hours prior to racing on them. We ignored them and made up our own methods.
We used a garden sprayer to apply the CTS to the Pit Bull Rockers. By the time we got to the last tire most of the liquid had evaporated off the first tire we had sprayed down.
After spraying the Pit Bull Rockers down and letting them soak for an hour, we soaked them again, waited another hour, and soaked them a third time before heading back to the same obstacles. We nearly used the full gallon of CTS.
The durometer of the tires dropped from 68 to 64 after applying the CTS, but the temperature warmed up at the same time, so we cannot attribute all of the durometer change to the tire softener.
This is the proof. We could not get the rear driver-side tire to stick to this climb before we used the tire softener. Did we pick a better line? Was the temperature warmer out? Does CTS work? All three were factors. The CTS certainly added traction, but it didn’t go so far as to turn our old tires into stickies.