How-To: Buy the Best Tires for Your JeepPosted in News: Product Reviews on August 29, 2019
Tires, donuts, rubber, treads—whatever you call them—they are one of the very first big decisions made when upgrading your Jeep. New tires are an important decision that should be made carefully since your Jeep will rely on them for many miles. We're going to look at three basic types of tires that are most widely used on Jeeps and other off-road vehicles: mud-terrain, all-terrain, and hybrid. We've compiled as much information as possible about as many tire brands that offer light-truck/off-road tires for Jeep vehicles as we could fit into a single story (without putting you to sleep with mind-numbing numbers of tires and an overload of information). This guide has been kept to the tire manufacturers that offer products for 15- and 17-inch wheels, as these are the wheel sizes we most frequently see out on the trail. Most of the manufacturers offer these same tires on larger wheel sizes, but we just don't see that many 20s pulling dirt duty.
Once you've devoured this Jeep-focused tire buyer's guide and are starting to open your wallet, we encourage you to slow down and dig deeper into the huge specifications charts that all the brands found here have on their websites. There are not only more tire choices there, but also data on actual height (because sometimes a "35" is really a 34.6), recommended wheel widths, tread depth measurements, load ratings at maximum air pressure, and other important tidbits, such as the weight of the tire you're interested in.
So, sit back, get a cup of coffee (or an energy drink, if that's what gets your brain pumping), and get ready to be immersed in tire technology. You'll find truckloads of information here about almost every tire manufacturer and the products that are available for off-road vehicles—and Jeeps in particular.
What to Look For
Tire buying can be a frustrating and confusing experience. Sometimes they all seem to look very much alike, and it can be difficult to weed through the advertising claims to get down to the ground when deciphering the tire manufacturer's description of a tire's features and benefits. We hope this brief look at tire characteristics and specifications can help simplify the purchase of what very well may be the single most important piece of equipment on your Jeep.
Radial vs. Bias-Ply
Radial tires have pretty much taken over the world, and it might be difficult to find a worthy bias-ply tire, but they do exist. Tires have plies (layers) of materials like fiberglass, polyester, or steel embedded into the rubber of the tire. Some tire makers have even resorted to Kevlar for an extra measure of durability and puncture resistance. A radial tire is made of plies and cords that run from the bead of one side of the tire straight over the tire to the opposite side's bead.
A bias-ply tire has plies or cords that run from one bead of the tire to the other at an angle that are layered in a crisscross pattern, and because several layers of plies are necessary, the sidewalls of a bias-ply are usually stiffer than radials. In general, bias-ply tires wear out faster than radials, and some can "flat-spot" when parked for extended periods of time.
It's common for tires to have 3-ply sidewalls, but you will still find some 2-ply, and on the other side of the spectrum, an occasional 4-ply or 6-ply sidewall. When looking at tire specifications charts you may see tires with 8-, 10-, or 12-ply ratings; these are totals, including the plies that run circumferentially around the tire underneath its tread area. Bias-ply tires can have sidewall strength advantages due to the higher number of plies, but modern radial tire designs often negate the advantage.
Many hardcore Jeepers tend to choose a mud-terrain tire, and modern mud-terrains are designed to work well in wide variety of terrain environments. The wider spaces between tread lugs help bite into irregular surfaces and are designed to clear mud and other debris from the tire as it spins. They tend to be noisier and wear faster than an all-terrain, and they usually don't handle as well as all-terrains on the highway or in inclement weather.
All-terrains are a good choice if you use your Jeep on the highway a great deal more than off-road. They are traditionally quieter, better in inclement weather, and some even have the snow-tire classifications or can be studded. All-terrains typically offer longer treadwear. Advancements in tire compounds now allow some all-terrain tires to be just as sticky as mud-terrains on the trail.
A crop of "hybrid" tread design tires has sprouted in the last handful of years, and the field is growing ever more crowded. These offer a blend of all-terrain and mud-terrain tread designs, most commonly using more aggressive and mud-terrain-style outer lugs with an all-terrain (and quieter) center band of lugs.
Tire Sizing and Weight
Whether you're looking at moderate or hugely tall tires, LT and flotation design tires can vary in actual size and section width from their stated sizes. For instance, just an overlook of 35x12.50 tires across a wide swath of manufacturers shows variances of up to an inch in height and a half-inch in section width. Read the specifications charts (available on the website of every tire brand mentioned here) carefully when shopping for tires. There are lots of 35s that are 34.5 or 35.5, and 12.50 might actually be 13. That's important when you're considering wheelwell clearance. Not so important unless you're racing and trying to shave off a pound or two, tire weights also vary within the same stated size. Again, all that is in the manufacturer's online tire specifications chart.
Load Range and Ratings
These are two different but related things. You'll mostly see C, D, and E load ranges in light-truck/off-road tires, but those can be confusing. Within the same tire brand and model, some same-size tires for different wheel sizes can be offered in a C and D load range, with very different maximum load ratings. It's really important to know exactly how much your vehicle weighs (fully loaded with gear and passengers) when shopping for tires. The amount of weight that a tire can support at its maximum air pressure specifications should be listed on the tire's sidewall—if not, don't buy that tire. For instance, if a tire's stated load rating at maximum air pressure is 2,535 pounds at 35 psi, that's enough to handle up to a 10,128-pound (four of the same tire) fully loaded vehicle according the tire manufacturer. You should always buy replacement tires than can support the total weight of your fully loaded Jeep. Keep in mind that as tire pressure is lowered for off-road travel, weight rating is lowered, but it's normally not a concern for Jeeps because they just aren't that heavy. However, you should return the tires to a higher air pressure for on-road safety immediately after your off-road excursions.
Stone Ejectors (or Ribs)
Those spaces between the tread lugs of a tire are referred to as voids. The spaces allow debris to be flushed out as the tire turns so that the rotating tire is constantly meeting new ground with clean and ready-to-work tread. Stone ejector ribs in between the tread lugs are a common feature among modern mud-terrains, acting to help loosen and pop rocks out of the voids when they become lodged. They can also help break suction on mud trapped in the voids and allow the voids to clear.
You'll see numerous references to sipes or siping in tire literature and descriptions. Sipes are the thin lines cutting through tread blocks to allow water to be squeezed out from between the tread block and the road surface, improving performance in wet weather conditions without degrading the overall stability and handling performance of the tread block. Sipes are a good thing for a tire used on a Jeep that sees a lot of highway time in between trail time.
Almost all tires made for light-truck/off-road tires now offer, in one form or another, tread extended down to and along the sidewalls of the tire. One legacy manufacturer has gone so far as to patent its sidewall tread design. Commonly referred to as sidebiters, these extensions of the tread pattern offer yet another structure to help grab the ground and move the vehicle forward. Some are aggressive, some are mild, and one manufacturer's design looks like reptile claws.
We should not need to say this, but if the tire you're looking at does not come with some sort of mileage-related warranty, you should not be buying it. Most tires come with a 30,000- to 60,000-mile warranty. And at least one manufacturer currently offers a free 500-mile/45-day trial. However, read the fine print. It almost never means more than a warranty against manufacturing defects. If the tire is improperly mounted, has undergone abnormal tread wear due to incorrect balancing, camber, or caster, or it was damaged because you ran over a road hazard, the warranty will likely not cover that.
Of the light-truck tires available from Atturo, the two that really grabbed our attention are the Trail Blade Boss and Trail Blade M/T. The M/T features an aggressive mud-terrain pattern, but it is a shade less aggressive than the Boss, which features a radical knife-inspired tread pattern. Sizes for the Boss range from 35 to 40 inches, with a 35x13.50 for 15-inch wheels and a 37x12.50 and 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. The company's X/T and A/T are essentially all-terrain designs—the X/T being knobby and the A/T being more scalloped in its tread design. Tire sizes taller than 35 inches are relegated to 18-inch wheels and larger for the X/T. The largest A/T for 17-inch wheels is 32 inches. Information: Atturo, 855/632-8031, atturo.com
With a long history and landmark products in the off-road world, BFGoodrich provides a full complement of tried and tested tires for the Jeeper. The two top-of-mind tires are the All-Terrain T/A KO2 and the Mud-Terrain T/A KM3—with fancy terms like Krawl-TEK compound and Linear Flex Zone to describe the rubber's sticky grip and the KM3's tire's pliable sidewalls. In the KO2 line, tires that fit 15s run from 30x9.50 to 35x12.50, and on 17s from 33x12.50 to 37x12.50. The KM3s run from 30x9.50 to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and 33x12.50 to a 39x13.50 for 17s. Information: BFGoodrich, 877/788-8899,
The Discoverer STT Pro and S/T MAXX are the standard bearers for Cooper Tires when it comes to something for your Jeep. The Discoverer STT Pro features what Cooper calls 3-2 inner tread bars for increased stability and alternating shoulder lugs with "mud release dimples," creating a hybrid all-terrain/mud-terrain tire. The S/T MAXX runs from 30x9.50 to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and LT265/65 (30.5 inches) to 37x12.50 for 17-inch wheels. Information: Cooper Tires, 800/854-6288,
From a small company creating custom tires for industrial and agricultural vehicles, Delium has grown to incorporate a broad line of light-truck/off-road tires into its portfolio, including highway, all-terrain, and mud-terrain products. The Terra line of mud-terrains features four (Ranger, Warrior, Mania, and Terra Raider MT) tires with varying degrees of aggressive tread patterns. The Raider MT is the least aggressive (you would never guess by the looks of it) of the group—and the one you can get exclusively through TireGet. Its large voids and alternating shoulder scoops give this good all-terrain tire solid mud-terrain performance characteristics that are not to be ignored. Information: TireGet, 833/221-1154,
Two good options pop up when you look into the Falken Tire line. There's the Wildpeak A/T3W and the M/T. As you might expect from its name, the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W is an all-terrain, but it has some features that are designed to help with highway handling. Wildpeak A/T3W sizes for 15-inch wheels run from 29 inches (235/75) to 35x12.50. The Wildpeak M/T features scalloped side blocks, large voids, alternating L-shaped center lugs, and an aggressive sidewall tread, making the tire a player in mud or on the rocks. Information: Falken Tires, 800/723-2553,
Two tires from Firestone have been on our radar, and either one could make a good choice for Jeep owners. The Firestone Destination X/T (right) tire has a specially designed rubber compound for its tread that is sticky enough for off-road performance and yet tough enough to be backed by a 50,000-mile warranty. The X/T's tread pattern offers a three-row "all-terrain" center and slotted tab-shaped shoulder lugs for extra bite, giving it hybrid-like style and performance. Featuring a much more aggressive tread pattern, the new Firestone M/T2 (far right) is "all mud," with sharp side tread biters and a two-row center of big knobs and large, angled, hooked-shaped outer lugs surrounded by large voids to deliver good mud traction. Stone and mud ejectors help keep the tread clear of debris, and 23-degree attack angles give the M/T2 strong pulling power. Information: Firestone Tire, 844/238-2782, firestonetire.com
Offering its Country Hunter M/T and R/T tires in sizes ranging from 31 to 40 inches for 17-inch wheels, Fury Off-Road's tires deserve consideration when shopping for your Jeep. Featuring T-shaped (or Y-shaped, depending on how you look at them) center lugs that alternate orientation and irregularly shaped side lugs that have their shoulders cut with a groove into every other lug, the outer tread is not as aggressive as most other M/T (mud-terrains); it looks more like an A/T-leaning M/T. The Country Hunter R/T has a tread pattern made up of more linear shoulder blocks with greater voids and a more aggressive sidewall than the M/T—and a center row of irregularly shaped blocks, some of which have a raised edge for a little more bite. Information: Fury Off Road, 855/575-3879,
General Tire is a legacy brand that has been around more than 100 years, cutting its teeth in the world of dirt and rocks with off-road racing involvement that began 40 years ago. Our two off-road/light-truck tire favorites from General are the Grabber A/TX and the Grabber X3. The Grabber A/TX is an all-terrain tire with a center tread section made up of two different kinds of squiggle-shaped blocks and outer tread bands of inner-pointing, three-pronged, triangle-shaped shoulder blocks with scoops cut into alternating shoulders to provide off-road capability and durability. You'll find the more aggressive X3 in a 33x12.50 and 35x12.50; a "skinny" 33x10.50 for 15-inch wheels; and a 33x12.50, 35x12.50, and 37x12.50 in 17-inch wheel sizes. Information: General Tire, generaltire.com
Those guys with the famous blimp also make famously good tires for off-road use, and in sizes perfect for Jeeps. The two we like most are the Goodyear DuraTrac and the Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar. The DuraTrac is an all-terrain with aggressive shoulder lugs. The MT/R delivers a very aggressive tread design with Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls claimed to provide 35 percent greater puncture resistance. It's available from 31x10.50 to 35x12.50 for 15s, and 33x10.50 to a whopping 42x14.50 for 17s. Information: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, 800/667-8138,
The Hercules brand has come on strong in the light-truck/off-road tire market with three products—the Terra Trac AT II, Terra Trac M/T, and Terra Trac T/G Max—all of which feature potent tread designs. The AT II is a typical all-terrain with some highway-performance boxes checked (milder tread block designs with lots of siping), but it maxes out at 315/70 (34.3x12.60 inches) for 17s, with a 35x12.50R20 being the only larger AT II. More appropriate for Jeeps are the M/T and T/G Max. The M/T (right) is made for mud with large voids and aggressive shoulder lugs for bite, but also not-so-large voids with alternating irregular blocks in the center rib for stability and ride quality. The T/G Max (far right) is just a shade less aggressive than the M/T with more siping and smaller voids across the tread. Information: Hercules Tire, 800/677-9535, herculestire.com
If you're under 30 and live west of the Rockies our south of the PNW, you may have never heard of Interco, but these guys practically invented the radical mud tire, and its Original Swamper is a legendary mudder that's spoken of in hushed and reverent tones in certain parts of this country. Interco offers more mud tires than most tire manufacturers have in their entire catalog of tires. One of our favorites is the IROK ND, a non-directional tire with a savage-looking tread pattern; it's available in sizes ranging from a 31x10.50R15LT to a 37x12.5R16LT. Information: Interco Tire Company, 800/299-8000,
There are two tires from Kanati that would do a Jeep a favor: the Mud Hog and the Trail Hog. The Kanati Mud Hog has an aggressive tread design with large voids to help it eat through mud. The Kanati Trail Hog is not much less aggressive, as its outer rows of tread are sharply cut L-shapes in pairs facing each other, with alternating grooves cut in the shoulders. Its center is a four-row interlocking pattern of two different block shapes with tighter voids designed for road manners. The Trail Hog (only available for 18-inch wheels) runs from LT285/70 (33 inches) to 37x12.50. Information: Kanati/Greenball, 800/946-9412,
For a line of light-truck/off-road tires named Klever, you'd expect them to be smartly designed. They are. The Kenda Klever line includes the A/T, R/T, and M/T. Frankly, the A/T features a very highway-friendly tread, with some structures that could make it a good all-terrain for people who spend most of their time on the tarmac. We like the R/T and M/T decidedly more for use on a Jeep that sees substantial trail time. The R/T offers up a center pattern with interlocking blocks that look like a "7" and an old steam locomotive to us; regardless of their shape, they also look like they can bite into terrain. The outer tread of the R/T steps it up with two alternating and more aggressive hook-shaped lugs, one slightly less hooked than the other. The M/T is the most aggressive tire in the Kenda Klever line. It has two rows of huge arrowhead-shaped center lugs facing each other in an alternating pattern, bookended by giant curved shoulder blocks to carve into whatever comes along. Information: Kenda Tire, 866/536-3287, kendatire.com
Ranging from a highway or A/T sort of blend in the Bravo to the mud-hungry Bighorn MT to the aggressive Trepador Radial, Maxxis offers no less than six off-road/light-truck tires. We'll focus on the Razr MT and Creepy Crawler here; both are essentially good mud-terrain tires for a Jeep—with increasingly aggressive tread patterns. The Razr MT is available up to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and up to 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. The Creepy Crawler's tread design features multi-edge center knobs and highly sculpted shoulder blocks for ultimate traction in a variety of terrains. Information: Maxxis,
Mickey Thompson is a legend in drag racing, holder of Bonneville land speed records, off-road racing royalty, and a mechanical innovator, and his "go for it" attitude lives on in the tire brand he invented. The Mickey Thompson Baja line includes the Boss, MTZ P3, and ATZ P3. The Deegan 38 is also a major player, developed with and named after another off-road champ. The MTZ P3 and ATZ P3 are an extreme mud-specific tire and an aggressive hybrid mud/all-terrain tire, respectively. MTZ P3 sizes up to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels are available, and you'll find ATZ P3 sizes up to 35x12.50 in 15-inch wheel sizes and up to 37x12.50 in 17-inch wheel sizes. The Baja Boss is a premium extreme mud-terrain and available in sizes 35x12.50, 37x12.50, and 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. Designed with the help of short-course off-road star Brian Deegan, the Deegan 38 is an all-terrain that leans toward mud-terrain. Information: Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, 330/928-9092,
Standing out among the multiple offerings from Milestar is the Patagonia M/T. It's a mud-terrain with an unusual center tread band of interlocking and staggered C-shaped blocks facing each other combined with two slightly different elongated arrowhead-shaped outer lugs to create an aggressive mud-eating tire. It's available in sizes ranging from 31x10.50 to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and 33x12.50 to 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. Information: Milestar Tires,
The Nexen Roadian MTX is a fairly new tire on the market, having made its debut in 2018, but it has gained admirable respect in a short time for being a very effective tool in a wide range of terrain environments. A hybrid with mud-terrain genes, one of the most interesting aspects of its non-directional tread design is the "mechanical" design of the sidewall tread on one side of the tire and the "animal" design sidewall tread on the other. You choose. The Nexen Roadian MTX is available up to 35x12.50 for 15-inch wheels and 37x12.50 for 17-inch wheels. Information: Nexen, 909/923-4011,
This is a brand that has come on like gangbusters in the last decade, dipping its tread into just about every motorsport and automotive enthusiast arena. When it comes to the light-truck/off-road tire sector, Nitto's competition experience helped pattern its strong offerings, of which we especially like the Ridge Grappler and Mud Grappler. Ridge Grappler is available in 16 sizes ranging from LT255/80 (33 inches) to 37x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. The Mud Grappler is available from 33x13.50 to 38x15.50 in 15-inch wheel sizes and 33x12.50 to 40x13.50 in 17-inch wheel sizes. Information: Nitto Tire USA, 888/529-8200, nittotire.com
The Pro Comp A/T Sport tire features two different small tread blocks that alternating, irregular-shaped, and tightly packing together in three rows in the tire's center tread pattern to help keep noise down and grip on a variety of terrain situations. The two outer tread bands are larger staggered blocks (one with a scooped shoulder, the other with a small groove on the tread block) for a good bite and lateral stability. The Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 has two rows of large multi-angle center tread blocks paired with outer rows of two different alternating (wider blocks with grooved shoulders) and aggressive hook-shaped lateral blocks with generous voids. Information: Pro Comp, 800/776-0767, procompusa.com
The Open Country R/T and Open Country M/T are two offerings from Toyo, a company that planted itself firmly in the USA by building a huge tire manufacturing plant in Georgia in 2004 and then expanding it to over 1 million square feet in 2016. The Open Country R/T is a hybrid tire for 15-inch wheels in a 31x10.50 and six sizes for 17-inch wheels from LT255/80 (33 inches) to 37x13.50. Toyo's Open Country M/T is, on the other hand, a dedicated mud-terrain tire that still has some road manners, sporting a tread pattern that includes identical alternating large hook-shaped center lugs and massive scalloped shoulder lugs, both with high-void ratios, to create a mud-loving tire. Information: Toyo Tires, 800/442-8696,
The two tires from Yokohama we like best are the Geolandar X-AT (an aggressive all-terrain) and Geolandar X-MT (a seriously aggressive mud-terrain). The Geolandar X-AT features a somewhat all-terrain tread pattern that looks like it was put on steroids. The company's most aggressive mud-terrain is the Geolandar X-MT, and it's available in four sizes from 35x12.50 to 40x13.50 for 17-inch wheels. Information: Toyo Tires, 800/722-9888,
If you're searching for vintage truck and Jeep tires, then you need look no further than Coker Tire. Coker has been reproducing as well as retailing many brands of vintage rubber, and among its numerous offerings are period-correct military and off-road tires, designed specifically for vintage vehicles. The company offers Firestone NDT, NDCC, and Knobby tires, and the STA (Specialty Tires of America) brand. The STA Traxion series ranges from 700-15 to 750-18 sizes and load ranges C and D. Information: Coker Tire, 866/516-3215,