Four Seasons with the F-C II All-Terrain
Nine months ago we fit our ’05 Dodge Power Wagon with a set of Dick Cepek Radial F-C II tires. Since then we’ve traveled thousands of miles in a variety of conditions in all four seasons. This long-term test has provided us with a comprehensive view of what the tire is and isn’t capable of.
Why is this tire called the F-C II? Well, this is because it replaced the bias-ply Dick Cepek Fun Country tire, hence the F-C and second generation reference. The F-C II was introduced in 2003, and to this day is known as a “hybrid” design because it uses an all-terrain tread design on a mud tire carcass. One of the benefits of this design is extra deep tread (18⁄32 to 22⁄32, depending on size), which translates to a longer lasting tire and higher load ratings. Some of the tires features include a self-cleaning tread with Stone Kickers designed to enhance off-road traction; “DC” Sidebiters for added traction and protection; an extra wide footprint for better traction and even wear; and siped tread lugs for better grip on smooth surfaces and ice. The F-C II is available in overall diameters from 31 to 37 inches depending on wheel diameter. The F-C II’s we tested on our Power Wagon were size LT285/70R17 (33x11.50R17), which is the stock size for the truck. We mounted them on a set of factory Power Wagon wheels. The tires came to us true and round, thus requiring little weight to balance.
On pavement the tires exhibit slightly more noise than a standard all-terrain tire, but not nearly as much as a mud-terrain tire or even some aggressive all-terrain tires. The noise is minimal and not annoying or droning inside the cab. The F-C II has a slightly more aggressive tread design than some all-terrain tires, but we felt that the more aggressive design didn’t adversely affect the tires dry and wet weather performance in a noticeable fashion. In dry weather the tires returned a comfortable ride and outstanding handling. In wet weather the tread design did an admirable job of channeling water to the edges of the tire. During one summer road trip we were driving through heavy rain at highway speed in northern Wisconsin and the tires tracked perfectly. Winter driving was also a pleasant experience. During one recent trip we drove snow-packed roads at highway speed in four-wheel drive for over an hour and the F-C II’s did a fantastic job of providing confidence-inspiring traction. Combined with the Power Wagon’s default limited-slip rear differential we found that thanks to the F-C II’s great snow traction we didn’t have to utilize four-wheel drive as often in day-to-day driving. We also need to note that the F-C II offers excellent braking traction in both wet and dry conditions.
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During our test we had the opportunity to use the tires in a variety of off-road situations. On the sandy forest roads of northern Wisconsin we found that the tread pattern, wide footprint and Sidebiters of the F-C II’s worked great and the tire floated nicely on top of the sand without trying to dig. The F-C II’s also worked well on thin, greasy, Illinois mud, and they cleaned well when wheelspeed was applied. Deep, gooey mud clogged the center tread of the tires (but increased wheelspeed did allow them to self-clean to a degree), while the outer wide-void lugs tended to stay relatively clean, which offered more traction than a standard all-terrain tire. The F-C II’s also did well in slow speed snow crawling and they did a commendable job of providing lateral stability in off-camber situations on mud and snow. Several times we had to maneuver the Power Wagon through tight quarters on off-camber terrain that was muddy or snowy. At one point we had to squeeze the truck between a fence and a snow pile on angled terrain and we were happy to find that the tires tread design kept the truck from sliding sideways into the fence. The tires have also anchored the Power Wagon during numerous winter winch recoveries with no drama. We didn’t have the opportunity to test the F-C II on rocks, simply because rocks are not part of the standard terrain here in the Midwest.
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The F-C II’s inherent combination of all-terrain and mud-terrain characteristics make it a great choice for a vehicle that is often driven off-road as well as driven daily in a variety of weather and terrain. The downside to this design is minimal (like, slightly more noise) and we feel it’s outweighed by the tire’s wide range of benefits. We’re pleased by the F-C II’s all-weather, all-terrain performance and we’re amped by the fact that even after thousands of miles and a fair amount of abuse our tires are wearing extremely well, have been impervious to tread or sidewall punctures, and still roll very smooth. In the end, we give them a nod.
Tire: Dick Cepek Radial F-C II
Size: LT285/70R17 (as tested)
Load range: D
Max load (lb): 3,195
Sidewall construction: Two-ply, cut-resistant aramid polyester (angled third ply on SLT sizes)
Tread construction: Two steel belts
Approved rim width (in): 7.5-9.5
Tread depth (in): 18⁄32
Tread width (in): 9.1
Section width (in): 11.4
Overall diameter (in): 32.8
Maximum psi: 65
Weight (lb): 55
New Fun Country is Rolling In
About the time you read this, Dick Cepek will be getting ready to phase out the F-C II after a 10-year run. Fear not, though—there should still be plenty of them available in dealer stock. The F-C II will be replaced in mid-2013 by the new Fun Country. Dick Cepek says this all-new tire has a new compound with improved cut and chip protection; deep, aggressive Sidebiters; scalloped shoulder lugs; interlocking tread elements that don’t sacrifice void; multi-draft grooves for self-cleaning and improved wear; and generous siping designed for the life of the tread. Naturally, we’re excited to procure a set of these for testing, so stay tuned.