Dialing in Your Off Road Tire Pressure
Whenever your path takes you off the pavement, know that lowering your tire pressures will have a dramatic positive impact on your vehicle’s capability, longevity, and comfort.
The recommended tire pressures listed in your owner’s manual are meant for highway use, driving at relatively high speeds on smooth, dry pavement. For travelling at medium speeds on gravel roads, the recommended tire pressure would be notably lower, and for travelling at low speeds on rougher roads, the recommended pressure would be significantly less than that. Using the manufacturer’s recommended pressures as a jumping-off point, it’s easy to predict the appropriate tire pressures for different surfaces without diving too low and risking premature tire failure.
The three major advantages to lowering your tire pressure for lower speed travel on rougher roads are that your vehicle will be more capable, it will be easier on your vehicle mechanically, and the ride quality will be significantly improved. This means you’ll go further, without beating on your vehicle, and arrive more rested and relaxed when you get there.
The reason that your vehicle will be more capable is that lower tire pressures will allow the rubber of the tires to relax and sag slightly under the weight of the vehicle, giving you a larger footprints on the road. This flex also allows the tread blocks of the tire to conform around rocks, logs, and other obstacles, which results in massively more grip on uneven and undulating surfaces. On sand and other deep surfaces, this larger footprint aids in floatation, keeping the vehicle on top instead of allowing it to sink in.
Lower tire pressures will also soften the ride and increase passenger comfort, as softer tires absorb many of the bumps and lumps on the road. Your tires are the first functional part of your suspension, and dialing those pressures in properly will greatly affect the compression and rebound feeling of your vehicle.
For all of the pros and cons to lowering your tire pressures, check out the video above, and don’t forget to air back up before driving at high speeds on the interstate.