Finding the tire that fits your wheeling needs and wants can be tough. This is especially true when your weekend trail machine also serves as your weekday commuter. Currently there are more mud-terrain tires on the market than ever before in the history of our 4x4 hobby. While we're thrilled about this fresh wave of off-road rubber, it hasn't made it any easier to answer your question, "What's the best mud-terrain for my 4x?" Even if a tire claims to be a mud master, until we cycle it through our own test we can't be certain. For us, it is not enough for a mud-terrain merely to survive the pit; it has to make the pit its home.
Seeing how well our last mini mud-terrain shootout (Oct. '09) was received, we devised a new mud tire roundup. This year's Mini M-T Shootout pits five of the toughest 33-inch-tall mud terrains on the market against one another in a head-to-head slingfest. In order to make the test more manageable, we capped the field at five and required that every tire be a mud-terrain radial, be available for 15-inch wheels, have a cross-section no wider than 13.50 inches, and sport a suggested retail price under 300 bucks each. While the price cap was $300 per tire, most of the tires barely crept over $200. For the most accurate and current tire pricing we suggest checking with the tire retailers whose ads can be found throughout our magazine.
To test the mud chuckers, we headed to the rich brown mud fields of the San Gabrial Canyon OHV Area near Azusa, California. While there we rotated each set of tires between a moderately modified '10 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited piloted by Feature Editor Ali Mansour and a trail-proven '47 Willys flatfender driven by Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé. Since the two vehicles were decades apart (as were the drivers), we were able to evaluate each tire as it performed on these unique platforms.
Over and over we headed through the muck with each mud-terrain mounted on a 15x8 Mickey Thompson Classic II wheel and aired at 20 psi. And after a full day of getting stuck, tapping rev limiters, and sawing steering wheels, we let the mud clumps dry and sat down to compare notes. For this test we evaluated each tire as it performed in the mud, nowhere else. This meant that if the tire slung the goo out quickly, was easy to spin, laid down a nice footprint, and was fun to drive on, it scored high. This also meant if the tire packed fast and left us spinning in place, down the list it went.
So after hours upon hours of mud whopping madness, did we come up with a king of the pit? You bet we did. Is it the best mud tire in the world? We can't say, but in this pack of five it reigned supreme. To find out more about the competitors and which tire clawed its way to the top, read on.
2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Engine: 3.8L V-6, multi-port fuel injected
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Transfer case: NV241
Front axle: Dynatrac Pro Rock 44, selectable E-locker, 4.10 gears
Rear axle: Dana 44, selectable E-locker, 4.10 gears
Suspension: 4-inch Evo Mfg.
Misc: Dynomax exhaust, LOD bumpers, Warn winch, Evo Mfg. rock sliders and body skins
1947 Willys Flatfender
Engine: 4.3L Chevy V-6, carbureted
Transmission: TH350 three-speed auto
Transfer case: Dana 18
Front axle: Dana 25, Lock-Right, 5.38 gears
Rear axle: Dana 41, Lock-Right, 5.38 gears
Steering: Saginaw power
Misc: Warn 8274, 11-inch drum brakes, full float front and rear