Four wheeling with your tires at highway air pressure results in extremely poor traction off road.  This was one of the first lessons I learned 7 years ago on my first off road adventures.  A fellow 4WD driver took the time to explain the advantages of reducing air pressure for increased traction.

The basic concept is that as tire pressure is decreased it allows the tire to flex more; as the tire sidewall flexes it increases the tread contact surface area.  The tread on the tire will wrap around rocks and terrain to grab a hold and give the vehicle traction.

Tire Air Down Increase Traction

Tire Air Down Increase Traction

Increased traction off road enables the driver to finesse over obstacles rather than using speed or spinning the tires.  The increased control keeps the vehicle moving forward in the proper direction.  This will help limit the possibility of damaging your vehicle or breaking parts.

How much air is enough?  In most cases, less is more; meaning that it’s best to run with the lowest pressure possible.  When airing down your tires wait until you see the tire sidewall start bulging out while sitting on level ground.  This will be a good pressure to start with; target range is 6-15 psi.  Then test it and air down further as needed.

Some tires with thick sidewall construction will need less air pressure than tires with thin sidewalls.  For instance, Super Swamper TSL or Bogger tires (thick sidewalls) may perform best at 6-8 psi; while a BFGoodrich AT (thinner sidwall) may perform well with 12-15 psi.

Tire Air Down Sidewall Flex

Tire Air Down Sidewall Flex

Will too little air pressure be an issue?  Yes, it certainly can be.  The primary concern is that the tire may come off the rim if the pressure gets too low.  This generally happens when a rock or stump pushes the tire sidewall away from the rim.  You’ve probably seen the Extreme Off Road Vehicles with beadlock wheels.  The beadlock wheels bolt the lip of the tire to the rim keeping it from coming off the rim at low tire pressure.  In most cases beadlock rims are not necessary.  I’ve had my tire come off the rim once in 7 years of 4wheeling.  Just exercise a bit of caution.

Tire Air Down Off Rim

Tire Air Down Off Rim

Quick note:  Be sure you or someone with you has an air compressor and carry a spare tire.  Sometimes the unexpected happens and having the proper recover equipment is essential.

Click on the forum link below to share the tire pressure that works well for your tires.