Stop… Tire Time!

From the minute I picked up my JK, I always knew deep down inside that I would end up on a larger tire. Oh sure, I tried to pretend that the stock size would be enough for me. But that fat bottomed girl kept reminding me just how long she is when it came to getting up, up, and over obstacles. A scraaaaaaaape here and there to let me know the skid plates are working also makes for a fine subtle hint. My research started well over 7 months ago with a simple spread sheet. As much of my research has been known to do, it just kept growing and growing. More metrics, more descriptions, more options. I became obsessed with true heights. Every ounce needed to be calculated. I had to COLLECT ALL THE DATA!

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With data in hand, I started thinking about what I wanted to do and what I could do. 40’s? Nah, too big. I wouldn’t fit in my garage. Do I jump into 37’s? They do look awfully nice on a 4 door (great proportions). But, I can’t fit them with out trimming or swapping out fenders. Ok, but I can’t change my fender set up with my current bumper, so I’d have to swap that out for a mid or stubby. And while I’m swapping the bumper, I might as well change my winch line. And I should probably re-gear if I’m gonna do all that… Maybe now isn’t the time for 37’s. What about 35’s? That’s a nice size, not too big, not too small. Juuust right.

But, not all 35’s are created equal. Some folks claim 315/70r17 is a 35, others say only a 35×12.50r17 is a proper 35. With 35’s as the goal, I whittled away at a wishlist. Before you ask, yes I know I’m comparing MT’s and AT’s. I just put them all in one big pot to fight it out! The Ideal tire would score perfectly on all of the following (in no particular order):

Criteria

  • Highway Ride – Let’s be honest, even if I wheel every weekend, these tires will still clock more miles on the highway than on the trails. I’d like a quiet comfortable ride on the road.
  • On road handling in all weather conditions – This is key. A great mud tire that can’t actually get me (and my family) safely to the trail or anywhere else is pretty useless to me.
  • Price – I’d still like to be able to afford to eat after I buy a set of tires.
  • Sidewall Strength – I don’t think this needs explaining.
  • Tread Pattern – They need to be able to get through/over whatever I throw at them.
  • True height – Why, why, why do all the manufacturers offer different true sizes of 35×12.50? If it’s a 35, just stamp a 35″ tire!
  • Weight – I know my JK isn’t a hot rod or a fuel sipper, but increased rotational weight is huge a power and MPG drain.

The many, the disqualified!

  • BFG All-Terrain T/A KO – Excellent on road qualities, but mud is this tires kryptonite.
  • Cooper Discoverer STT – This has a nice aggressive tread pattern, a great price, is not too heavy, and doesn’t howl on the road. It almost made it into the finale.
  • Dick Cepek Crusher – Just a little too heavy for the size and I could only find it in metric for a 35.
  • Dick Cepek Fun Country – Great tire that competes with the Duratrac, but has just recently been discontinued.
  • Falken Wild Peak AT – The tread is a bit weak here, but they are a great price and the only AT to offer a 50k mile warranty.
  • General Grabber (Red Letter) – I saw these on a buddy’s JK. They have a nice tread pattern, but are too heavy.
  • General Grabber AT2 – Good true height, decent weight, but there’s just not enough meat in the tread.
  • Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar – Love the Kevlar side walls, the tread is nice and meaty, but I kept hearing about how loud these tires are on the road.
  • Hankook Dynapro MT – This tire took first place in 4wheelers mud tire shoot out, but they were a little pricy for what you got imho.
  • Kumho Road Venture MT KL71 – The price is great, but they are pretty damn heavy.
  • Micky Thompson Baja MTZ – The tread on this tire is nice, the weight is good, but during my research I found the tire to run a little on the small side when it comes to true height.
  • Nitto Mud Grappler – Meaty tread, strong sidewall, reasonable price, but they are just too loud on the highway.
  • Nitto Trail Grappler – Great tread, strong sidewall, reasonable price, but they are just too damn heavy.
  • ProComp Xtreme MT2 – The 40k mile warranty is nice and they do have an aggressive tread pattern, but I’m still on the fence on ProComp parts. They haven’t wow’d me yet.
  • Toyo Open Country AT II – 80lbs for an AT tire? That’s all the info I need to kick this tire off the list.
  • Toyo Open Country MT – Great tread and price, but at 83 lbs/tire, this is the heaviest 35 on the entire list. And possibly one of the heaviest 35’s out there.
  • Yokohama Geolander M/T Plus – The lightest of the 35’s but also one of the smallest true heights. Mixed reviews and the true height cost this tire a spot.

Finalists:
BFG Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 – My stock tires are the BFG KM’s and I really love them. The KM2’s are the same style tread, offer a very good highway ride and a strong Kevlar sidewall. However, the highest price combined with low scoring on ice traction cut this tire from my list. The weight is pretty good and they are the front runners for 37’s if/when I go that route.
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Dick Cepek FC II – Replacing the DC Fun country is the FC-II and is a pretty aggressive AT tire. There’s a lot of engineering and science that went into that tread. Nice highway ride, good snow/ice traction, and a reasonable price kept this tire competitive.
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Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac – I have yet to meet a person that’s running a duratrac that doesn’t like it. Great snow/ice/mud/highway ride, the best weight and the price isn’t bad either. I just wish it was a little bigger. You hear that GoodYear? Make this in a true 35″ or a 37″ and I bet you’ll get more than a few sales out of it. Small true height and a slightly weaker sidewall made this tire my runner up.
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Winner:
Dick Cepek Mud Country – The DC Mud Country offers a comfortable highway ride, very aggressive tread that’s surprisingly quiet, about average weight, an M+S designation, a strong side wall, close to a 35″ true height, and a pretty reasonable price. Is this tire perfect at everything like I had hoped? Nope. But it is pretty damn good at all of it. Over the last 2,000 miles, I’ve tossed wet and dry pavement at it, DEEP snow, sleet, ice, and mud. The tires have performed extremely well on all of it.
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They especially excel at deep snow where I spent a good bit of time only needing 2wd to get around while others needed 4H or 4L. They were recently at Rausch Creek and they performed well. They offered nice sidewall flex when aired down to 19 psi (I’m sure they could easily go lower) and provided great traction for hill climbs and all the snowy trails. Yes, I did get stuck once but that’s my own fault and no dig on the tires. On the highway for the first 200 miles, they were Lexus quite (not kidding). After about 250 miles, they did get a little louder. I can hear them, but only when I turn off the radio, and engage the clutch. The in cab noise clocks in at 72 dB with all the windows up & the hard top on.

One of the best recommendations I can give a product is the following: Would I buy it again? The answer here is yes, yes I would.

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