FIVE TIRE MYTHS EXPLAINED
Tires are among the most frequently purchased UTV products, and they are also frequently misunderstood. The UTV Action staff used its extensive experience and its contacts in the tire industry to get to the truth on the most widely accepted myths about tires.
TIRE MYTH #1: BIGGER TIRES ARE ALWAYS BETTER
While it is true that bigger tires nearly always look cooler on UTVs and can have clear performance benefits, they are not better for every machine, driver and condition. Larger tires increase ground clearance, which improves your machine’s ability to handle deep mud, deep sand, deep ruts, large rocks and anything else where ground clearance is a factor. Unfortunately, increased ground clearance hurts handling and stability, so you don’t want to add more than you use, unless your machine’s look is your top priority.
Big tires also improve a UTV’s ride and its ability to roll over obstacles. Consider how a skateboard wheel pounds through large sidewalk gaps and can be stopped by a small rock, while a bicycle wheel rolls smoothly over the same obstacles. Unfortunately, larger tires of the same brand and model weigh more than smaller tires, and added weight hurts acceleration, suspension performance and braking. Larger tires also affect your machine’s gearing, so clutch tuning may be needed to compensate. Big tires can also cause clearance issues, especially when the front wheels are turned or the suspension is compressed. The good news is, you can usually go a size or two larger than stock on most UTVs to enjoy improved ground clearance and a smoother ride with no noticeable loss of performance.
UTV Action’s tire tests have found that some machines can benefit from even larger sizes. For example, UTV Action had very good results with 30-inch and even 35-inch tires on the Honda Talon, a machine that comes stock with 28-inch tires. See the test here: https://utvactionmag.com/system-3-35-inch-rt320-tires-and-sb-4-beadlocks/
TIRE MYTH #2: STOCK TIRES ARE JUNK
Fifteen years ago, there were a few UTVs that came with disappointing original-equipment tires. Back then, UTV weight and performance were advancing more quickly than tire technology, and frequent flats were common on some models. The myth that stock tires are junk began and still hasn’t completely faded, despite the fact that most stock tires are remarkably good. In fact, many manufacturers are fitting excellent premium-quality tire models as original equipment, like the GBC Dirt Commander tires on Yamaha Wolverines, the Maxxis Carnage on the Yamaha YXZ XT-R, the Maxxis Liberty on some Can-Am X3s and others. You may want to replace your original-equipment tires quickly if you ride in special conditions like sand or mud, or find you need more ground clearance or flat resistance, but for regular riding they’re well worth running.
TIRE MYTH #3: THERE IS A “BEST” UTV TIRE
No single tire could possibly be the best for every UTV because driving conditions and drivers vary so much. Most UTVs come with all-terrain tires to provide good grip, acceleration, handling and braking in a wide range of conditions. Most of these tires work well, but even among all-terrain tires, some perform better in dry and hard soils, while others favor soft conditions. Choosing the best tire for you means finding the tire that performs well in the conditions you ride in. If you spend most of your time in a specific type of terrain like mud, sand or rocks, special purpose tires for these conditions will outperform the top all-terrain tires. That’s why specialized UTVs for mudding or rock crawling, like Can-Am’s X mr models and the Polaris RZR XP 1000 Trails & Rocks, come with terrain-dedicated tires. Other factors like tread life, ride smoothness and DOT approval for road use may also influence what you consider to be the best tire for you.
The best way to find out how tires perform is testing, which is why UTV Action regularly tests tires. Tire manufacturers all say their tires are the best. We tell you how they actually perform. We’ve found most tire makers’ claims are fairly accurate and, occasionally, we find a tire that exceeds our expectations. Sedona’s Mud Rebel is a mud/all-terrain tire that handled widely varied terrain much better than we expected. See the test here: https://www.sedonatires.com/product/mud-rebel-tire/212391
MYTH #4: THERE IS ONLY ONE CORRECT TIRE PRESSURE
Proper tire pressure is extremely important for getting the handling, traction, flat resistance and life your tires were designed to deliver, but one tire pressure is not always correct. UTV manufacturers’ recommended tire pressures, normally listed in the owner’s manual and on a decal on your machine, are the best starting point, but these numbers are determined with the original-equipment tires. They’re still a good starting point if you install different tires, but sturdier tires with higher ply ratings than the stock may allow you to run lower pressures. With 8- or 10-ply-rated tires, you may find lower pressures provide better ride smoothness. Less pressure can also add flotation or traction for conditions like sand, mud or rock crawling. “Airing down” may get you unstuck, but it increases the possibility of punctures or having the tire come off the wheel. You should return to standard pressure for normal riding. If you find you need to run low pressures often, beadlock wheels are a smart choice because they clamp the tire bead to the wheel.
“Correct” pressure also varies with weight. The added weight of passengers, cargo and accessories calls for added tire pressure, as much as 11 more pounds on four-seat machines, when all seats are full.
MYTH#5: TIRES IN GOOD CONDITION DON’T LOSE PRESSURE
Tires in good condition don’t lose much pressure, but they do lose pressure very gradually. It’s wise to check tire pressure before each ride and definitely if it has been more than a week since the last pressure check.
Tire pressure also changes with temperature and elevation, so be sure to check pressure when temperature changes or when you take your machine to significantly higher or lower elevations.