Toyo M/T LT255/85R16E Part 3 (Trailer Leaks)

Unloaded But Dripping Wet

I parked and leveled the Avion with Charlie’s grass between our trailers. My provisions were unloaded from the F350’s bed, mirrors moved to their in position, and the RV trailer wiring connector was moved—from directly under the Reunel rear bumper up to the frame—to prevent unceremonious removal during the occasional butt drag. These few chores are necessary to convert Pull Dog from old RV highway tug to full-sized backroads hunting machine. Plenty of brush is still bucked on narrow trails by the large towing mirror frame structures, but they continue to handle the abuse while I do my best to thread a long and wide truck through all manner of 4WD trails.

This was not part of the plan

This was not part of the plan

Instead of a leisurely day preparing for hunting early the next morning, I discovered my water heater was leaking from a fitting in the top of the tank. Intermittent water-pump cycling the night before signaled there was a problem, but switching off the pump allowed for some much needed sleep. The cracked plastic fitting would not hold pressure if the water pump was on, and water was dripping pretty fast. Once I started touching things the drips morphed into a spray.

I spent a couple hours trying to saw, chip, and pick the plastic threaded prices from the tank without buggering the old metal threads inside the heater. Once removed, the challenge was to reconnect everything with the pieces and fittings that remained; even if it meant no hot water. Try as I might, the combination of 1978 copper pipe mixed with newer but still vintage plastic tubing and fittings—with a piece of the puzzle now missing—resulted in leaks. Not having hot water would have made for a slightly cold camp, but the old Avion furnace works most of the time and could have picked up the slack. However, with the plumbing not holding pressure, hot or cold, I had no way to use any of the 100 gallons of precious agua I’d hauled deep into the high desert backcountry. This was not okay, I didn’t come prepared for, nor did I want to camp without any water for a week.

Cooper and plastic 20–35 years old.

Cooper and plastic 20–34 years old. In need of TLC, but hopefully a patch would work.

Frustrated, I considered a night run back to Winnemucca, two hours each way, to search for parts. Wal Mart would have been my only choice, and while they would have a few RV supplies, would they have the plumbing pieces I needed? Likely not. I cooled my jets, had a beer, ate dinner and knew that I was going to spend opening day chasing parts instead of deer.

 A 45 mph dirt road and a nice day for a drive.

The view over the bow. A 45 mph dirt road and a nice day for a drive.

250 Miles of Highway; Unloaded

The good news was that I logged 250 miles of highway driving on the Toyos without a load. Of course I lowered the tires from high towing psi to more moderate pressures for better ride, wear, and traction; 48 in the front and 35 in the rear.

Tiger motorhome traveling south from Oregon.

Tiger motorhome traveling south from Oregon.

Once in Winnemucca, I was able to find everything I needed at a real hardware store, CB Brown True Value. Old fashioned hardware stores can be hard to find, particularly in big cities, but a big box chain store never compares. The staff was knowledgeable, plus service and selection was the best I’d seen in a long while. I loaded up on valves, fittings, and pipe, much more than I needed to insure I had everything I might possibly want after returning to camp. Several days later I returned $100 worth of excess parts.

Before heading back to the outback of Nevada, I met an old friend for lunch, reconnecting after a couple years. It turned out that my eventual repair involved some hours of trial-and-error, bending cooper pipe, adapting fittings and such, before water no longer flowed to the floor. My repairs were good, maybe even permanent, with both cold and hot water for the remaining six days.

Toyo M/T—Smooth Operators 

The Toyos continued to display one of their best features, that of a balanced, good riding, aggressive tire with relatively little noise. It’s no mystery why these tires are very popular, both with genuine off-highway users and those that just like the look. After 273 miles of driving, 20 on dirt with the remainder on-pavement around 65 mph, fuel economy was 14.2 mpg in both directions.

Dirt Road Travelin'

Dirt Road Travelin’

Finally this dog can hunt. Days and hundreds of off-highway 4×4 miles lie ahead.

Big surprises are coming too…I guarantee it. 😉

Copyright © 2013 James Langan

Toyo M/T LT255/85R16E, Loaded, On-Highway

Just two days after the Toyos were mounted it was time to put them to work. The first part of my testing involved towing our vintage 30-foot Avion travel trailer. I often weigh my outfits before heading out, though I was leaving much later than planned, so I bypassed the local truck scales. For trips like this with 65 gallons of water in the trailer, plenty of food, tools, and warm clothes for a week of hunting and dry camping, the Avion weighs close to 8,000 pounds. The F350’s bed was loaded with 45 gallons of extra water, a generator, cans of gas and diesel, and some tools. From experience I know the gross-combined-weight (GCW) was 16,000 pounds, give or take a few hundred.

ZF-S5 manual tranny runs hot. It's nice to have a gauge, run premium synthetic oil, and change the lube often.

ZF-S5 manual tranny runs hot. It’s nice to have a gauge, run premium synthetic oil, and change the lube often.

Coupled to the truck with a standard weight-distribution hitch using 1,000-pound spring bars and a friction sway control, the F350’s stock suspension handles the load easily. The Toyo M/Ts were pumped to 55 psi in front and 70 psi in the rear, more than enough for the load on each axle.

The old International 7.3L T444E diesel provides plenty of twist, particularly when coupled to the ZF-S5 manual tranny and factory 4.10:1 gearing.

Eastbound And Down, Loaded-Up And Truckin’

Traveling mostly 65 mph, the old Ford logged 10.67 mpg at my first fuel stop in Winnemucca, Nevada, after the first 170 miles. It would be nice to get better fuel economy but the load and speed had everything to do with the results. I don’t mind driving slow sometimes, but I-can’t-drive-55. Almost this entire first segment of freeway hauling was done in 5th/overdrive, but with 4.10:1 ring-and-pinions the old 7.3L International is spinning faster and using more fuel than newer Super Dutys with their taller 3.73:1 gears.



Onward and upward I traveled into north central Nevada. Still rolling on pavement but now on a rural two-lane highway, it’s not uncommon to be the only rig on the road at night in remote Nevada. At another two-lane junction there was enough light for my camera and mini tripod to capture the old school glow.

The tires tracked well, the 255 width being about perfect for rolling down the road, rarely pulled by ruts or edges like wider tires often are.

After a brief stop at Denio Junction to top the fuel tanks before leaving the pavement, I rolled into camp late; about 9:00 p.m. Thankfully Charlie and I had used the same BLM spot two years prior, so finding my way, even at night wasn’t a problem. I parked on a fairly level 52-ft long section of dirt, everything still hitched, leaving truck, trailer, and camp setup chores for the morning. There is much to be said for just walking through the man-sized door of a travel trailer and going to sleep in an old luxury apartment on wheels.

Pull Dog: 17 years young with his 'older woman', a 35-year-old Avion travel trailer.

Pull Dog: 17 years young with his ‘older woman’, a 35-year-old Avion travel trailer.


Copyright © 2013 James Langan

Toyo M/T LT255/85R16E Mount and Balance

To balance these 255/85 Toyos we used the static method that I prefer for big tires, but had never used on these forged aluminum 16×7-inch F350 wheels. Living up to their reputation, the high-quality Toyo M/Ts balanced well with relatively little weight. In addition, the Centramatic tire/wheel balancers I’ve run on this old Ford for several years insure the assemblies remain perfectly balanced with every revolution of the wheels.

Cleaning the mating surface and checking the trueness & balance of the old, but excellent Alcoa-made Ford wheels.

Cleaning the mating surface and checking the trueness & balance of the old, but excellent Alcoa-made Ford wheels.

One of the wheels has a little bend in the rim, though it still balances well. We used it for the Remington Mud Brute spare.

One of the wheels has a little bend in the rim (approx. center of photo), though it still balances well. We used it for the Remington Mud Brute spare.

I didn’t need a spare Toyo as I had one remaining LT255/85R16 tire in my shop. It was a new Remington Mud Brute I found on closeout a couple years ago at a local tire shop for a mere $40.

Toyo M/T LT255/85R16E

Toyo M/T LT255/85R16E

It had been years since a set of Toyo M/Ts rolled under the F350, and they saw few miles, so I didn’t remember if they exhibited their common pull-to-the-right on my Ford. If pulling was present on the F350, I was willing to either live with or adjust for it, depending on the severity and my overall satisfaction with the Toyos. Unfortunately caster and camber are not easily adjusted on these old straight-axle trucks, and doing so involves installing an aftermarket ball joint.



Spin balancing

Spin balancing

IMG_2716 - Version 2

It's been years since Pull Dog  didn't have to wear and-me-down shoes

It’s been years since Pull Dog hasn’t had to wear hand-me-down shoes.

Triple checking there’s clearance for the static balance tape-weights near the center of the wheel

Triple checking the clearance for static balance tape-weights near the center of the wheel

Pulling but not drooling

The Toyo M/Ts did pull to the right, though it was not nearly as objectionable as on my newer IFS Toyotas. This was partially due to the lighter, highly-boosted power steering, as well as the much sloppier feel of the old recirculating ball gearbox. Since I often steer the manual transmission F350 with my left hand atop the wheel, which easily countered the right pull, I decided to wait and see about making mechanical adjustments.

Balanced and rolling very smoothly down the highway with relatively little noise, there were no surprises regarding the road manners of the Toyos. A couple days later the tire pressures were increase for heavy hauling, the truck bed and travel trailer were loaded, and the whole outfit headed toward the backcountry for a week of camping, deer hunting, and serious tire testing. The results were surprising!

This is how I like my tires and wheels to fit, very little if any protruding beyond the fender

This is how I like my tires and wheels to fit, with very little if any protruding beyond the fender.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Toyo M/T 255/85R16E Purchase

My friend Sean needed tires soon but didn’t want to spend the money to purchase my Dick Cepek F-C II treads I’d offered, until he suddenly needed tires now. A freeway road-hazard punctured one of his old and very worn Toyo A/T 265/75R16E treads. His wife Shelly was driving their 2002 F350 crew-cab, 7.3L Power Stroke, pulling their loaded 36-foot triple-axle toy-hauler with all the family on-board…at 70 miles-per-hour. Obviously in-synch with the rig, ten seconds prior to the impending blowout, Shelly commented, “Wow, this wind is really bad…” as she felt the instability of the low psi tire on the right rear of the pickup.

LT265/75R16E Toyo A/T with a washer in the tread.
All tires are relatively fragile, and the tread is tougher than the sidewalls.

The puncture lead to a loss of air, an overheated tire, and ultimately a blow out. We should all take note that Shelly was piloting a large diesel pickup and pulling a huge fifth-wheel trailer when she had the blowout…yet the Ford didn’t roll-over? She just calmly guided the outfit over to the right shoulder. Nothing else happened. Why? Certainly it was because of Newton’s first law of motion (paraphrased): an object will stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. The force of a simple blowout was not enough to roll the Ford F350, nor most Ford Explorers, however if the driver inputs excessive amounts of steering and/or braking, or there are other forces involved…maybe.

A classic tread separation blowout and an example of why under-inflation and/or overloaded tires are so dangerous. This can be the result.

Sean changed his mind and decided he’d buy my Dick Cepek F-C II treads, I had a used set of BFG A/T tires to trade-in, and with $200 more from my billfold and I was able to buy a new set of Toyo M/Ts in 255/85R16E for the old F350, immediately before a deer hunting trip.

Toyo M/T 255/85R16E took the place of the much loved Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16D treads. Was this a good decision?

Next, mount & balance.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Favorite LT255/85R16 Part Two

Edit- Check out my new favorite(s) 255/8x tread(s), link below

Link- Mastercraft CXT (with Cooper S/T MAXX comparisons.


Favorite 255/85 Part 2

Over that past several weeks I’ve found myself seriously considering a new set of 255/85R16 tires for my old F350 (Pull Dog), which was recently put back in-service after an embarrassingly long hiatus. Maxxis Bighorns or Toyo M/Ts are the only treads I’ve been considering, both readily available from Les Schwab Tires where I do much business.

Toyo M/T & Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16

The reason for the 255/85 tire shopping is not because I need tires; the Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16 currently mounted on the Ford have plenty of tread remaining. In fact the fronts are essentially new, two years old but with less than 1,000 miles on them, and the spare and rears have 17/32” of tread, literally tens of thousands of miles ahead if I continued to drive on them (new 285/75R16 F-C II come with 20/32”!).

20/32″ of tread depth on a new Dick Cepek F-C II

As much as I love the F-C II tread pattern, the 285s are squeezed on the OE 7-inch wide wheels, and technically 285s shouldn’t be on a wheels less than 7.5-inches wide. It’s not the worst match ever and lots of people do this, but it’s not ideal, particularly when airing down. When running low pressures (20-ish) with this combination on such a heavy truck off-highway, the rim abnormally squeezes and folds the sidewall of the tire under the rim, worse on the front, making the sidewall and shoulder of the tire abnormally vulnerable. The larger sidewall budge is even more of a concern with normal-duty tires like the F-C II which has reasonably rugged sidewall tread, but not the massive sidewall lugs we’ve come to expect on modern, aggressive mud-terrain tires. Regardless of the tire or sidewall design it’s ideal to drive on the tread, not the sidewalls, as all sidewalls are inherently vulnerable, even those with lugs and tread.

I’ve considered new 16×8-inch wheels, 17×8-inch wheels (good for the 17-inch future and some 17” tires I already have on another rig) but I’m not certain having a different set of wheels for the old Ford is a good plan. The original 16×7-inch forged aluminum wheels made by Alcoa are very strong, very light, and are about perfect for this truck except for running a wider, 285 tire. Before repairing Pull Dog’s major coolant leak recently, I sold two sets of used 255s last year (LT255/85R16 Tire Delivery Part 1), including one set of serviceable Maxxis Bighorns that were on the F350. Since my fleet inventory contains plenty of 285 treads in the 16 and 17 inch flavors, 8-inch wide wheels make lots of sense for the F350 even though I don’t like tires & wheels that extend beyond the fenders.

LT285/75R16E Toyo M/T on the OE 7″ F350 wheel at 15 psi, shoved into a hillside

Of course buying new 16×8 wheels would fit the current F-C II 285s perfectly, and would also happily accept 255s in the future. However, wider wheels—even with the same positive backspacing as the OE wheels if I could find any I like—will not be as tucked and tight to the body, and will stick out on the front axle. After studying the offset and backspacing on several sets of wheels, it looks like the best case would be 8-inch wide wheels with zero offset. These would push the tires & wheels 3/4-inch outboard compared to the stock, positive offset 7-inch wheels. Of course there are other advantages to running a 255/85 over a 285 tire, including potentially better fuel economy, better tracking on/off-highway, they typically cost and weigh less, etc.

Width matters. Toyo M/T: 265/75R16, 255/85R16, 285/75R16

Will the best 255/85R16 please roll-up and kiss me

Maxxis Bighorns are still a load-range D tire, which I prefer for the ride on a firmly-sprung 1-ton truck. There are pros and cons to running different load ranges, for more on this see this post: Dick Cepek and Mickey Thompson Change Load Range D For E.

The Toyo M/T is a load-range E, a stiff load-range E (not all are created equal), with thick 3-ply sidewalls and a 7-ply tread. Toyos have a well deserved reputation as a very rugged tire both on-highway and off. Toyo M/Ts are also relatively expensive, but in the moderate 255/85R16 size they can be found for under $300 each, not bad these days for a top quality heavy-duty light-truck tire. Maxxis Bighorns are less expensive, but not nearly as enticing as they were a few years ago when they could be purchased for a mere $150 each, but all tires are notably more expensive than just a few years ago.

If new Toyo M/T treads didn’t cost $1,200 my old F350 would be sportin’ a new set of 255/85s right now…I’d like to have them before a rapidly approaching hunting trip. To help push myself over-the-edge I offered a few friends my set of five Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16D tires, which would take a big bite out of a Toyo M/T bill. One guy wants them but he doesn’t have cash. Money talks and…

255/85R16E Toyo M/T & Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R176D

And after all this, I’m not completely convinced I should make the swap even if I can sell my F-C IIs. The F-C IIs have plenty of capacity (3,305# per tire @ 65 psi) ride much better (softer) than Toyo M/Ts when unloaded and at moderate speeds off-highway, are already mounted & balanced, track well on the Ford, have tons of tread remaining, and are flexible (good traction). The only cons are that the F-C II are not as rugged and they’re squeezed on narrow rims.

New Treads, Alignment, and Wear

If I mount new Toyos on Pull Dog will I need an alignment? If not needed I probably should have the alignment checked, it’s been years… I suggest getting the alignment whenever one mounts new or different tires, it’s foolish to jeopardize new, expensive tread with sloppy front-end maintenance. While I’m a very enthusiastic fan of the Dick Cepek F-C II tread design, I’ve been running them on my lighter 4Runner and second generation Tundra, and it would be nice to see how they perform for me on a heavier truck with low gears, a manual transmission, and serious diesel torque. Will they last as long? Compared to the Toyo M/T tires, I have no doubt the F-C II will wear much longer, and their winter traction will be superior. The only areas where the F-C II can’t compete with the Toyo M/T is ruggedness and serious slop traction, and I’m not sure I need those features 99 percent of the time, though they would be nice while traveling in the backcountry. Oh yeah, and the perfect fit of a 255/85 on the OE 7-inch wheels on a 1996 F350.

A 255/85 fits and works perfectly on the old Ford F350

One thing is for sure, when it comes to putting down my credit card for a new set of tries for the 1996 F350 I’ve moved the Toyo M/T to the top, thus it’s my (current) favorite LT255/85R16 for this truck. There, I said it.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Iveco Massif 3.0HPI Overland Camper

World Overlander Sighting

After my encouraging encounter with the Dutch Bros. Coffee barista this past Saturday afternoon, I continued south on U.S. Route 395 through Carson City, Nevada. From a distance and several car lengths ahead in the right lane I saw an unusual vehicle. A hard-sided, custom and possibly self-made, chassis-mounted camper on the rear of a small four-wheel-drive pickup with European plates. There were sand ladders and other gear on the rear, but the overall outfit looked very clean and relatively light.

Custom camper on the rear of an Iveco Massif

I closed the gap, but traffic kept me mostly behind, though I was able to snap a few iPhone pics while underway. The rig was a left-hand-drive Iveco Massif 3.0HPI with a 2998 cc 4-cylinder common-rail diesel. According to the specifications the Massif 3.0HPI has a ZF 6-speed transmission (no automatic, opposite of the USA!), behind either a 148 horsepower/258 lb-ft or a 174 horsepower/295 lb-ft version of the engine. According to Wikipedia, the Massif was made from 2007-20011 under license by Santana Motors in Andalusia.

Side view of Iveco Massif with a compact extended-cab

Traffic movement put me ahead of the Iveco without an opportunity to view it up close while stopped. I pulled to the shoulder, rolled down my window, and waited for the camper to drive by to get a slightly better look from the front. I was able to snap just one iPhone picture as it approached.

What a cool set-up. A narrow track, short extended-cab (2-door) truck, a small turbo-diesel with good torque, manual locking hubs, and a manual transmission. Not only an uncommon sight in the USA, a combination of features that are simply not available here.

If a small, efficient, diesel-powered chassis like this was available from a reputable manufacturer in the USA would enough people buy them?

Iveco Massif European camper, with 3.0HPI diesel, 6-speed manual gearbox, and manual locking hubs

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Big Wheels and Spare Tires

Maybe I need a new category, unexpected encounters of the good kind?

I drove away from home this afternoon heading for a hardware store hoping to find two bolts to get my F350 spare tire carrier operational. There was a special radio show on channel 60 Outlaw Country (Sirius/XM) hosted by Elizabeth Cook that I was enjoying so I didn’t want to find a store and stop. I continued driving south until I arrived in Carson City, Nevada, and when in Carson City I like to sample Dutch Bros. espresso. After pulling up to the window and ordering my juice, the kid inside (maybe all of twenty years) asked me about my truck.

Kid: Nice truck, is that about a three-inch lift?

Me: Thanks. It’s about 3.5 in the front and 2 in the rear.

Kid: I like it… [he looks down the side and sees the sticker on the bed] Rock Warrior?

Me: It’s a trim package, I got it because of the 17 inch wheels instead of the more common 18s and 20s everyone has these days.

Kid: Yeah you need that… some tire and sidewall on a truck. In sand or rocks those tall wheels get all scratched up and the tires don’t work.

This young man obviously has some experience traveling in the backcountry, he knows what works, and has not been corrupted by the absurd big wheel fad. I was pleasantly surprised, almost shocked.

Practical four-wheel-drives may have a future after all.

Toyo M/T LT285/75R16E on a lightweight, stock, forged aluminum wheel. A thirty-three inch tire on a sixteen-inch wheel; nice.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan