Traction Tires from the 2016 SEMA Show

A few tires that got my attention at the 2016 SEMA Show.

Cooper Discoverer STT PRO in 40×13.50R17LT

Cooper STT PRO 40”

We really live in a super-sized America, maybe world? Tires that would have been almost monster truck worthy a few decades ago are now produced in highway-rated, easy to balance radial designs. Cooper introduced their fantastically rugged, yet tame on-road, Discoverer STT PRO in a new 40×13.50R17LT size.

Cooper has manufactured 40” tires for subsidiary and private label brands; however, this is the first to wear the flagship Cooper name. Two other big sizes were introduced, the 38×15.50R18 and 38×15.50R20. As sizable as these may sound, 35×12.50” tires can be fitted to Fourth Generation Ram Cummins Turbo Diesels with no lift,  stock wheels, and only minimal rubbing. coopertire.com

Mastercraft CXT, a new commercial traction design

Mastercraft Courser CXT

This past summer Cooper subsidiary Mastercraft introduced their latest commercial traction tire, the Courser CXT. The CXT features: variable full-depth siping, silica-rich compound for wet/winter traction (M+S rated), large scallops on the outer lugs and generous sidewall shoulder rubber. They are available in 29 sizes, each with a generous 18.5/32” tread depth. A friend and I have been logging miles on a set, accumulating wear data from two Ram/Cummins trucks. mastercrafttires.com 

Detailed look at the Mastercraft Courser CXT: Mastercraft CXT part one

Mickey Thompson’s new Deegan 38, 5-rib all-terrain design.

Mickey Thompson

Mickey Thompson introduced the Deegan 38 All-Terrain for wheels from 15” to 22”. Twenty-nine sizes are available now, with two more coming in April, and the final two sometime in the second quarter of 2017. Light-truck sizes come with a 55,000-mile tread-wear warranty, and P-metric sizes have a 60,000-mile tread-wear warranty. Mickey Thompson says the new design features a “silica-reinforced compound and special siping for great traction, superior cut and chip resistance, and excellent handling and braking in wet and off-road conditions. Tread element tie bars enhance stability and responsive handling on changing road conditions. Angled shoulder scallops and aggressive two-pitch SideBiter’s enhance traction.” mickeythompsontires.com

Ridge Grappler from Nitto Tire

Nitto Ridge Grappler

The newest LT design from Nitto looks like a winner. A hybrid all-terrain with traction lugs for the outer ribs and a slightly lower-void center, it looks like noise should be well controlled. The shoulder tread is beefy, and, as with all Nitto LT tires, there is a different design on each side; you choose. Several sizes are made for 17” to 22” wheels. nittotire.com

Toyo’s Open Country C/T mountain-snowflake rated

Toyo C/T

Manufactures are offering enthusiasts traction tires that are much quieter and less aggressive than mudders but with superior all-weather traction characteristics over a traditional all-terrain or all-season. Toyo eliminated all doubt about the target market by putting it right in the name; C/T stands for commercial traction. The Toyo Open Country C/T was originally only available in Canada, but it was released for sale in the USA in 2016. The C/T meets the mountain snowflake/Alpine severe winter spin-up test requirements. toyotires.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

 

Power Tank Worthington 6-pound propane bracket review

Bottle test fit before the roll bar clamps arrived.

Power Tank Stainless Steel Propane Bottle Mount

Having extra propane for our Hallmark Milner camper on long remote trips, or winter camping adventures that consume more fuel, has been a long-term goal. The question was how to mount another LPG bottle safely and securely. I’ve owned the tall, narrow Worthington aluminum 6-pound propane tank (#299494) for 10 years, which has been part of various camping setups, and was an obvious choice for extra Milner LPG. Six pounds is a small reserve, but some beats none.

Several months ago I visualized how a fire extinguisher mount could provide a solution, and did substantial preliminary research that convinced me a good match was available. Fitting the Worthington to an extinguisher bracket would be the first hurdle, and attaching it to my camper the second, and potentially more troublesome. Hose clamps to the roof ladder were planned if nothing better presented itself. I postponed buying the parts and making stuff work, but with a big, cold trip North in my immediate future, last month it became time to either create or buy something.

Power Tank’s small roll bar clamps will fit 1.5″ to 2″ diameters, using spacers for anything smaller than 2″.

Lucky Find

Additional Internet searches steered me to Power Tank, a company I was familiar with and known best for their portable CO2 on-board air systems. They also offer mounting brackets for many of their tanks, and I found one I thought would work well for the (299494) Worthington cylinder. A telephone call to explain my intended use and place an order was rewarded with a welcome surprise; Power Tank had just added a bracket made specifically for this 6-pound propane bottle to their catalog. It got better. The same roll bar clamps used to mount CO2 tank holders worked with the new propane bracket.

Excellent

Installation

After waiting for the backordered clamps arrive, it was time to get the parts fitted. My initial mock-up indicated mounting the bracket to the Hallmark Milner camper’s rear ladder would work as I’d envisioned. Power Tank’s small clamps are designed to work on 1.5″ to 2″ diameter tubing. Rubber spacers are provided for 1.5″ or 1.75″ bars, and the Hallmark’s ladder rails are approximately 1.5″ diameter. Needing spacers was a positive; the rubber mounting provides grip and protects the ladder finish. The clamps were tightened until a bulge appeared both above and below (tight). The bracket looks and feels very secure.

Using the larger rubber spacers, the clamps were tightened until a protective bugle appeared above and below the clamp lips.

With the bracket mounted the LPG tank was fitted. The padded band is just the right size when tightened, without excessive unused bolt thread. To slide my bottle past the middle welded seam, the nut must be removed and reattached after the slightly larger section of the tank has passed the clamp. The band above the seam makes it very unlikely the bottle will slip.

This Power Tank bracket and how it was mounted appear specifically made for this camper application. The Worthington tank is almost perfectly inline with the port side of the camper; just one inch of the base extends beyond the side of the camper.

Looks like this Power Tank bracket was made specifically for this application, it fits the space perfectly.

BOLT Locks

Theft happens. I’m a fan of prevention and helping keep people honest, which means locking my stuff when possible and practical. Over the past year I’ve become a huge fan of BOLT Locks one-key technology, using their locks whenever possible. One of their cable locks was used to secure the Worthington bottle to the top of the ladder. For more information about these fantastic locks read my article located here: RoadTraveler BOLT Locks review

BOLT Locks have earned my admiration over the past year, and I’ve added several to this ’14 Ram Cummins and Hallmark Milner camper. LOVE THEM!

Resource links:

BOLT Locks

Power Tank

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Canadian Arctic trip countdown

2014 Ram/Cummins, cold testing for a Canadian Arctic trip

Canadian Arctic adventure countdown…we are less than four weeks out! Does it look cold? It was, but it’s nicer when the sun is out and the wind isn’t blowing. This was during a recent cold camp and drive test in Northern Nevada. The VisionX 4.5″ Light Cannons, Factor55 UltraHook, Fairlead 1.5, and a HitchLink 2.0 secured by a BOLT receiver lock, all look good mounted on the aluminum Buckstop bumper, which protects a Talon 12.5k Superwinch. Hard to see under the truck is an AEV front differential cover that completes the beam front axle. Surely the lights will see regular use on our big trip to the North. Hopefully the other stuff is not needed often.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resources: 

AEV: AEV

BOLT: BOLT Locks

Buckstop Truckware: Buckstop

Factor55: Factor55

Hallmark Campers: HallmarkRV

Superwinch: Superwinch

VisionX: VisionX 

 

Amalgamated TDR-WDA diesel fuel additive

Amalgamated’s 2.5 gallon jug of TDR-WDA additive. Well worth the $97.

Got Diesel? Got cold temps? I’ve been using Amalgamated’s TDR-WDA additive for several months, and just bought another 2.5 gallon jug before heading to the Canadian Arctic in a few weeks. Prevention vs. repair and downtime is the goal.

Resource: amalgamatedinc.com, 260-489-2549 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

WAGAN Tech BRITE-NITE Dome USB Lantern

WAGAN Tech’s BRITE-NITE rechargeable LED lantern. 220 lumens on high.

This is WAGAN Tech’s BRITE-NITE LED Dome Lantern, the rechargeable USB version, which has high, low, and flashing modes. Just during the initial fondling and photos I was impressed with this bright, little light. It exudes quality, and can be employed in several ways using the powerful magnets (portable, wireless rock light?), or the built-in swiveling hooks. My intended initial primary use is as an interior cab light, to augment the one, only fair, centered OE dome light in my 2014 Ram Tradesman.

After more use, a detailed review is planned. My upcoming monthlong adventure to the Canadian Arctic should help it get a proper break-in.

WAGAN is new accessory company to me, discovered recently when I bought their SlimLine 1500 inverter to power an electric heater in my camper while underway. They make lots of cool stuff!

Resource: WAGAN.com, 800-231-5806

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

 

Power Tank Worthington 6-pound propane bracket

Power Tank’s BKT-2287 bracket for 6-pound aluminum Worthington bottle

NEW from Power Tank, I don’t think it’s even on their website yet! Power Tank part number BKT-2287, a stainless steel bracket for a Worthington aluminum 6-pound propane tank (#299494), and part of my endless Arctic trip prep. Surely I will use extra fuel keeping the camper thawed, and until now I’d not found a practical solution for carrying extra propane. Since 2007, after the purchase of my AT Overland Chaser trailer, I’ve used one of these Worthington bottles. Though not large, some extra propane beats none. Power Tank’s roll bar mounts are backordered, but once they arrive I’ll test my mounting location.

Resource: Power Tank, 209-366-2163

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Big tires, odometer error, and mpg

Did the truck really travel 8,888 miles?

Recently a friend emailed this miles-per-gallon question:

I’m scratching my head here on fuel and mileage numbers. If I do the math for gallons of fuel consumed (fuel filter life % gauge) and odo I get about 16 mpg.

But the Ram’s EVIC dash display says 11 MPG.

With 4.30:1 gears and 37-inch tires, I know ALL the numbers are inaccurate.

How do I figure this out?

My reply:

I’d be very surprised if you are able to routinely obtain 16 mpg with your Ram/Four Wheel Camper setup, unless you are driving 55 mph. I never trust dash displays. They are almost always overly optimistic, though in your case because of the tall, 37-inch tires, it may actually be a little pessimistic.  My built, 2006 4Runner mpg display is slightly low most of the time because the car travels further on taller tires than the ECM calculates.

The fuel filter life gauge is not a good source for mpg data, I think it’s really only useful for when to change the fuel filters. I’ve done similar calculations using the oil life percentage numbers (it probably uses the same ECM algorithm) after doing oil changes. The numbers literally do not add-up to the actual odometer distance traveled (neither indicated miles or the known and measured inaccuracy). To state the obvious, the only way to get accurate fuel economy readings is to have good numbers for the math; how many miles vs. how many gallons at fill-up.

I don’t think your gearing change matters. Most late-model vehicles calculate the speed from wheel sensors… as long as that’s the case on the new Ram (easy to test) then it is only the tire diameter that matters. I’ve tested many sets of 33, 34, and 35-inch tires on my 2014, but no 37s yet. My guess is that your odometer is about 8-10% slow, compared to the actual miles you are traveling.

My method of testing tire-induced odometer error is to compare actual miles traveled to odometer readings. California doesn’t use highway mile-markers most places anymore, but Nevada does. With two columns on paper, I reset my trip odometer at a mile-marker, and then log the indicated and mile-marker distances. Data gathered over more miles will be more helpful. For example, a 10-20 mile test can be better than nothing, but the initial error percentage will drop if you make a longer run, like 50-100 miles.

If you’re on a long trip you can use indicated GPS miles instead of mile-markers. Recently I compared GPS to mile-marker data over a 70-mile route, and was surprised that they were just slightly different.

Good luck.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, Nevada

Now for a little something on the actual “Loneliest Road in America”.

Heading home from the Overland Expo West event several years ago, after an unseasonably warm April in Amado, Arizona, I camped at Hickson Petroglyphs Recreation Area/Campground, in one of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. At 6,500 feet, there is always the possibility of snow, including during spring.

Eezi-Awn Series 3 1600 rooftop tent, atop a 2006 V8 Toyota 4Runner.

The Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, managed my the Bureau of Land management, lies at the north end of the Toquima Range, along U.S Route 50, about 24 miles east of Austin, Nevada. Several Native American petroglyphs can be viewed on a self-guided, half-mile walking tour.

There is so much history here. Get away from the big cities and see what the rest of Nevada has to offer.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hickison_Petroglyph_Recreation_Area

 

The Loneliest Road in America?

Nevada State Route 722

The section of U.S. Route 50 through the center of Nevada was called the “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986. It was not meant as a compliment, but it became a popular slogan for the highway. The road does cross the sparsely populated center of the state, but is likely not our loneliest paved byway. One challenger is Nevada Highway 722.

State Route 722, just 41 miles long, is part of the original US 50, and the previous Lincoln Highway. It crosses Carroll Summit, with a twisty approach from both sides, Carroll is 1,100-feet higher than New Pass Summit on the replacement roadway. There are no towns. While I was out there for a few hours exploring unpaved spurs and taking photographs, I did not see another vehicle, not one. The only other person encountered was atop Carroll Summit. He was on skis. We waved.

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

WAGAN Tech SlimLine 1500 watt inverter

WAGAN Tech SlimLine 1500 watt inverter initial mockup

(For those not following my Instagram feed, plus a few more tidbits…)

A few weeks ago I test fit, then performed a quick and dirty installation of this WAGAN Tech 1500 SlimLine inverter on my 2014 Ram/Cummins 2500. The idea is to use the almost free power from the engine to run an electric heater inside my Hallmark Milner camper while driving to keep things thawed. Why? Because in about two months I’m heading to the Canadian Arctic Ocean. It is probably the last year to drive the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, before the all-weather road is completed.

The inverter and heater worked, briefly, but the inverter kept faulting. Likely overheating because of the flush mounting (no air circulation) atop the fuse/relay box, combined with engine bay heat. After a -7 degree Fahrenheit overnight camp test running a Lasko Stanley electric heater through the night on a generator, I was ready to ditch the electric heater idea and rely completely on the propane furnace (still might), which works extremely well.

WAGAN Tech inverter wedged behind a Ram 2500 grille

However, I found another unconventional, relatively easy spot to stuff the inverter, immediately behind the grill, and the appropriately short, provided cables are still long enough. The vertical, hanging installation is not ideal, though I’m willing to gamble and test it, and a chat with WAGAN was encouraging. While a flat, horizontal installation is recommended, the vertical orientation is not as big a negative as I’d feared. The more serious concerns remain debris, moisture, and vibration.

The cold front covering the grille should keep most debris away, the inverter’s outlets are more protected than shown in the photo, and hopefully there is enough airflow for cooling. Overheating should not be a big concern in the Arctic.

A high-idle driveway test produced no faults over 1.25 hours, and the inverter continuously ran the 1500 watt heater on low, presumably drawing about 750 watts. Most important, the temperature inside the cavity holding the water tank and main supply lines, measured with a remote sensor, continued to rise. This idea may still work for supplemental camper heat while underway. An upcoming long drive before another cold night camping systems test should be informative.

Sources: 

WAGAN Corporation:  WAGAN.com

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Mastercraft Courser CXT

Mastercraft Courser CXT 

Commercial Traction

Most light-truck tires are welcome in my garage, from tame all-terrains to the impressively streetable modern mudder. However, I have a strong preference for rubber that fit neither category, those that intentionally blur the lines of distinction, finding their own focus. Known by their traditional name, commercial traction tires, or aggressive all-terrains, hybrid, or the newer slang moniker, tweener (in-between), the design goal is similar.

Commercial traction tires are not new, they have been produced for decades, though the choices were fewer and they rarely received much marketing budget. Still not necessarily the beneficiary of the biggest advertising campaigns, depending on the brand, the performance advantages of modern hybrid treads have won-over many enthusiasts as a practical choice with fewer compromises. This segment of the market demands good grip on multiple surfaces, load-carrying capability, and puncture resistance.

Notably better in sloppy stuff than a typical all-terrain, with less noise and superior versatility than muds, there is much to like. Some have more sipes and the 3-peak/snowflake winter rating, while many don’t, but still perform well in the wet stuff. Nearly all have prodigious tread depth and void—particularly at the outer lugs—that broadcast their ability to absorb and fling muck when required. Mud-terrains are often described as 20/80-designs (20% road 80% dirt/mud), but commercial tractions are generally 60/40, 50/50, or 40/60, depending on their characteristics.

Mastercraft Courser CXT commercial traction tires

Mastercraft Courser CXT

In May 2016, Mastercraft Tires introduced their new light-truck (LT) commercial traction tire, the Courser CXT. It’s a mid-void, 4-rib that replaces the Courser C/T (C/T = commercial traction). Mastercraft is a subsidiary of the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, one of the few remaining American tire companies and manufacturers. Before sharing my observations and insights, what Mastercraft says about their product is quoted below in orange:

Overview

The Courser CXT was designed as a premium light truck commercial traction tire that provides trusted all-terrain performance with enhanced off-road durability. The CXT features variable full depth siping and a silica rich tread compound for enhanced wet and winter traction. The large tread element and blocky design help to resist abnormal wear while enhancing tread stability and durability.

Large Surface Area Tread Blocks

Provide increased grip on and off-road while improving wear performance.

Optimized Void-to-Rubber Ratio

The amount of rubber on the road is optimized to provide rough terrain traction and enhance on highway driving comfort and feel.

Enhanced Upper Sidewall Design

The shoulder design increases off-road traction with side traction blocks and the circumferential raised rubber feature protects against sidewall abrasion and impacts.

Large Shoulder Scallops 

The scallops provide a “mud-scoop” effect for dependable off-road traction while giving the CXT a more aggressive look, to enhance the appearance of almost any light truck vehicle.

M+S Rated

Extra Tidbits

The CXT is offered in 29 sizes, starting with the oldie-but-goodie 31×10.50R15LT, up to the 35×12.50R20LT. The size breakdown includes three 15-inch (all load-range-C), nine 16-inch, nine 17-inch, five 18-inch, and three 20-inch sizes. All sport a substantial 18.5/32-inches of tread depth, offering potentially more grip and longevity than others that start with less. In addition to the M+S rating, the CXT can be studded.

18.5/32″ tread depth in all sizes

Deep sipes

For those familiar with Cooper’s other LT designs, it is easy to assume that the CXT is simply a different tread slapped onto their extremely popular and capable, Discover S/T MAXX casing. Not so, they are different tires, both tread and carcass. Yet, many considering the CXT will likely also consider the S/T MAXX.

Mastercraft CXT vs. Cooper S/T MAXXTwo Primary Differences 

The Discoverer S/T MAXX employs Cooper’s Armor-Tek3 carcass, a 3-ply sidewall, whereas the Courser CXT uses a 2-ply design. There are pluses and minus to both depending on one’s needs; 3-ply sidewalls are generally more rugged and stiffer, where a 2-ply may flex better, ride softer, and weigh slightly less.

The S/T MAXX is optimized for severe cut and chip resistance. When the MAXX was added to Cooper’s light-truck line it’s closest sibling was the S/T (no MAXX), which was/is not nearly as cut and chip resistant. The Discoverer S/T is also a straight 4-rib, where the MAXX’s center alternates between four and five.

Tread and sidewall specifications for a CXT 255/80R17E

255/80R17 Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX and Mastercraft Courser CXT

The CXT has extra silica for additional wet traction. The slightly higher-void of the 4-rib CXT is visually similar to the older Cooper S/T, but the CXT has deeper scalloped outer lugs, plus beefy upper-sidewall (shoulder) tread that the older S/T does not.

More or slightly less void, 2-ply or 3-ply sidewalls, increased wet traction potential or optimized cut and chip resistance…only you can decide.

Outer rib tread lugs—Cooper S/T MAXX, Mastercraft CXT

Cult Of The 255 / The Third 255/80R17 

Several of the 29 Mastercraft Courser CXT sizes could fit one of my vehicles, and I was tempted to pick a larger size. However, for nearly two decades I’ve run and been a fan of moderate width tires, chiefly the 255/85R16, and for a few years its 17-inch brother, the 255/80R17. Mastercraft makes the CXT in both of these sizes, and 255/8x aficionados are surely rejoicing!

Mastercraft Courser CXT tread close-up

One challenge for those wanting to move to the 255/85 size is the lack of treads with less void; many current 255/85R16 offerings are mud-terrains. The 255/85 has become a niche choice, with few newer trucks using 16-inch wheels. The 255/80R17 is even more specialized. Mastercraft’s introduction of the CXT raises the total number of tires offered in this size to three. Cooper makes two of them; BF Goodrich’s mudder is their only competition.

Height, Weight, Width

A super-clean set of fourth-generation Ram 17×8-inch WFK forged-aluminum wheels were purchased from a Craigslist seller, each weighing just 21.8 pounds with the hubcap. Unmounted, a 255/80R17 CXT registers 55.2 pounds on my shop scale (the same size S/T MAXX is 58 lb.), and once mated to a WFK wheel the combination measured 77.2 pounds. Inflated to the maximum 80 psi, the overall height was 32 15/16-inches, with 8-inches of tread.

255/80R17E mastercraft CXT tire weight

It’s noteworthy that I’ve repeatedly found published specifications for Cooper-manufactured tires to be accurate. For this tire and size, on a 7-inch wheel, Mastercraft lists overall diameter of 33.15-inches, and tread width of 8.07-inches. Acknowledging that manufacturers’ measuring tools are likely more accurate than my straightedge and yardstick method, and the 255/80 CXT was mounted on a wider wheel, my measurements were still within nearly two-tenths. For the curious, the unmounted height was almost a half-inch shorter, but focusing on unmounted diameter is pointless: tires are not used without wheels and compressed air.

CXT 255/80R17E tread width is eight inches, both unmounted and mounted

Mounting And Balancing

Manufacturing  tolerances, weight, width, construction, and the wheel employed all affect how easily and well an assembly is balanced. In general, smaller and lighter equals easier to true. Using the static, single-plane method, the ounces of wheel weight required were:

#1 3.50

#2 2.75

#3 2.50

#4 4.50

Discount Tire has been mounting and balancing my tires lately

Modern spin balancing is quite good. Single plane, “static” balancing was chosen

First Drive 

The tires were immediately put to work supporting a maximum load on a built Ram that typically lives at its 10,000-pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), carrying a Hallmark Milner camper, tools, and other supplies. With the fronts at 60 psi and the rears at 80 psi, the ride was neither mushy nor harsh. Over a familiar section of freeway where expansion joints can induce freeway hop (generally not a problem on this truck) the CXTs exhibited no such tendency. Steering response was excellent, a common trait with narrower tires, as they take less energy, time, and effort to change direction. Even at paralegal speeds, balance didn’t change and no bad-vibrations were felt.

Noise

Initial impressions were that noise is slightly more than the popular Cooper S/T MAXX, which is an impressively quiet design. This is not surprising as the CXT has a higher-void, 4-rib pattern instead of the MAXX 4/5-rib. The volume and deeper tone is not annoying or loud, and what I expected; both are certainly much quieter than any mud-terrain. The CXT sounds similar but slightly quieter than the older Cooper Discoverer S/T (not to be confused with the S/T MAXX, STT or STT PRO).

Appearance

Function is more important than form, but many like their 4WDs to look tough. Before receiving this set of Mastercrafts I’d not seen the tire in person, just the few marketing shots online. There were no substantive professional reviews or user reports. This article still may be the first. The outer lug scallops were a pleasant surprise, and the sidewall shoulder tread was beefier than I expected. Pretty sexy, in a nice, girl-next-door way.

An OEM 17″ WFK forged aluminum wheel and a 255/80R17 Mastercraft CXT are a light tire and wheel combo, only 77.2 pounds

Notes On Tracking

When changing to a different tread, size, and/or wheel, there is a possibility that your vehicle may need a custom alignment to match the new combination to the chassis. Some folks are willing to ignore a little drift (or pull) right or left, where others find any drift unacceptable. Some tires have a well-deserved reputation for directing vehicles to the shoulder or median, but different trucks and roads can cause different behaviors.

If your truck has an independent-front-suspension (IFS), adjusting the caster (and to a lesser extent camber) to help it track straight should be easy for a good alignment shop willing to make custom adjustments. Be willing to pay more. Finding such an establishment with a skilled technician may be challenging. Many places that should know better still want to use the factory geometry for modified rigs when different settings would fix or dramatically improve drivability.

Picking My Own Line

The 2014 Ram initial CXT test platform has a Specialty Products Company (SPC) 1.5-degree offset ball joint at the right-front, installed after only 1,500 miles to counteract the characteristic right-pull of many Ram trucks and/or some tires. Before any modifications, still running the stock Firestone highway treads, this truck drifted right and would head for the shoulder quite rapidly if the steering wheel was released, typically in six seconds or less. Unacceptable.

The SPC offset ball joint increased caster angle on the right, effectively directing the truck left helping the chassis drive straight without input from the driver to correct the right drift. With such an aggressive geometry modification there is always the possibility, even likelihood, that the truck will track left with some tires or under certain circumstances, including differing road crown. This was a compromise I was willing to live with, but it’s not for everyone. Swapping ball joints is not a trivial affair on a live-axle truck.

With the CXTs mounted, this truck has a slight tendency to go left, depending on the roadway. However, three “look mom, no-hands” tests during the first 100 miles, under suboptimal windy freeway conditions, achieved 12.06, 11.90, and 12.26 seconds before semi-autonomous driving had to be curtailed to prevent the truck from changing lanes. These are good numbers, but not surprising as narrower treads generally track (much) better than wide ones. This also means I’d be perfectly happy to run these on long road trips. The stars were aligned during another test on Interstate 5 in California where I clocked 25 seconds of straight tracking. A buddy’s Dodge that drifts right with most tires, still did with the CXTs mounted . Your truck may vary; adjust as needed.

No complaints after the first few thousand miles

More To Come 

Two CXT follow-up pieces are planned for RoadTraveler.net. One will be an off-highway low-pressure, eye candy, flex-test photoshoot. The other will share some wear data after a few thousand miles. Stay tuned.

Sources: 

Cooper Tire & Rubber: coopertire.com

Mastercraft Tires: mastercrafttires.com

Specialty Products Company: spcalignment.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.