Toyo M/T 255/85R16 Part 4 – Starting Slow

This blog has been defunct for too long, and I’d considered taking it offline. However, it continues to get measurable views everyday, without me posting a single word. During the 19-month hiatus a few new readers even subscribed, apparently looking forward to future posts should any be forthcoming… So instead of killing the blog, here is a small revival effort. Thanks for visiting RoadTraveler.net.

James

Low Pressure Off-Highway Rollin’

With the travel trailer repairs completed, it was finally time for some off-pavement travel. I dropped the front and rear tires to 25 and 20 psi respectively, which was on the high side for me but low enough for the truck, tires, and terrain. The F-350 carries much weight above the front axle so keeping the pressure slightly higher than on a lighter rig helps insure the beads don’t unseat, and is better for handling, control and safety on the faster sections.

It takes low pressure and/or lots of weight to make a Toyo M/T budge like this.

It takes low pressure and/or lots of weight to make a Toyo M/T budge like this.

Mud Terrain tires look cool, but I’m old and wise enough that looks alone don’t drive my choices. If I didn’t want a high-void tire for rugged backcountry use I’d pick something else, possibly a tread with less noise and better potential longevity. However, I use this truck for plenty of off-highway travel and in the LT255/85R16 size, tread choices are few and most are aggressive traction tires.

The notably high quality construction and roundness of most Toyo tires allows balancing with relatively little weight, which contributes to their good road manners. With only a few exceptions most Toyo M/Ts are constructed with a 7-ply tread and stout 3-ply sidewalls. Though friends have criticized me in the past for using tires with mere 2-ply sidewalls, my reply has always been; all tires are soft balloons, and are punctured relatively easily. For decades most tires have had 2-ply sidewalls, only in the past few years have 3-ply sidewall enthusiast rubber become both popular and offered in several flavors.

But, when I needed to make a choice between the Maxxis Bighorns or the Toyo M/T, it was this rugged reputation, quality construction, and 3-ply sidewalls that made the Toyos the arguably better choice for an old F-350.

Let’s just see about that.

Copyright © 2014 James Langan/PhotoWrite Intl.

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.

Fueling

Fueling

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.

Continuing…

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.

Mounting

Mounting

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

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

My favorite LT255/85R16?

I was asked about my favorite 255/85R16 tire these days. Favorite? Just one? Singular? This was a tough assignment for me. All my buddies know it’s impossible for me to have only one set of truck tires in my shop. It depends on the application, but what’s my final answer?

For most of us price is at least somewhat of a consideration, if not a major factor, when choosing tires. I’ll give cost some consideration, though I prefer to buy the rubber I want, and think of the relative value over 40,000 miles or more. Sometimes a little faster rate of wear is a fair tradeoff for performance.

Maxxis Bravo MA-761 and Toyo M55 in 255/85R16

Mostly Muds

While I wish there were more all-terrain or commercial traction treads in the 255/85 size there are only a couple. The Toyo M55 is one commercial traction tire that comes to mind, and the load-range D, 3-ply sidewall Maxxis Bravo MA-761 is a the only stout, low-void tire in this size. The rest are essentially mud-terrain tires.

Regional availability varies and I suggest considering this before a purchase. With few exceptions, most stores will need to order a set of 255/85 tires. In my part of The West, 255/85R16 Toyo M/T, M55, and Maxxis Bighorns can be found at many Les Schwab Tires stores, and if not in stock, will arrive a few days after an order is placed. I’d be willing to bet cash that few (if any) local tire stores stock the BFG Mud-Terrain. However the online tire giant, Tire Rack, has a warehouse nearby, and a short drive any business day would put a set of 255/85 KM2s in my pickup.

LT255/85R16E BFG KM2 treads on a 2006 4Runner

Toyo M/T 

If you’re looking for very heavy-duty construction (and heavy), smooth running on pavement, and a reputation for balancing well, the Toyo M/T is a top choice. Tread wear can be very good, or lousy depending on the rig and the driver. Their tendency to pull, often right, on (my) Toyota 4WDs and many Dodge trucks has made me reconsider my praise for Toyos in recent years where I used to swear by them. Their cost is a little scary too, though the 255/85 size is small enough to be affordable; all tires have become more expensive in recent years.

When the stoutest tire is not needed, I don’t like the extremely low pressures needed to make the Toyo M/T ride nice and flex the way I prefer off-pavement. At normal pressures on-highway ride is also firm, this is the price that must be paid for extreme-duty construction, the 3-ply sidewalls, and 7-ply tread. Some dislike the appearance of the Toyo M/T, but I think it’s a sharp looking tire. Noise is moderate for a mud terrain tire.

The previous BFG KM Mud-Terrain and the Toyo M/T in 255/85R16.

BFGoodrich KM2

With enough saddle time above a set of 255/85R16s and 285/75R16s to know how they perform off-highway, the BFG KM2 has impressed me as a load-range E, 3-ply sidewall tire that flexes well when the air pressure is dropped. BFG claims this in their advertising and it’s true. So while I’m not a BFG fan, this flexibility has my respect because I like flexible tires that are tough enough.

BFG also deserves credit for their commitment to the 255/85R16 size, as they made it for many years in the previous Mud Terrain design, for years now in the KM2 pattern, and offer essentially the same 17-inch tire, a 255/80R17. I’ve not had any failures with BFGs, but they’ve also never been my ‘”favorite” tires so I never put more than a few thousand miles on a set.

Most seem to be satisfied with how KM2s perform and last, but for years I’ve heard reports of inconsistent balance with BFGs. I experienced this myself with a set of 255/85 KMs (not KM2), which were only slightly worn and started to require more lead to balance after a few thousand miles. BFGoodrich get deserves credit for taking chances when designing the KM2 which is a nice, different looking tire that has plenty of sidewall tread. A good price for a set of 255/85 KM2s should be much less than Toyo M/Ts.

Maxxis Bighorn load-range D and BFGoodrich KM2 load-range E LT255/85R16 tires.

Maxxis Bighorn MT-762

When Les Schwab Tires started selling the Bighorn a few years ago, including the 255/85R16 size (blackwalls too!), I was quick to buy a set. At the time they did full-time duty on my built 4Runner and were an exceptional value, about $150 per tire. On many occasions I was thoroughly impressed by the grip the Bighorns delivered. Part of their traction advantage comes from the relatively soft, flexible tread compound, which also results in pretty fast wear. Bighorns are also a little loud, not howling ‘swamper’ loud, but a typical mud tire hum, a bit more to listen to than either the Toyo M/T and KM2, particularly as they wear. As I mature, I’m less tolerant of everyday tire noise, and actually prefer something quieter than all three of my examples here. If you’re not averse to a little mud tire noise, the Bighorns are a great tire. They are still a load-range D 255/85, only a 2-ply sidewall design, though I’ve yet to rip one open. I’d like to see Maxxis update their design and add thicker tread material on the upper sidewalls.

My first set of Bighorns made me a fan of Maxxis light-truck tires, when they balanced with very little weight. This spurred me to purchased a set of Bravo all-terrains, which also required little weight to balance and were great on the road. My second set of 255/85 Bighorns also balanced well, but never saw much use before being traded. A third set of Bighorns, used 285/75R17s, that I acquired for testing a few months ago also balanced very well even though they had some uneven wear (INSERT LINK). A little noisy and fast wearing they may be, but they are still a decent value if you don’t have to pay full retail, and even better if you’re able to use them mostly off-highway.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan