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, Discoverer 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

Sources: 

Cooper Tire & Rubber: coopertire.com

Mastercraft Tires: mastercrafttires.com

Specialty Products Company: spcalignment.com 

Copyright James Langan/RoadTraveler. All Rights Reserved.

Toyo M/T 255/85R16 Part 6

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

1996 F-350 7.3L Power Stroke/T444E with 255/85R16 Toyo M/T

It’s time to finish this slow, drawn-out tire review. If you need some background read the previous related post here: Toyo M/T Part 5

After a mere 1,278 miles traveled over twelve days, the measured treadwear on this set of 255/85R16E Toyo M/T tires went from 19/32″ when new, to 18/32″ on the front axle and 17/32″ on the rears.

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32" on 1,278 miles

Front 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 1/32″ after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32" after 1,278 miles

Rear 255/85R16 Toyo M/T worn 2/32″ after 1,278 miles

It’s well known that diesel torque, weight, towing, and high speeds all contribute to wear, and sometimes tires wear faster initially, then slow to a more palatable rate. However, after removing a set of Dick Cepek F-C II 285/75R16D tires that were hardly wearing, same as when they were mounted on a lighter rig, this Toyo M/T wear was unacceptable. While I’d run sets of Toyo M/Ts before, I’d put them on a lighter Toyota 4Runner and a 2005 Jeep TJ, and hadn’t experienced this kind of wear. The old F-350 T444E/7.3L Power Stroke was not a daily driver—logging few miles per year, though most were working—so the tires could have lasted years if I would have left them on the truck.

We can’t always have new tires, but I prefer deep rubber, tread that not only starts meaty but stays that way for a while. Depth and void are critical components of traction, so shallow tread not only means less longevity, but also potentially less grip, sooner, after fewer miles.

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T

There was another niggle, the extremely common right-pull of the Toyo muds. I had resigned myself to living with this on the F-350, but combined with the fast wear it more than I cared to tolerate.

My solution was to return the tires for a “ride complaint”. Some manufacturers offer customers this resolution for certain issues, sometimes they even advertise this warranty for new patterns, or for lines that have proved exceptionally popular and/or reliable. However, even when this option is available it typically expires after more than 2/32″ of tread are consumed…which was going to occur in less than 2,000 miles! In this situation I’d more than earned this option with one of my local Les Schwab dealers, having purchased many sets of tires for several platforms in recent years. The truck had to wear shoes, but which ones? A few sets of 285/75R16 treads had been squeezed onto the factory 16 x 7-inch forged aluminum Alcoa wheels, though I much prefer the 255/85 size. Same height, look great, less filling. This quickly narrows the options and I needed to buy them from Les Schwab Tires.

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn LT255/85R16D

Maxxis Bighorn MT-762

Les Schwab is not the least expensive tire dealer around; in fact they can be comparatively expensive these days since Discount Tire moved into the region.  Yet, through the years I’ve been mostly happy with the service from most dealers, and willing to pay a little extra depending on the products and services. The Toyo M/T has always been a relatively expensive tire, particularly from Les Schwab dealers, while Maxxis Bighorns have been a good value. When I purchased my first set of Bighorns from Les Schwab several years ago they were a deal, and the prices still seem relatively good in 2016. Then and now, similar dollars are needed to buy five LT255/85R16 Bighorns, or four Toyo Open Country muds, so I did.

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged luminous OE F-350 wheel

Mounting Bighorn 255/85R16 on the stock 16 x 7 inch forged stock F-350 wheel

The Bighorns are not a zero compromise choice or design. They also wear fast, even on lighter platforms, and by modern standards they are loud. But if tolerating rapid wear was a necessity, I’d prefer a less expensive product. Plus, they have never caused any of my rigs to drift right (Toyota, Jeep, or Ford), have provided excellent traction in most terrain, and are more flexible at a given pressure while offering a more comfortable ride. All tires can be punctured, but I’ve yet to put a hole in a Maxxis tire; though I did have a sidewall split on my first set on the same F-350, which was replaced under (pro-rated) warranty.

Still A Toyo Fan

I’m compelled to share that while this set of Toyos were a disappointment at the time and I decided to dump them, I’m still a fan of the Toyo brand. Toyo makes high quality tires that typically require little weight to balance, and I’ve purchased another set of Toyo truck tires recently. Wear is not always the predominant factor when choosing new rubber, and all tire choices involve compromise.

As critical as I was of the wear at the time, over the past two years I’ve again been driving heavy diesel pickups regularly, have seen similar, rapid tire wear, and with more than one brand. Those details will have to wait….

© 2016 James Langan/RoadTraveler

 

 

 

Toyo M/T 255/85R16 Part 5

Mud terrain tires are happiest off-pavement

Mud terrain tires are happiest off-pavement

It’s time to continue telling this story, too much has passed, time for closure and for a small blog revival. Depending on your point of view, particularly if you are a Toyo Open Country M/T fan, you may consider this a not-so-happy ending. We will get there together…eventually.

Within ten days of ownership these LT255/85R16E Toyos saw many miles of both graded byways and less traveled four-wheel-drive roads, but nothing one would consider extreme four-wheel-drive use or abuse. The on-payment towing miles involved heavy but not maximum loads, or excessively high freeway speeds. The trailer parts run to town and back added some unloaded highway miles, but of course the tires were appropriately inflated for pavement travel.

My hunting partner Charlie has been running the 33.5-inch tall LT295/70R17E Toyo Open Country M/T tires on his 2007 Dodge Cummins Turbo Diesel since new. He’s never been thrilled with their longevity, getting about 30,000 miles from each set, and by that mileage they are gone. He doesn’t drive hard or aggressively, but he does use his truck as a truck, and typically not a daily-driver. His rig sees some loads, mostly the occasional pulling of a moderate travel trailer (approximately 6,500 pounds), plus some bed cargo, and recently more highway miles running between Nevada and Oregon. One of his observations and comments regarding the Toyo M/T that I’ve never forgotten was that the tread seems to “almost melt off the casings” when towing. Before we get to the wear, there was another development during this trip I want to share.

255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T. A great, very rugged tire, but not immune to puncture.

255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T. A very rugged tire, but not immune to puncture.

No Tire Is Immune From Damage

Even the most rugged tires are relatively fragile when the conditions are right. They are all just rubber balloons, relatively soft compared to the hard and sometimes sharp and pointy objects we pilot them over. A few years ago while on a very remote section of trail with a large group of backcountry 4WD travelers, I cut a sidewall on one of my Dick Cepek F-C II tires. I received a good ribbing from a few guys for running thin, 2-ply sidewalls. My assessment then was the same as it is today, 3-ply sidewalls are nice and can help, I like and sometimes even prefer them, but they are also sometimes unreasonably worshiped. Again, any tire can be compromised, and I won’t avoid running a particular tire just because it doesn’t have a 3-ply sidewall.

We Have A Leak

Midweek it was apparent that the right-rear tire was lower than the others, all had been lowered for off-highway travel. The first measurement used was my keen eye, followed by a tire pressure gauge; there was obviously a leak. Assuming the tread had been damaged, I pulled out my tools and prepared to repair the tire with a plug. Charlie was excited to watch the procedure, and I started looking for the signs of a puncture and squirting glass cleaner on possible sites.

Spraying and probing several possible holes the location of the leak remained a mystery, which is not surprising for a small, slow leak. I was cautious with the probe, avoiding creating a hole where one didn’t already exist.

Air loss was moderate and we were traveling slowly in the backcountry until heading home, so I decided I’d just keep filling it as needed, and save the spare for if or when things got worse. The leak remained steady and we were able to finish our hunting trip using the F-350 without concern. For the highway drive home I filled the tire a little higher than the others, kept an eye on it, and it was fine. Then I drove to my local Les Schwab Tires for an expert diagnosis.

A hard to find leak showed up immediately once in a tire water tank.

A hard to find leak showed up immediately once in a tire water tank.

Oh No, It’s A Sidewall Puncture

Hard to find slow leaks are easier to locate once a tire and wheel are removed from the truck and submerged in a tank. That was the case here, with telltale bumbles emanating from the outer sidewall. Ouch, a sidewall puncture on an almost new tire! If I’d thought to look for and located the sidewall leak I would have plugged it while in the bush, or pulled and mounted the spare. The tire was very young though wearing quickly on the rear axle, but still had enough tread remaining to qualify for a new, 100% replacement.

Air bubbles in the lower-right corner of the photo.

Air bubbles in the lower-right corner of the photo.

 

Sidewall puncture air bubbles close up on a LT255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T.

Sidewall puncture air bubbles close up on a 255/85R16E Toyo Open Country M/T.

Copyright 2015 James Langan/PhotoWrite/RoadTraveler. All rights reserved.

2012 Jeep JK Tire Selection Dilemma

With all my posts about tires it’s not surprising that I receive mail asking for opinions and advice on tires. A gentleman named Guy from Washington recently asked for my input. Below are his questions and my replies. My review and comments on the 255/85R16 Toyo M/T on my old F-350 will continue.


Howdy, hope you can help me a bit with a tire selection dilemma: 2012 two-door JK, that I use as a daily driver here in Wenatchee, Washington. Also do a couple of road trips every year, 2000 – 3000 miles each. Hunting. Fishing. Some overlanding. Did the 600 mile WABDR this past summer. I’d like to use the same tires all year, snow, rain, heat.

The two-door JK is a nice platform, I was shopping Jeep JKs online just a few days ago, including the two-door models. Sounds like your Jeep sees a nice mix of uses. As much as I’m a tire aficionado who tests and often owns more than one set of tires for a particular platform, there are advantages to picking a set of all-around treads and using them until they’re ready to be replaced.

Very basic Jeep. Manual transmission, 4.10 gears, aftermarket air lockers front & rear. 1.5″ Teraflex leveling kit (springs).

Sounds nicely set-up. There’s much to be said for lower lifts, and I love manual transmissions. Aftermarket selectable air lockers, presumably ARB Air Lockers, are accessories that offer a level of control over traction and wheel rotation that is only available with selectable lockers.

ARB Air Locker and 4.88:1 gears during setup

ARB Air Locker and 4.88:1 gears during setup

I bought a set of used 16×9″ rims and E-rated 265/75/16 BFG AT’s a week or two after I got the Jeep. Killer deal, $1k for five rims and tires. I’ve put another 25,000 miles on those tires, and they’re getting worn. So I need tires soon. I could just replace them with more 265’s, but they’re a little short.

Several years ago the first aftermarket tires I put on my V8 4Runner were 265/75R16. I agree that 265s are a bit short, most are notably smaller than 32-inches tall. Depending on the tire and tread chosen and the actual height, the advantages to stepping up to a 33-inch-tall tire are quite noticeable. Even with a short thirty-three (32.8″) the approximately one-inch in overall diameter will lift your Jeep a solid half-inch, everywhere. The best lift is tire lift.

I like the 255’s, roughly 33×10’s. Nice! But, I’m afraid they won’t work with my 16×9’s.

You are correct, in addition to being too wide according to the tire manufactures, a 9-inch wheel is a poor choice for a 255 tire for our uses, while a 7–8 inch wheel would be prefect. A 9-inch wheel is also wide for a 265, I prefer to run a 265/7x tire on a stock 7–8 inch wheel. I’ve not shopped for Jeep wheels recently, but I’d image there are many high-quality, original equipment, aluminum take-off wheels for sale on Craigslist. I’ve been a huge fan of the 255/85 size since the early 1990s and have been using them steadily on at least one of my four-wheel-drives since 1998.

New Toyo M/T LT265/75R16E being mounted on 2-door 2005 TJ Rubicon Unlimited

New Toyo M/T LT265/75R16E being mounted on 2-door 2005 TJ Rubicon Unlimited

Simple solution is just 285’s, but… I fear that’s an awful lot of tire for a little two-door JK… Maybe ditch the 16×9 wheels? I do like the way they look, but I could swap to a more narrow wheel & tire combo happily.

Surely 285s will work on your 9-inch wheels and that is a simple solution. Tread choices in 285/75R16 are almost endless. However, I’m not a fan of using wheels that are on the wide end of specifications. For 285s I prefer to run a 7.5-inch (the minimum) or 8-inch wheel, both for how the tire fits the wheel and the narrower overall width. I don’t care for tires and wheels that protrude further than necessary. I’ve run a few sets of 285 tires over the past several years out of necessity or a desire to run a particular tread that was not available in a 255, but I’d almost always prefer a 255/8x if I could get what I’m looking for.

Ditching the 9-inch-wide wheels would be my suggestion regardless of what tire you purchase. Choosing wheels that are at least 7.5-inches wide but no wider than 8-inches, will allow you run any of the tire sizes we are discussing here; 265/75R16, 255/85R/16, or 285/75R16.

Toyo M/T tires, new, unmounted, left-to-right: LT265/75R16E, LT255/85R16E, LT285/75R16E

Toyo M/T tires, new, unmounted, left-to-right:
LT265/75R16E, LT255/85R16E, LT285/75R16E

Have four heavy-duty old style tire chains that are a little big on 265’s and fit 285’s real snug.

One old set of tire chains I have fit both 265/75 and 255/85 tires similarly, I believe both tire sizes use the same chains. My chains are too small for 285s.

And of course I haven’t quite made up my mind re tire type either. The AT’s have done surprisingly well, but I find myself looking hard at the Toyo MT’s and Mickey Thompson MT’s. My son runs 33×12.50 Mickey Thompsons – and they’re terrific off-road, but I’m not that impressed with them on pavement.

When I finish telling the story of using the Toyo M/T on my F-350 the rapid wear might surprise a few readers. I’m a fan of Toyo tires, but when I can, I much prefer a tire that will offer less noise and longer wear. Of course tire wear is often specific to the platform, driver, and use.

There are a set of Mickey Thompson MTZ tires sitting in my shop mounted and ready for use on my Tundra, but have only seen about 2,000 miles of travel. I like them, but I’ve preferred the Dick Cepek FC-II treads I’ve been running for most of the Tundra’s miles. The FC-II (replaced by the Fun Country) has less noise, excellent siping, and have been slow to show wear on everything from an F-350 diesel, the Tundra, and a built V8 4Runner. Of course neither the Fun Country nor the Mickey Thompson MTZ tread are available in the 255/85R16 size.

The biggest decision you have to make is tire size. If you chose either a 265/75 or 285/75 your choices are many, both a blessing and a curse. If you decide to try a set of 255/85R16 rubber, then it will be relatively easy because the choices are relatively few.

If the 255 size wins, and you decide you don’t want a loud or faster wearing mud-terrain tire (Maxxis Bighorn, Toyo M/T, or BFG KM2), I’d suggest you consider a set of Cooper S/T MAXX. The S/T MAXX has only been manufactured in the 255/85R16 size since the first quarter of 2014. I’m currently running a set in the 255/80R17 size on my 4Runner.

Copyright © 2014 James Langan/PhotoWrite Intl.

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