2010 Tacoma & FlipPac Camper Tire Q&A

Recently I received an email from Cliff with a few tire questions for the RoadTraveler (RT) blog. Below are his questions and my answers and comments, it’s a long one…Tires, they’re what’s on the menu today ūüėČ

Background provided by Cliff: I have a few questions I hope you wouldn’t mind answering.  First some background; I daily drive a 2010 Tacoma TRD Off Road with a FlipPac camper and OME suspension.  Living in the Eastern Sierra I spend a lot of time on 395 between Reno and Los Angeles but, also drive many miles of desert washboard roads including the Death Valley area.  I currently have stock tires, which are due for replacement.  I have decided to invest in two sets of wheels, highway and off road.

RT.¬†Two sets of wheels (or more) are very nice, and can save thousands of miles of needless pavement wear¬†on your off-highway tires. However, there have been times when I didn’t have the correct wheels/tires on my truck when I ventured off-pavement because either the trip wasn’t planned or I made the wrong choice. Still, I like having a set of both more and less aggressive¬†tires to choose from, but my all-around Dick Cepek F-C II get most of the miles.

One thing to be aware of is that two different treads might need different alignment settings to track straight and true on the same vehicle…I have lots of experience with this in recent years on my Toyotas and this is a solid argument against running two sets of wheels/tires.

Unmounted Toyo M/T tires in 265/75R16E, 255/85R16E, and 285/75R16E sizes.

Q. The highway set will likely be Michelin LTX M/S2 in a P-rated stock size.¬† The off road tires I have yet to decide but, the short list includes, BFG KM2‚Äôs, Goodyear DuraTrac‚Äôs, or one of the Cooper off road tires. I have 7‚ÄĚ wide wheels and would like to get into a taller narrower tire than stock.

RT. Are the stock tires on your Tacoma 265/70R16? You might consider running 265/75R16 for your replacements, though I don’t know if those Michelins are available P-rated? I assume your truck is relatively light with the FlipPac and doesn’t need more than the original P-rated tires. Though I’m not a big fan of what I consider the excessively stiff and/or short tire sidewall world we now live in (see Wheels, Tires, and Sidewalls) with your truck and intended use I would probably lean toward a load-range (LR) C tire if I could find the tread I wanted. If not, P-rated will work just as they have been.

Another question when discussing tire load ranges and ruggedness is have your OE tires been found severely lacking during the off-pavement travel you’ve already done? And even if the answer is yes, is a jump all the way to a load range E warranted, or would something more moderate like a load range C or D be more appropriate?

Reports on the Goodyear DuraTrac wear vary from excellent to very poor, and it seems the weight and/or driver of the truck has much to do with their longevity. Few complain about a lack of traction with the DuraTrac and a major positive is that Goodyear offers the LT265/75R16 size in both LR C and E, and I would suggested the LR C since you are concerned about of the ride quality penalties of an E-rated tire.

Q. My question is this.  On rough washboard roads does the difference in tire volume between the following sizes 255/85-16, 235/85-16, and 265/75-16 make any noticeable difference in ride quality?  Will one size tire provide a smoother ride over the others?

RT. The short answer is yes. Everyone’s butt dyno is calibrated differently, and truck loading, suspension, and tire PSI all make a difference. As I mentioned in the post linked above, I could clearly feel the difference between two sets of Toyo M/T ties on my 2005 Jeep Rubicon, both using the stock 16×8″ wheels, one 265/75R16E the other 285/75R16E. Both tires have 3-ply sidewalls and 7-ply treads. The only difference was the sidewall height and volume of air in the tires. I was aware of the slight but noticeable ride difference on relatively smooth local streets, and these differences were magnified once the impacts were deeper or sharper off-highway, even when aired-down.

So if you are merely analyzing the ride difference in sidewall height and/or volume, again the short answer is yes, one will provide a smoother ride than the other. But it is more complicated than that once you start changing load-ranges. All of the LT235/85R16 tires currently offered are E load range. My old favorite LT255/85R16 used to always be LR D, but now many have changed to load-range E. The LT265/75R16 size offers the most choice, with many load-range E treads, but a few LR D and C as well, just depends on the specific tire and manufacturer.

With the above in mind, it’s very difficult to say what size will offer a smoother ride based solely on the size or volume of air in the tire. Generally speaking, when running the same PSI, a LR D 255/85 will ride softer than a 235/85 or 265/75 LR E, a LR D 265/75 would ride better than a LR E 255/85, and a LR C 265/75 will beat them all. It should be noted that a LR C, 6-ply rated tire was considered a fairly heavy-duty light-truck tire a decade or two ago, and they can still be plenty depending on the rig, loading, and use. But those were the days before our super-sized world, which now includes; diesel pickups that have more torque and horsepower than commercial medium-duty¬†trucks did, half-ton trucks with a payloads up to one ton, and 1-ton pickups that are rated for two tons or more in the single rear wheel (SRW) applications. Still, when one confirms the loads that modern light-truck (LT) tires are rated to carry, there is plenty of room to choose something less than a LR E for many applications.

Goodyear DuraTrac 265/70R17E and Dick Cepek F-C II 265/75R16E

Q. Most if not all narrow off road tires seem to be load range ‚ÄúE‚ÄĚ.¬† Is an ‚ÄúE‚ÄĚ tire too stiff for a lightweight truck like the Tacoma?

RT. That’s your call, many people think they are fine. Load Range E tires have become the norm these days, though they are not needed or necessarily desirable for every light-truck or Tacoma, and while some think they are overkill and sometimes too stiff, they are certainly popular. The stiffer the truck’s suspension the more bothersome I find stiff tires. For example, I really prefer a load range D tire on my old F350 as without a ton or more on the rear springs the ride can be very firm on-road and jarring off-highway, but the added give in a tall LR D tire when aired down makes it much more pleasant. Of course if my truck was used at its maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) most of the time, a stiffer tire would be better. But I’ve found a LR D works well both empty and loaded with appropriate air pressure, the duty-cycle matters.

Compared to your stock P-rated tires I have little doubt you will be able to feel the difference‚ÄĒon and off-highway‚ÄĒif you slap on a set of LR E treads and run the same PSI. I would suggest a LR C or D, if they’re available in the tread you want.

Q. Would a ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ load range tire provide a smoother off road ride?

RT. Yes.

Maxxis Bravo 761 & BFG KM, both 255/85, LR D with 3-ply sidewalls, a rare combination.

Q. I’m looking for a tuff, 3-ply sidewall, off road tire that will still provide a smooth ride in the rough stuff.

RT. Well that’s a tall order. The tougher the tire the rougher it will ride. The Toyo M/T I mentioned above is a very rugged tire, also a very stiff tire, particularly on a light truck. They are also expensive and typically balance very well.¬†The new Cooper S/T MAXX is similar, very rugged but also stiff and firm riding…there is no free lunch. Remember that most LT tires still do not have 3-ply sidewalls, they have 2-ply sidewalls. Take two tires of essentially the same construction, one with the 3-ply sidewall and the other a 2-ply, the 3-ply sidewall tire will ride firmer. Preferring a more compliant ride, but sometimes needing a stout tire for heavy-hauling or puncture resistance in the rocks, I prefer a LR D with a 3-ply sidewall when I can get them, like the Dick Cepek Mud Countrys currently on my 4Runner, but that’s an uncommon configuration. Typically I just live with a regular 2-ply sidewall tire, like my current favorite, the Dick Cepek F-C II in a load-range D 285, which are currently on both my F350 and Tundra.

You should probably try to decide on the size and/or tread pattern you want first, then make the necessary concessions on load range and ply ratings, or visa-versa. You are not going to be able to have the most rugged tire, that is also very compliant on the washboard, just like the more aggressive treads generally don’t offer the wear of milder tread.

There are some other things to consider if you go taller than the 265/75R16 or 235/85R16 sizes (31.7‚Äď32″) on your Tacoma: Will your spare tire still fit in the OE location, is that important to you, and is the loss of torque and possibly fuel economy worth the switch to LT255/85R16 tires with stock gearing? Though I purchased a 4th Gen. 4Runner, I’ve often considered the 2005-up Tacoma platform, and thought that a 32-ish tall tire was very good compromise while begin able to run the correct, matching size spare without a tire swing-away.

Though in your case, the 255s would likely only be for occasionally use, and maybe the loss in acceleration and having a smaller spare would not be a deal-breaker? Since the Taco is a traditional, part-time 4WD system, there is not much concern when running a slightly smaller, 265/75 spare for short distances as long as the VSC and ATRAC don’t mind; they didn’t on my 4Runner when I ran that combination for a brief test.

Rollin’ Forward with RoadTraveler

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

LT255/85R16 Tire Delivery Part 3

Long before my route was paved there were much hardier travelers who passed this way. I stopped for a brief photo and took a moment to reflect. Lately I’ve been reflecting on how thoroughly spoiled we are with easy, efficient, convenient long distance travel. Several decades ago vehicles were not as low-maintenance and relatively trouble-free as they are now. Before the transcontinental railroad, traveling across The States was a serious, life-threatening endeavor. As modern motorized backcountry travelers there is always the possibility that our machines and computers will fail and we will be reunited with primal overland travel; walking.

Beckwourth Trail

Below is a poor¬†grab shot through windshield glare and at a substantial distance ¬†as I drove through the small town of Quincy, California. It’s not everyday that one sees an nicely restored original Bronco with uncut rear fenders, and nice, narrow original size tires.

First Generation Classic Ford Bronco, uncut fenders and small, narrow tires.

Onward further into the country where I met Brian and his family‚ÄĒvery kind people. Brian and I visited for over an hour, talking mostly about trucks and tires, before I started reversing my path.

After several miles I drove down a dirt road where I enjoyed lunch. I really like having a tailgate for picnics, one of the advantages of a pickup over most utility vehicles.


Excellent Highway Fuel Economy

After lunch and enjoying the sights and smells of the forest, my fuel economy mission resumed. Theoretically, there are many ways in which to improve fuel economy. Though if your vehicle is outfitted the way you like it and your maintenance is up-to-date, the best way to increase fuel economy is to drive slower and pay attention to your driving technique‚ÄĒthere is more to it than simply lowering your top speed.

My not-so-speedy-delivery was a 183.7-mile¬†all highway¬†roundtrip, on which the 3UR-FE 5.7L aluminum Toyota V8 consumed 9.761 gallons of gasoline. The math says that’s 18.81 miles-per-gallon. Excellent.

I’d love to attain this type of economy all the time, but mixed driving, living at altitude, and driving up and down mountains makes it nearly impossible. Though for a lifted truck with a big gasoline-powered V8 engine, and reasonably large & wide 33-inch LT285/70R17D tires (Dick Cepek F-C II), being able to top 18 miles-per-gallon is an accomplishment. Some of the credit has to go to the very tall sixth gear overdrive, which lets the engine lope at very low revolutions-per-minute when lightly loaded, and use little fuel.

Road Traveler ‚Äď Rollin’ Forward and Sippin’ Fuel

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

17 Inch 4Runner Wheels For 285s

Wheel Shopping

I’m not a big custom wheel fan, partly because I’ve never run very wide tires so narrower OE wheels work well, and partly because wheel bling is not my thing. I’ve purchased exactly two sets of custom wheels in all my years of tinkering with four-wheel-drives, one set for my old F350, and one set for my 4Runner‚ÄĒboth were later sold after very little use. There may be another set in the F350’s future if I stay with 285s, but that’s down the road.

However, I have purchased many sets of original equipment wheels‚ÄĒeither take-offs or new‚ÄĒincluding an extra set of steelies for the F350, several 16-inch Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD wheels for the Mall Crawler, and now a couple sets of forged 17-inch TRD take-offs for the 2nd Gen. Tundra. Extra wheels are needed for tire testing, not because I have a wheel fetish, tires on the other hand…

It’s much easier to find take-off wheels for new or current platforms, when enthusiasts are removing OE tires and wheels and replacing them for appearance or something bigger. For example, it’s very difficult to find a nice set of 16×7-inch factory forged aluminum wheels for the 1996 F350. Few are modifying these trucks that ceased production in 1997, and the supply of OE wheels dried-up long ago. Ford changed the bolt pattern on the heavy-duty 1999 F-series, so newer OE wheels don’t fit.

17×7.5-inch 4th Gen. 4Runner 6-Spoke Sport Wheels

Six Spoke 17-inch 4Runner Sport Wheels

In the case of the 4th Generation Toyota 4Runner which ceased production just a few years ago, OE take-off wheels are not terribly difficult to find, but finding the exact style I wanted for a reasonable price was a bit of a challenge. The 4th Gen. 120 platform 4Runners were sold with 16, 17, and 18-inch wheels, and in a few different styles.

It should be clear from my¬†Wheels, Tires and Sidewalls¬†post last month that I prefer more tire and less wheel. But I wanted to procure a set of seventeens so I could eventually mount some of the 285/70R17 tires I’m amassing for the Tundra, onto the 4Runner. I was specifically looking for the earlier 6-spoke, 17-inch Sport wheels, not the later, 5-spoke design which is more common and the same or very similar to the 17-inch Tacoma wheels. These seventeens are 7.5-inches wide, just wide enough for 285 tires.

The 6-spoke seventeens are just old and uncommon enough that there are fewer offerings, and the prices are higher than other 4th Gen. take-offs. When it comes to shopping for used wheels Craigslist is a blessing (or is it a curse). I missed a local set for $250 a few months ago, and while I continued to search nationwide, I didn’t want to pay for shipping. After months of intermittent shopping, I found a set in Oregon that did not sell for the original asking price of $400.00. A potential buyer looked at the wheels but passed due to scuffs. The listing expired, but I stayed in contact with the seller, as a planned trip to Eugene, Oregon, was going to put us within 100-miles of the rims. Without seeing a good picture of the damaged wheels I made a tentative offer of $300, which was accepted, and weeks passed.

It was a two hour drive to meet the seller, but even at $4.00 per gallon for diesel, the cost to pickup the wheels was small. Driving the little VW TDI hatchback about 70 miles-per-hour the round trip fuel economy was 48.66 MPG.

The worst wheel.
Rim damage mostly from pound-on wheel weights.

We met the seller and inspected the wheels, which did have a few typical gouges near the rims from normal use. The one with the most damage appears as if it was mounted on the wrong tire machine, with a circular gouge near the center of the wheel. I would prefer no such marks, but I use my four-wheel-drives in the rocks and dirt, so there’s a good chance I’ll further damage these wheels during off-highway travel. I do not need, nor am I will to pay for new or¬†perfect wheels. I offered him $250, he countered with $275 and I agreed.

Now what tires should I mount?

25.5-pound, 6-spoke 4Runner wheel

RoadTraveler‚ÄďRollin’ Forward

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

Goodbye Bling Rings

Gen 2 Tundra 17-inch TRD Wheel

For 2007 and newer Tundras the only OE 17-inch wheel is the forged aluminum TRDs with fake beadlock rings, part of the Rock Warrior package. In my previous post I said I prefer my OE aluminum rims, and I do, but I do have a few gripes with these Toyota wheels.

With my original set I immediately noticed that adjusting the tire pressure is a pain. There’s a cutout in the aluminum ring to access the valve stem, but clearance is still poor. There is little room for fingers, a tire chuck, or a gauge when checking and adjusting the pressure. They also hold water, ice, and mud, helping unbalance the tire. Strike 1.

Built-in debris holder.

The bling ring is secured with twelve screws, and they must be removed to mount or dismount a tire. I don’t trust tire shops to do this carefully, not strip any threads, nor scratch anything. Even when doing this myself recently, I cross-threaded one stainless screw¬†upon reinsertion. These things are a pain, particularly for The Tire Meister who plays with tires more than your average gearhead. I looked into removing the rings and filling the holes with shorter screws…the screws would be so short I’d have to have them custom made. Strike 2.

Though the beadlock rings are fake, I thought they might protect the lower edge of the rims from trail damage. After one recent remove & replace session I noticed damage to the powder coating under the ring. Seems that even on a newer truck with only a few thousand miles logged, which is washed and kept clean, debris between the ring and the wheel causes damage. Strike 3. Fired!

The 21,000-mile take-offs I just purchased had never been rebalanced, the original wheel weights were still attached, and I’m pretty sure the rings had never been removed. Look at the rim damage near the bead after 21k. My solution…no ring, no bling, bada-bing.

FAKE beadlock ring removed, wheel damage
Soap and a brush didn't help. Started to use brake clean. Nope, they're spares.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

17-Inch Tundra Wheels & BFG A/T Tires

17" TRD 5-lug Tundra wheels with BFG AT LT285/70R17E tires.

Part of being The Tire Meister means that I need to have wheels on which to mount the treads I’m evaluating. Unless I want to constantly remove my proven, primary tires, extra wheels are desirable. Extra wheels make for better, more consistent tire testing, and back-to-back swaps of mounted tires is an easy process.¬†Mounting & balancing tires and wheels is not easy, nor inexpensive. I’m not an aftermarket wheel aficionado‚ÄĒquite the contrary‚ÄĒI like perfectly fitting, relatively inexpensive, OEM aluminum wheels for my 4x4s, and using the same wheels eliminates a testing variable.

With the assistance of Craig’s List, finding take-offs from dudes who want “Lighter, Stronger, Faster” wheels, is relatively easy‚ÄĒas long as you have a current model truck that guys are actively modifying. (Are there actually lighter and stronger rims for the second generation Tundra than the 17-inch forged aluminum OE wheels?) This said, 17-inch 5-lug Tundra wheels are not that common, but the big wheel craze is a live-and-well, so with some patience take-offs can be found. Finding a set with worn tires, or no tires, seems to be the key to reasonable prices. Many want $1500 for their almost new take-off TRD 17-inch Rock Warrior wheels and BFG AT tires. I’m not a big fan of the BFG All-Terrain so there’s no way I’ll pay that kind of money.

The set pictured here was not located on Craig’s List, but on a Tundra forum. A guy posted a feeler several weeks before he planned to install 20-inch wheels and 35-inch tires on his Tundra after a 6-inch lift. He was in the same state so I sent him a PM. Turned out he was also in the same metro area, what are the odds? I made him an offer, he accepted, and we waited for his truck to be lifted. A couple weeks ago I purchased his TRD Rock Warrior 17-inch wheels, lug nuts, and locks, along with well used original BFG All-Terrain tires.

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

From The Wheels UP

I’ve yet to post anything of substance about tires, but amongst my gearhead buddies I have a well-earned reputation as a light-truck tire aficionado. This started a few years ago when I was writing several articles a year for the Power Stroke Registry magazine, including a few tire reviews. It continued with a new Jeep, then a couple Toyotas, and in addition to my own wear data I’m collecting information from a couple guys running my favorite tread. But this is not a post about tires, it’s even more primal than truck tires; it’s about wheels.

Unless you want to constantly swap new tires on one set of wheels, the best way to test tires is to have more wheels. We have plenty of spare wheels for the older trucks in our small fleet of 4x4s, but the newest rig had only the set it came with. I was not actively looking for wheels when my friend Charlie sent me a message saying there were some wheels for my truck on our local Craigslist.

According to the advertisement these Toyota take-off wheels were previously listed for $500.00, far too much money in my book and that’s why he hadn’t sold them. The seller’s ad also mentioned how much the wheels would cost new from a dealer, which is irrelevant. The seller now had the rims listed for $375.00 or-best-offer. This was still more than I was willing to pay, and the rims were located in about 60-miles away. Considering the time and gas it was going to consume to procure them, I was willing to offer him $250.00. Like another buddy said, “all he could say was no”.

Right before I picked up the phone my new voice of frugality‚ÄĒwhich has been fighting for a place in my head, and likes to spar with the devil of buy-it-now‚ÄĒwhispered in my ear; “what if there is a better set for sale, you better be sure before you buy.” I proceeded to read through all of the results for Toyota wheels, looking for a better deal. On the sixth and last page, listed over a month prior, was a set of wheels for $300.00, or-best-offer. These were the same 18×8″ size, but a different style Toyota aluminum wheel which I actually preferred, and instead of 60-miles away they were literally 1.5-miles near.

So I called the guy, confirmed he still had the rims and told him my situation. Essentially that I wasn’t looking to buy wheels but a buddy had told me to look on Craig’s List, and with a chuckle said, “We all know what that can lead to”. The gentleman said he had actually forgot they were listed on Craig’s List until that very morning, they had been for sale for over a month, and he probably needed to re-list them. Like many he had removed them because he added a spacer lift and new aftermarket rims to his truck, after they logged a mere 13,000-miles. I asked him if he would consider $200.00 and he said sure. I went to the bank and a couple hours later I was giddy with new wheels.

Copyright © 2011 James Langan