If you want to get into off-roading, or maybe even full-time Overlanding, you’re going to need a few tricks up your sleeve for when you inevitably get stuck. Something you may know already is that airing down your tires when driving through sand or snow can help you get out of a sticky situation, but what about when it comes to mud?
When driving through tough terrain, especially mud, airing down the tires of the vehicle by about 15 psi can help them cut through any tricky terrain safely and efficiently. Wider tires give the vehicle more traction, allowing the tires to be more flexible, making it easier for you to get out of a rough patch.
Keep reading for information on why you airing down works, what safety precautions to take, what it will take to inflate your tires after the fact, and even a pros and cons list of airing down in the mud.
Why You Should Partially Deflate Your Tires
Reducing the air in your tires for off-roading is one of the best things to do if you don’t want to get stuck. It’s as simple as that. And let’s face it, when you go mudding, it’s pretty easy to get stuck. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie, a professional, or someone mudding for the pure joy of it, there can always be terrain that you aren’t prepared for.
When tires are deflated and the less air there is in each tire, the wider the tire can become. This can create much more surface area for your tires to hit the ground with, making it much easier for them to gain traction and propel the vehicle more efficiently. There’s more grip and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to move through sticky patches without getting stuck.
As for how much to deflate your tires when the time comes for you to actually get out of a sticky situation, or if you’re cautious and you want to prevent getting stuck from even happening, most off-roading vehicles should be deflated about 15-20 psi (pounds per square inch.) This is the best amount to sufficiently get you through most rough terrains, especially those that are tough and rocky.
Airing Down: When and How Much
When it comes to airing down your tires in the middle of nowhere, you need to carefully consider the environment you are planning to drive in/on before touching your tires. If the ground is muddy enough that you know you could easily get stuck, it would be much better for your tires and your sanity if you just didn’t take the chance.
But if there’s just a small amount of mud you’re worried about, deflating your tires a bit should help you stay out of danger. It’s also important to consider that full tires easily run the risk of being popped on rocky terrain, which can be easily hidden beneath layers of mud.
So, before you go offroading it’s better to find a level area that you can deflate your tires while parked before getting into the rocky, sandy, or muddy ground. You do not want to air down right until you are ready to go off the pavement. Driving on the pavement with low tires is never a good idea.
You can safely deflate your tires by purchasing a tire deflator at a hardware or auto care store. You can check before purchasing, but most deflators come with two ranges: one for rock crawling and one for dunes or mud. You will also want to keep an air gauge nearby to make sure you have the correct psi.
For softer terrains such as sand or mud, it is advisable to go even as low as 10 psi, though this can sometimes be risky. If your tire pressure is too low, there is a bigger chance that the tire will become damaged or fall off your vehicle completely. It is tougher to tell with soft terrains because you need the traction and flexibility but you also do not want to become stuck.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to stick around 15 psi, as it will be about half the amount of pressure that is regularly in your tires. That much pressure will leave you with the air required for your tire not to fall off, but enough that your tires won’t become damaged by a hidden rock or become fully engulfed by the mud.
Something to keep in mind is that you will not have to worry about this problem as much, however, if you own Beadlock tires. These types of tires use a mechanical device called a bead lock that uses tire pressure to push the bead of the tire against the interior of the wheel rim, making it so that the tire stays on the wheel and they can rotate together.
They can keep additional air from leaking out of your tires during use and even in the event of a flat tire, they can keep your tire securely attached to the wheel and the car itself.
While this is pretty effective in snow or sand, some people have trouble deciding whether or not it’s as effective in mud. Based on most experiences though, mud that is dried up a little bit, or that is only a few inches thick with a hard surface underneath is the only mud you will be able to get through. While it may be messy, it’s still scalable. So be careful before you try to go mudding in 12-inches of wet, sinking mud.
Check out the table below for a list of pros and cons for airing out your tires in the muddier conditions.
|A tire filled with less means it is much more malleable, and much safer to drive on rocky terrain. The less tight a surface area, the less likely it will be punctured by a sharp rock or tree branch.
|A wider tire is more likely to fling mud everywhere.
While you may think you’re car is already dirty, it can also get a whole lot worse when spinning tires fling mud everywhere.
|Softer tires take the blow of a bumpy road much better, allowing you to drive much smoother.
|Lowering air pressure on a tire that has a leak can lead to a blowout in the middle of nowhere.
|Softer tires are also much easier on your driveline and suspension. Your shocks won’t have to take so much damage.
|There’s not always a guarantee that deflating your tires will get you out of a situation where you become stuck in the mud. Sometimes, depending on your situation, it just means you’ll get dirtier trying to deflate your tires.
|Cushioned tires also don’t damage the land you’re driving on, which can become a problem in the muddy backwoods. This is especially true if there are other vehicles behind you that need to make it down the same road.
|As soon as you air down, you’re going to have to compromise speed for safety. Going fast enough can easily cause a blowout, especially on high speed, high heat terrain like a paved road.
|Under the right circumstances, lowering your tire pressure won’t harm your tire, and can ultimately be a lifesaver when it comes to stubborn terrain.
|There is also an increased chance of a rollover. Side tilts, especially if you are carrying a lot of weight, can easily cause your vehicle to simply just tip over.
How to Inflate Your Tires in the Middle of Nowhere
When you’re done having fun you need to remember to fill your tires up to the correct pressure to be able to get back on high-speed roads. Thankfully there are a few options for being able to fill up your tires in the middle of nowhere with no gas station in sight.
First, you will need to get back to a safe parking spot. This can easily be done with an air compressor that you can buy at any store that sells auto equipment, even at places like Walmart, or online stores. These days you can get affordable air pumps that plug into your car and tell you exactly what the pressure is. They usually range from $30-$60.
When it comes to buying an air compressor that you know you will be using frequently, it’s better not to skimp out but instead splurge a little. It’s better to spend $30 more now than hundreds of dollars to have someone come and rescue you.
Another considerable option would be the C02 tank. This tank has a similar appearance to a scuba tank except it holds pressurized carbon dioxide and not oxygen. This is because it can hold a larger amount of carbon dioxide than air. This is exactly what many bicyclists do if they are in a pinch in the middle of nowhere.
They are inexpensive, strong enough to power air tools, and can fill tires back up quite rapidly. If you use a C02 tank, however, be sure to exercise caution. Not only will it slowly leak out over time, but it can melt right through your tires if the pressure is too high. Just mind your tire pressure carefully if you go this route.
For more information and examples of how much to deflate your tires in all terrain types, including mud, be sure to check out the video below.