HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT AIR PRESSURE FOR ALL TERRAIN TYPES
Getting your air pressure right when you are heading down the beaten track is a very big deal. A reliable tyre pressure gauge is key to getting the gains from setting your tyres to the right air pressure.
BENEFITS OF CORRECT AIR PRESSURE PER TERRAIN TYPE
Reduced tyre punctures because your tyres will mould around obstacles
Allows for more tread to stay in contact with the ground giving you more traction
Reduced wheel spin and all the benefits of that
ONE TYRE PRESSURE DOES NOT FIT ALL
Getting used to setting the right tyre pressure takes a little bit of practice. I’ve put together some basic guidelines based on my experience but you can adjust to your results, your tyres and your driving style. Always remember to keep those wheels moving slowly when your tyres have really low air pressure so you don’t break a tyre off the bead. It’s crucial you have a reliable tyre air pressure gauge because you need the accuracy.
OFFROADING ON SAND
I normally start with my tyre pressure at around 16psi. If you find you still are not getting traction and your wheels are spinning, reduce your tyre pressure in small increments. With tyre pressure this low, it is important to reduce driving and turning speeds. The last thing you need is to be peeling a tyre right off the rim.
OFFROADING ON DIRT ROADS
Dirt roads are tricky at the best of times. Always be wary of your speed. I normally start with my air pressure at 20psi. Low air pressure is crucial to sustained traction on corrugated tracks, especially when you are moving along at higher speeds. Again, you shouldn’t be going too fast with too low tyre pressure because you’ll end up driving on your rims if you don’t watch out.
OFFROADING ON ROCKS
You should always be moving and climbing slowly on rocks. This allows us to really drop our tyre air pressure. The lowest I will normally go is 14psi, starting at 20psi while always keeping an eye on my wheels. Remember you are going to lose some ground clearance when you drop the air pressure this much.
OFFROADING ON FIRE TRAILS AND DIRT TRACKS
Again, I start with 20psi on low range dirt tracks. Again, speed is a major issue because a rock or hole could nudge your tyre off the bead.
OFFROADING IN MUD
Mud is one of the trickiest terrain types. I normally start with a slightly higher tyre pressure at 22psi. This amount of tyre pressure still gives your tyres enough pressure to cut through the sloppy mud and bite into the harder turf underneath. If you find you are still sliding about, you can keep dropping your air pressure down in controlled increments. I never go below 14psi.
More air in your tyres gives your vehicle more buoyancy when crossing water, which can lead to you moving off you course in flowing water. The best air pressure for crossing water depends on the terrain underneath the water. I always wade through water and check it out before crossing as a matter of course. I always carry a pair of fishing waders for just such a job. I generally go with 20psi when approaching a water crossing and follow the basic guidelines I’ve outlined above.
ACCURACY IS EVERYTHING
When you start driving your tyres will be cold. It can take about an hour for them to warm up to driving temperature, depending on the speed you are driving at and the terrain. Whenever you reduce your air pressure, you need to check it again around 1 hour after driving at that new air pressure.
If your tyre pressure has increased by more than 4psi as your tyres warmed up, then your starting pressures were too low and you should add some more air pressure. If you tyre pressure has increased by less than 4psi, you know you started with too much air pressure and you can drop your air pressure by a couple psi. I recommend never going below 14psi unless you are in a really tricky situation you are trying to get out of.
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