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Customer support 1300 897 372

All-Terrain Tyres vs. Mud-Terrain Tyres - what’s the difference?

Will all-terrain tyres be aggressive enough for me to have fun off-road, or do I need to get mud tyres?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions received from 4x4 owners. It’s usually prompted after discovering the limitations of their street tyres during a trip off road, or by the driver that’s equipping their new 4x4 for off-road use!

So how do you decide on the right tyres, before you find yourself in that sticky situation? Well, the answer will be different for everyone based on their intended use of the vehicle, and willingness to compromise daily on-road comfort & performance for off-road traction.

Firstly, it’s important to understand how you’ll use your 4x4! Will you be going off-road often? What type of off-road driving will you be doing, and how extreme will the terrain be? How will you be using the vehicle for the remainder of the time when it’s not off road? These answers will help decide the right tyre for you. Here’s a few of the pros & cons of All-Terrain & Mud-Terrain tyres:

all terrain vs mud terrain tyres

All-Terrain tyres are designed for drivers that want the versatility of a tyre that will provide good on and off road performance and grip. Most of the tyre manufacturers suggest that users spending around 70% on the tarmac and 30% off-road fall into the all-terrain tyre category.

All terrain tyres typically have smaller tread blocks and narrower voids, making them more suitable for sealed road driving as they offer less “tread squirming” during braking and cornering. The combination of smaller blocks and less void area makes all-terrain tyres much quieter on-road. Most people have heard the “wahwahwahwah” of a 4x4 vehicle with mud-tyres rolling past! A well maintained all-terrain tyre will not generate nearly as much noise as this.

While all-terrain tyres are more road friendly, their off road capability should not be underestimated. Many of the all-terrain patterns have “grooved and claw-like” tread designs providing good levels of off-road traction in most conditions. Tyres such as the BFGoodrich AT K02, Toyo Open Country ATII, and Goodyear Wrangler AT Adventure have a tread to void ratio that enables good self-cleaning off-road without negatively impacting sealed road performance.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, all-terrain tyres also get a tick over the less efficient mud tyres. Due to the bulky design of a mud tyre, it requires more energy to get (and keep) rolling.

As many people look to purchase all-terrain tyres due to the more aggressive look (vs. standard equipment / highway tyres), many of the tyre brands have extended the tread design over the tyre sidewall, to add visual appeal and some upper sidewall protection off-road without detracting from overall performance.

Mud-Terrain tyres are specifically designed for off-road traction in all types of conditions including rock, mud and loose dirt. Generally speaking, people spending 50% or more of their time in severe off-road conditions should consider a mud-terrain tyre but this is not the only category of user. Due to their superior off-road traction and control, many people purchase mud tyres when only spending a small amount of time off road but in very severe conditions.

Mud tyres are designed with large tread blocks and wide deep voids, providing maximum traction and optimum clearing of the tread from mud, gravel and other debris as it spins. The tread compound of a mud-tyre is designed to minimise cutting & chipping, which is important when considering the type of conditions the tyre may be exposed to! The downside of many mud tyres are that they tend to be noisy on sealed surfaces due to their aggressive tread block design. The large, deep tread grooves while being of benefit off-road, negatively impact braking and cornering ability, due to excessive tread block movement.

The construction of a mud tyre is usually more robust, offering increased resistance to damage but they’re not indestructible! The chunky tread design combined with sheer weight and heavy construction of a mud tyre can make them more difficult to balance than an all-terrain tyre.

Tyre life is another area of consideration when looking to purchase new rubber! The tread life of a mud-terrain tyre can be impacted when spending a large amount of time operating on hard, sealed surfaces. However tread designs and compounds have come a long way in recent years, and many of the premium brands have optimised the tyre footprint to improve tread life. Tyre inflation pressure and maintenance do play a huge part in this, so if you’re deflating your tyres when going off-road, it’s important to correct your tyre pressures when you get back on-to the black stuff!

Given the popularity of 4x4 vehicles in Australia, some of the major tyre brands have decided to introduce Rugged Terrain tyres to the market. Rugged-terrain patterns have become popular in the US market, providing pick-up and 4x4 owners more tyre options.

Rugged Terrain tyres are being positioned as true “all-terrain” or “go-anywhere” tyres. They offer a “hybrid” pattern design, taking the best features from both all-terrain and mud tyres to fill the gap for those of you looking for something in-between. The rugged-terrain patterns offer increased off road grip than an all-terrain tyre, but are less road noisy and offer better all-round manners on sealed surfaces than mud tyres. The side lug design of the latest rugged-terrain tyres are more aggressive than all-terrain tyres, providing extra traction in sloppy conditions and typically they offer a heavily constructed casing design to increase durability and impact resistance off road.

While these type of patterns are relatively new to the Australian market, their popularity is starting to increase.

There’s a few myths that are commonly associated with 4x4 tyres, so let’s try and bust a few of them here;

  1. Mud Tyres are needed for sand driving! Wrong… A mud tyre will dig into the sand which is not what you want to do, a road tyre will do quite well in these conditions.
  2. I need an aggressive tyre pattern because I drive on dirt roads! An aggressive tread design is not needed for dirt roads, what is needed is casing strength, so look to a Light Truck (LT) constructed tyre.
  3. Mud tyres are better off-road! This was probably true 20 years ago, but tyre design and technology has progressed. All-terrain tyres are very capable, but the right tyre for you will always come back to; how you’ll use your vehicle. Great thing is, the tyre options are endless!
  4. High tyre pressure will help cut through mud. Nope, well not in most cases! Reducing your tyre pressure off-road will help to increase the size of the contact patch, which means the tyre won’t sink in as far on soft surfaces and will provide more biting edges for grip.

Check-out a few of the popular all-terrain patterns, here; BFGoodrich AT K02, Bridgestone Dueler AT D693II, Toyo Open Country ATII, Dunlop Grandtrek AT3G, Goodride SL369, Goodyear Wrangler All Terrain Adventure, Yokohama Geolandar G015, Pirelli Scorpion ATR, Pirelli Scorpion All-Terrain Plus, Kumho Road Venture AT51

And our biggest selling mud-tyres; BFGoodrich KM2, BFGoodrich KM3, Goodride SL366, Goodyear Wrangler MT/R Kevlar, Kumho MT KL71, Toyo Open Country MT, Yokohama Geolander G003

If you need any help deciding on the right tyre for you, call our tyre experts on 1300 897 372.


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