Regardless of what type of off-road driving is being done, the most important aspect boils down to tire choice. The tire is the first part of the vehicle to hit the trail, and the last one off the trail.
Tires provide traction needed, when it is needed. Plenty of other modifications help, but if the tire is not designed for traction, the vehicle will slip at every obstacle your vehicle encounters.
For off-roaders that need maximum traction on the trail, but also need something that can be driven daily, check out Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels. Keep in mind, tires should not be selected on looks alone. How adept the tire and design is for the type of off-roading from a functional standpoint should also be considered.
Some all terrain tires may not provide the traction needed in certain off-road situations, whereas someone may not like the road noise of a mud terrain tire on their daily driver. With this in mind, it was time to get Project Redneck some new tires, and make it look more like a kick-ass Jeep.
Project Redneck, our 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ, was trekking on 31-inch BF Goodrich KO tires on the trail and getting hung up due to the lack of ground clearance. One solution we came up with to help it out was to add a larger tire. That would meet both of our goals: to act as a daily driver, and to take us off-road during our lunch break.
We selected Dick Cepek’s Extreme Country tire. New to their lineup, we wanted to see for ourselves what this aggressive-looking tire could do on our vehicle. The Extreme Country tire is mud and snow-rated, so we knew that no matter what adventure Project Redneck took on, it would provide the necessary traction to make it back home.
The wide outer voids allow for more traction in the mud, while the inner voids are tighter for traction on smoother surfaces.
We spoke with Jason Moulton, senior product development manager with Dick Cepek Tires and Wheels, to get more details on the benefits of these tires, what the vision was, and how it would fit into the current lineup.
“We had some new technology to bring to the table and felt we could enhance our current mud tire offering,” Moulton said. “The vision was to incorporate this technology, while using some of the best features of the proven Fun Country design, and push them to the extreme for off-road traction while still providing the ride, wear, and life today’s customer would expect.”
“The lugs themselves are non-symmetric for increased biting edges,” said Jason Moulton of Dick Cepek.
The new design uses two plies of Next Generation cord, manufactured with a new compound, and tighter voids to help the tire perform on and off-road. “It has wide outer voids for more traction in the mud and irregular surfaces,” Moulton said. “The inner voids are tighter for improved highway manners, handling, and traction on smooth surfaces, and the lugs are asymmetric for increased biting edges.”
“The Extreme Country fits right into the current lineup, and more,” Moulton explained. “With this new tire design, we were able to replace the Mud Country and Crusher lines capturing the best of both and then some.”
Indeed, the new, overall design of the tire should increase the life of the tire, but more importantly give the driver excellent traction.
This install would go a little different than previous tire installs we have recently done. The installation of our OMF Performance beadlock wheels took place on the floor with the wheel being pressed into the tire. Once the tire was on the wheel, it was flipped over to install the beadlock ring, which is held into place with 24 bolts.
Each bolt had anti-seize applied before it was installed.
Each bolt had anti-seize applied to it for later down the road when the ring needs to come off. Anti-seize, with its blend of aluminum, copper, and graphite lubricants in a petroleum base is used during assembly to prevent galling, corrosion, or seizing, and to ensure easier disassembly. The beadlock ring does not need to be removed often, but since the anti-seize is resistant to salt, corrosion, and moisture, it will ensure this wheel and tire combination roll through anything with ample protection. The first pass on the bolts was a crisscross pattern being torqued down at 15 ft-lb. Each bolt was then tightened down and torqued to 20 ft-lb.
The chief benefit of beadlock wheels is that it allows the tire to be aired down lower, since the outer bead of the tire is pinched between the wheel and the ring. The lower air pressure allows for greater traction on the trail, and was the logical choice with the overall project goal in mind.
Once all five wheel and tire combinations were assembled, it was time to balance them. This is usually an act of science, and anyone who has been around balancing larger tires knows how much weight it requires to get an even balance.
Once on the machine, we were surprised at how little weight was called for to balance the tire. The average amount was around two ounces, far under our original estimate of five ounces per wheel.
With the wheels balanced, all that was left was to install them on the Jeep.
The tires looked too clean in the shop. It was time to hit the dirt and see what they could really do!
With the first wheel on the vehicle, it was apparent that the right tire was chosen. The tires made our vehicle look more like a Jeep. The wheel and tire combination came in weighing at 96.2 pounds. With everything on, we only had one thing left to do – go off-road!
The moment we had been waiting for all day finally came as the tires touched the dirt. The moment they did, we could tell they were right at home, with immediate traction and a smooth ride.
Since California is currently in a drought, we knew we were not going to come across any mud holes or water. We’re pleased to report that Project Redneck had no trouble making it up the hills with its new footwear. That left us with just the dirt trails nearby to do our testing.
The Jeep had zero issues going up any of the hills that we took it on. The Extreme Country's gave us excellent traction in the dirt.
The sections of terrain we were going through consisted of hard packed dirt, loose gravel, sand, and smaller rocks. The Jeep rolled over everything with ease. Once done playing around on the flat land, we headed to the hills to see how they did on an incline.
Once again, the Jeep had no issue getting up the terrain and climbing over the deep rain ruts leftover from when Southern California received its last rain. With the open tread design, the tires will do well gripping rocks when the owner plans his trail runs in Big Bear, California.
We were running 35 psi in the tires and the ride was still smooth. The tire soaked up the bumps on the dirt like they should. With the dust haze on the tires, they were just begging to get more thrown at them.
The tires helped get our ride in the air so that it would not scrape the belly pan or differentials. The Jeep maintained traction and did not slip climbing up the steep hills, providing constant traction. We cannot wait to test them out with the winter rains that will hopefully arrive later this year.
We imagine the performance that we experienced on the dirt will be the same, if not greater, once we get the Jeep out on more extreme trails. The spacing in the lugs should have no problem gripping rocks and allowing the Jeep to crawl right over. With testing in the dirt complete, we needed to see how the tires handled on the pavement.
On-road is where the tires surprised us the most. Rolling them around the shop before they were on the Jeep, we assumed they would be loud on the city streets.
We were shocked to hear the tires produced little to no road noise, something that is usually the case when an aggressive tire is placed on a vehicle. We did not even notice a slight hum while driving to and from the trail.
The Jeep made multiple passes, and with every pass, we could not hear any noise from the tire.
These tires have to be one of the quietest, most aggressive-looking we have tested. Even standing outside while the vehicle drove by, we did not detect any noise.
“Highway handling, as well as wet and dry traction tests, were performed along with a variety of rock climbing, mud traction, and soft surface tests,” Moulton said about the types of testing the Extreme Country was exposed to.
Moulton let us know we should see these types of results driving on-road with the new compound the tire was designed with. The new technology used in the Extreme Country can really be seen when driving on the road.
Driving the Jeep on the smooth surface streets, there was no indication of a large aggressive off-road tire below. We had no complaints with driving this tire in any condition on-road.
After getting to play around in the dirt for the day with the Dick Cepek Extreme Country tires, we are happy with the end result, and feel they will enhance the edge to Project Redneck out on the trail. The aggressive tread will allow the Jeep to climb over any obstacle on the trail and still be an outstanding tire for being driven on daily.
Our biggest surprise with these tires is with their on-road performance, and low road noise. For an extreme off-road tire to be this quiet on the road is a huge benefit. Loud road noise can be a turn off for some drivers, but that will not be the case with these. It appears that the new compound and tighter inner voids do truly help keep road noise to a minimum.
Our recommendation for the Dick Cepek Extreme Country is they are perfect for the weekend warrior. The tires provide excellent traction both on and off the road. These are for a vehicle that will see pavement most of the time and play time in the dirt on weekends.
For more information on available tire sizes, check out Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, and stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme as we check in to see how the tires are preforming after we put more miles on them.