New wheels and tires are a thing of beauty. Whether it is the tenth set of tires for the vehicle or the first set of aftermarkets, a vehicle’s look is something we all can’t wait to perfect.
Project Storm Trooper is our prerunner project vehicle that has seen plenty of changes. From a new long-travel suspension to the Currie Enterprise F9 housing and Bilstein shocks, the truck has taken on a new stance. We turned to Walker Evans Racing wheels and Falken tires to continue to build the truck into the ultimate street legal prerunner.
Features Of The A/T3W
Any time a company has a redesign of a product, plenty of thought goes into it. For Falken, the redesign was to give the product line a look that would appeal to off-roaders. “The All-Terrain tire category is the most versatile and popular category in the light truck and SUV market,” Drew Howlett of Falken said. “Falken wanted to launch an exciting new all-terrain product.”
Falken A/T3W Features
Outer apex sidewall
Heat diffuser technology
3-D canyon sipe technology
Rugged and rigid tread blocks
Aggressive upper sidewall
“The Falken Wildpeak A/T3W is a completely different animal than the previous model,” Howlett said. “Key changes are an aggressive tread pattern true to the all-terrain category, severe snow rating, deep tread with full-depth sipes and grooves creating consistent performance throughout the life of the tire, and thick aggressive upper sidewall features that offer a rugged design as well as off-road functionality.”
The vision of this tire was to offer the consumer with an aggressive and rugged looking all-terrain tire to complement any pickup truck or SUV, while at the same time completely exceeding the tire performance and capability expectations of the consumer.“Falken’s vision for this product was to be a true ‘halo’ product, a highlight of technology and capability to shed light on the other Falken product lines as well,” Howlett said.
The A/T3W is loaded with new features that make this tire stand out among the crowd. The tire features a two-ply sidewall, but both plies have high ply turn ups wrapping around the bead and rising back up, ending just shy of the upper sidewall tread features. This creates a four-ply thick, sidewall to protect from punctures in off-road situations.
The all new Falken Wildpeak A/T3W is packed with new features that set this tire apart.
Heat diffuser technology is located in the lower sidewall and dissipates heat to protect the internal tire components. Keeping this area of the tire cool ensures vehicle stability, even when towing or carrying heavy loads.
The 3-D canyon sipe technology interlocks the shoulders to resist wear from high torque and also provides additional handling stability. On the tread blocks, there is a step-down feature that provides tread-pattern rigidity in the contact patch, enhancing vehicle stability and handling while also preventing stones from becoming trapped in the grooves.
Moving to the side of the tire, it is hard to miss the aggressive upper sidewall. The sidewall has offset shoulder blocks to protect the tire from sharp rocks and provide additional off‐road traction at low tire pressures or in off‐camber situations.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association devised the mountain snowflake symbol for tires that meet more stringent winter traction performance requirements.
“The tire was tested both internally in Japan, in the USA, and by third parties in the USA,” Howlett said. “The primary focus of this tire and the origin of the name A/T3W is wear, winter, and wet. Consequently, all three of these areas were tested by third parties.”
Wear: During the course of the development of the Wildpeak A/T3W, Falken used third party tread wear testing on eight different occasions to validate design changes for improved wear performance; most tire companies only do one or two tread wear tests due to the added development cost. With a completely new all-terrain and a complete redesign, Falken wanted to make sure this tire was right from the start.
Winter: The tire was tested for winter by internal snow handling testing on the upper peninsula of Michigan, as well as third-party snow spin traction testing.
Wet: Wet conditions were tested with internal wet handling, wet braking, and wet acceleration testing, as well as third-party wet braking testing.
The aggressive sidewall is not just for looks. It is for extra bite when aired down or in off camber situations and also adds protection.
“The A/T3W underwent severe off-road traction capability and sidewall puncture resistance and durability,” Howlett explained. “The A/T3W is not a highway tire with ‘all-terrain’ on the side; it’s a true all-terrain tire built for any road or weather conditions.”
Falken says the A/T3W is not as quiet as your typical all-season five-rib tread pattern touring tire, so we will have to see for ourselves how it does. Though we do not get that much rain or snow in Southern California, we have all the dirt and sand that we can handle.
Nonetheless, users need not fear precipitation when driving on the A/T3W. “Hydroplaning is no issue with the deep tread depth, so light to heavy rain is no problem,” Howlett said. “With the severe snow rating, light to heavy snow is no problem as well, which allows for a truck or SUV owner to utilize these tires year-round. Dry grip is average for the category, but most people are not dry auto-crossing their truck or SUV.”
Most importantly, when selecting a new tire, it is always good to see if the manufacturer offers a tire wear warranty. Falken offers a 55,000-mile warranty on all sizes including LT load range E sizes. Currently, the A/T3W is offered in 54 sizes, with more coming to the lineup in 2017.
Pairing The A/T3W With A Legend
The name Walker Evans is well-known in the off-road community and its signature wheel has been around for quite some time. We paired our new Falken Wildpeak tires with 17×8.5 Walker Evans beadlock racing wheels.
These are true racing beadlocks. One nice thing that Walker Evans has on its wheels is a traditional valve stem (bottom left), with another spot (bottom right) that can be drilled out if you are running a tube.
Walker Evans Racing 17-inch true beadlock racing wheels have become well known for their strength and success in short-course and off-road racing. It is made with high-pressure cast aluminum that gives you strength for any situation you come across, whether pounding the dunes or hitting the open desert.
In our case, the wheels would make sure that we have a sense of confidence when ripping through the washes or the dunes in our prerunner. The design of the Walker Evans wheel has been around since the early 2000s, when they built some one-off pieces for their own purposes. The first wheel was sold to the public in 2006.
No fancy tools are needed to get the tires mounted – However, just some simple soapy water and a rubber mallet to help get the tire around the wheel. It is recommended to add some anti-seize to the beadlock ring bolts, as they will be in all sorts of elements. Adding the anti-seize will make removing the bolts a lot easier when it comes time.
“There was a need at the time to build a wheel that could withstand the punishment of off-road racing that wasn’t being met at the time,” Reid Nordin of Walker Evans explained. “It wasn’t a long-term plan to get into the wheel business, but it grew out of a need for a better wheel for the off-road market.”
These wheels can be seen on winning race vehicles in almost every form of off-road racing (and even recently, on UTVs). It is that one wheel that when you see it, you know you want a set for yourself.
Before and after on Project Storm Trooper. Not only did we change wheels and tires, but we also went from 33-inch tires to 35-inch tires.
“The original wheels were tested on our own race machines in the harshest conditions,” Nordin said. “The wheels are all built with high-pressure cast aluminum; there are no space-age trick materials here.”
Knowing we were in good hands, we were ready to hit the dirt and see what this combo could do in the dirt.
Kicking Up The Dust
The tires are on a truck that sees plenty of time on both the pavement and in the dirt. They have seen around 3,000 miles since we first installed them. To truly see what these tires could do, we headed out to Ocotillo Wells SVRA.
The truck handled well on the windy road before we hit the dirt to have some real fun.
The tires are quiet on the road and handled the tight twisting roads on the way to the desert with no issues. Tire noise in an off-road vehicle may not be something to be concerned with, as was the case with Storm Trooper. The exhaust tone in the vehicle drowned out most outside noises, but even standing outside the vehicle, the tires exhibited little to no road noise.
Prepare for takeoff! Having some fun out in Ocotillo.
One of the advantages of running a beadlock wheel is the ability to lower the pressure in the tire further than in a traditional wheel, as the beadlock ring will help keep the tire secured. To test the tire correctly we did two tests: one aired up to 35 psi, and one aired down to 15 psi.
We did hit some sandy sections, but the tires maintained traction. Even though the truck is two-wheel-drive, we did not get stuck once.
We took Project Storm Trooper through the same types of terrain with both pressures. From washes to rocks, we tested the tire in everything our prerunner could take, and then some.
Altogether, we have been impressed by the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W. The tire is a complete upgrade from the previous model and has exceeded our expectations.
Exploring the vast desert landscape.
The tire has done well on both the pavement and the trail and would be suitable for either a weekend warrior vehicle or a trail toy. The aggressive sidewall allows drivers to gain extra traction and keep going through the rough stuff.
Stay tuned for more tire reviews, including the mud terrain version of the Wildpeak. For all the available sizes be sure to visit Falken’s website. What type of vehicle would you put these tires on? Tell us in the comments below!