Finding A Score: How To Buy Used Off-Road Tires

If you’re on a budget, buying tires for your rig can be daunting. Nice off-road tires can cost anywhere from $600 up to $1,500. But what if we told you that you can buy those same tires for fraction of that price. In this short guide, we’ll show you what you need to look for when buying used off-road tires. We headed to Loredo’s Tires in Phoenix, Arizona to see what we could find.

Popular Choices

Before you head off to any tire shops you should take a look at what’s on Craigslist. Look for used Jeep Wrangler Rubicon tires or Ford Raptor tires. Wrangler Rubicon tires come in the popular 255/75R17 size which equates to about a 32/10.5R17. Ford Raptor tires come in 315/70R17 size which equates to about a 35/12.5R17 tire. Since a lot of Rubicon and Raptor owners upgrade their vehicles shortly after purchase, you can often find these tires in excellent condition

Date Manufactured

One of the things you should look at when inspecting a tire is the date it was manufactured on. There are a bunch of numbers and letters on the sidewall of a tire. The easiest way to find the manufacture date is to look for the DOT on the sidewall. After the DOT” will be a four-digit number. The first two digit represent the week, and the last two digits represent the year.

This tire was manufactured on this 21st week of 2012.

Generally speaking, tires expire six years after their manufacture date. Although you may find six-year-old tires in excellent condition, we would recommend looking for something a little newer.

Dry Rotting

If you live in the desert, the biggest thing you have to look for when buying used tires is dry rotting. Small amounts of dry rotting can be okay, but it can quickly lead to a much larger amount.

As long of the dry rotting doesn’t appear to be really deep in the tread, you should be fine. The most common spots to find dry rotting will be in-between the treads. Obviously, a tire with no dry rotting is preferred, but finding such a tire in the desert can be difficult.

Chunks Missing

Tires that have seen a lot of trail usage will often have chunks missing from the tread. This often occurs when crawling on rocks, however, it can also occur during normal trail riding. The most common places for the tread to be missing is near the sidewall. This will be especially common on used mud-terrain tires.

Some major chunking is seen on the left, compared to some minor chunking on the right.

As long as the chunks missing are small the tire should be okay. Larger chunks are a sign of very heavy usage and the tire may be hiding other issues such as broken belts or holes.

Slipped Or Broken Belts

Slipped or broken belts in tires are caused by defects in manufacturing, improper mounting, degraded rubber from aging, exposure to heat, ozone, debris or oversteer. Broken belts can be extremely dangerous, and if you notice signs of broken belts when inspecting a tire stay away from it.

The after effects of a belt breaking (left) and what appears to be the start of a belt breaking (right).

Broken belts can occur on both the sidewall and the tread. If there’s a broken belt underneath the tread you’ll see abnormal wear and small holes ormarks on the tread. Broken belts on the sidewall are fairly common with off-road tires. These are easy to find because there will be a large bulge on the sidewall.

Although broken belts can be extremely dangerous, we have driven on tires with broken belts for long periods of time. We do not recommend you do this, and we recommend staying away from tires with broken belts.

Objects Penetrating The Tire

Running over nails, bolts, or anything sharp enough to puncture a tire is fairly common. Minor punctures from something like a nail are typically patchable. Larger punctures like a bolt, however, may not be patchable. Small holes can even be repaired with Slime on the trail if you have an onboard air system and a jug of Slime.

With off-road tires seeing time in the dirt it is not that uncommon to find objects in the tread.

Typically tire shops will catch these issues before the sale, but it’s good to keep an eye out for nails when inspecting a tire.

Camber Wear

Luckily most solid axle trucks won’t cause camber wear. Vehicles with an independent front suspension such as Toyota 4Runner or Hummer H3 can cause camber wear. Minor camber wear can even out and the tire will wear normally. If the camber wear is too severe, however, the tire may wear abnormally for its lifetime.

Notice the slight camber wear on the right side of the tread.

Finding A Suitable Set

Finding a set of four tires with no dry rotting, no chunks missing, and no broken belts can be very difficult. For this reason, you may have to buy tires in pairs and have two different tires on your rig. Running different tires on the same axle can damage your differentials so try to always buy matching pairs.

Example of a perfect set. No dry rotting, no chunks missing, good tread life, and no camber wear.

If you’re unable to find a usable set of tires at the local tire shop, start calling other shops to see what they have in stock. Decent used tires sell very quickly and finding a set can be very hard sometimes. Either you’ll have to compromise and buy tires that aren’t ideal, or you’ll have to keep searching.

Examples Of Perfect Tires

Once you found a suitable set or pair of tires, now comes to negotiating. Many used tire shops are flexible on their prices. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll lower the price by $20 or $40. The worst they can say is no, and you’ll have to pay the asking price.

Summary

In conclusion, there are five major things you need to look for when buying a used off-road tires: manufactured date, dry rotting, missing chunks, broken belts, and camber wear. Craigslist and Facebook off-road groups can be an excellent place to find used tires. Going directly to a tire shop, however, can be easier and they can mount your tires right then and there.

About the author

Bryce Cleveland

Bryce has been in the automotive industry for most of his life. He’s done everything from fixing cars, flipping cars, writing about cars, and everything in-between. He has owned a total of 18 vehicles, most of which he owned before the age of 20. He currently drives his 2015 Ford Fiesta ST every single day and has plans to buy his third Jeep XJ Cherokee very soon.
Read My Articles

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