Accessories & Gear / Tires

Understanding Self-Cleaning Mud Tires for the Toyota Tacoma

Choosing an off-road tire for your Toyota Tacoma isn’t always a straightforward process. With so many different tire options available, it helps to know what kind of terrain you will encounter during the majority of your trail adventures, as this can help you select a tire which is custom designed to excel in the performance areas you will find yourself depending on the most. [Note: If you’re looking for advice on choosing the right tire size, check out Toyota Tacoma Tire Size Guide]

A perfect example is in the mud tire segment of the off-road market. Driving through mud differs from rock crawling or sand driving in a number of ways, but one of the most important factors mud boggers must take into account is tire tread design. Specifically, mud tires have to walk the line between providing a tread that offers excellent grip and one which will not become clogged or chunked up with dirt and debris while slogging through a pit or up a slope.

Mud tires in action. Note the pronounced voids designed to throw mud while spinning.

It’s easy enough to understand – clogged treads can transform a stubby tire into a slick as traction reduces to the point where your rubber might as well be bald. Mud tire designers get around this problem by incorporating tread which actually “self-cleans” while it spins, releasing trapped gunk and helping the tire maintain forward momentum. Here’s a little bit of info on proper mud tire design…

Some mud tires, such as this ATV tire from Maxxis, provide extremely aggressive self-cleaning treads.

Mud most typically congregates in the “voids” of a tire’s tread pattern – that is to say, the valleys that are located between the tires “lugs,” or the raised portions of its tread. Most tires come with fairly tightly-packed voids, which help to improve the amount of rubber hitting the pavement as well as reduce road noise while traveling at highway speeds. Mud tires don’t have to concern themselves with tarmac grip, and as such they are able to increase the size of the voids – as well as the aggressiveness of the lugs – so as to eliminate the small spaces where dirt can become trapped. Self-cleaning mud tires take this a step further, using tread patterns that incorporate large voids as well as specific channels for mud to be thrown from the tire while it is spinning. Some mud tires also make use of side treads, which are mounted on the top of the sidewall and which are easier to keep clean due to the acute angle of their lug and voids.

Mud tires are essential equipment for bog-seeking Tacoma owners.

I had the chance to speak with Victor Angon, the off-road supervisor for Falken Tire, and pick his brain regarding this particular segment of the tire industry. Falken is just starting to get involved in the all-terrain side of the tire business, and Victor was brought in to help guide the company’s off-road program.  He confirmed with me that traditionally, large voids and cross patterns in a mud tire’s tread have been considered hallmarks of an effective self-cleaning tire.  However, he stressed that other technologies  have emerged which are also effective at keeping a tire’s tread clear of debris.  He specifically cited clear-up bars designed into the middle of tire tread that can help to create an air pocket that allows for more efficient cleaning, as well as the importance in a tire’s sidewall flex when it comes to dislodging and slinging mud.

Self-cleaning tires almost always outperform traditional all-terrain rubber when it comes to dealing with muddy situations on the trail. If you foresee yourself playing in the wet more often than not, it would be wise to invest in a set of mud tires with a good self-cleaning capability as opposed to simply relying on knobby off-roaders to pull you through the muck.