People usually want to go off-roading, but they don’t know what type of tires can handle the terrain. For enthusiasts who want to go off-roading with their cars, two types of tires are available: street tires and off-road tires. Street tires are mostly used for regular driving on the road, while off-road tires are designed for extreme conditions like mud or snow. Can you go off-road with street tires?
Although you can go off-road with street tires, it is not advisable since the street tires can put the drivers at risk because they are likely to lose control of the vehicle making sudden turns or stops. You can also get stuck if the thin sidewalls of street tires are damaged by debris on the road.
However, if you’re wondering whether you can go off-roading with street tires, then the answer is yes! People have been asking forums if it’s okay to use on off-road trips with everyday street tires. Some think that only certain kinds of tires can be used on different surfaces; however, this isn’t true at all.
Can You Off-Road with Street Tires?
This answer depends on the specific tire, but many street tires are designed for off-road use.
This type of tire has an aggressive tread to improve grip in slippery conditions and also has extra safety features like deeper treads to prevent hydroplaning by channeling water through the grooves.
If you buy these types of tires, then they’re more than capable of handling dirt roads or the mud you see during exploring several terrains..
Of course, if you live in a place where snow is an issue during winter, then this isn’t the best idea because your car will be difficult to drive when there’s ice under your regular street tires.
Difference Between Off-Road Tires and Street Tires:
There are many differences between the off-road tire and street tires, which is why they both have their uses.
- As we mentioned earlier, Off-road tires are designed for extreme conditions where regular street tires would slip or fail.
- The rubber compound in an off-roading tire is harder than a regular one, making them more flexible in terms of temperature. This makes it easier to drive on warm roads because it won’t break or crack when exposed to high temperatures while driving at high speeds.
- Off-road tires also have stronger sidewalls, so your tires don’t wear down quickly when you’re driving over rocky or uneven surfaces. The treads on these tires are usually deeper, so there’s better grip even in mud or snow.
- Off-road tires tend to be more expensive than street tires, and they can’t handle well in normal conditions. If you use your car for regular driving, then buying a separate set of off-road tires is a waste of money because these types of tires wear out quickly when used on the road compared to street ones.
- The next difference is the size of the tires. Regular street tires go from 15 to 25 inches, while off-road tires range from 33 to 44 inches. The bigger tires are designed for extra ground clearance so you can drive over rocks and other obstacles without damaging them.
- The next difference is the tread design which comes in two patterns:
- The first one is the lugs pattern, which is deep, thick treads that can be made of different shapes depending on the tire brand. This type of design has several advantages because you can have a better grip even if there’s mud or snow on the road. After all, the tread blocks will dig into the surface.
- The second option is a siping design where small slits are cut into either side of each tire block to create more water channels. Since off-road tires are used in wet conditions like rain and mud, this type of design helps increase traction and prevent hydroplaning.
Why Off-Roading with Street Tires Can be Dangerous:
Driving on an rough surface puts excessive stress on the sidewalls of street tires, which leads to quicker wear and damage, especially around corners or when braking at high speeds.
Depending on how fast you’re driving, it’s still possible for the regular street tires to explode while cornering, so this is something you must avoid.
The next severe danger occurs when doing U-turns or other types of turns. If you do these maneuvers on wet roads, then there’s a chance that your car will slide and skid because your street tires cannot properly grip the road.
Road debris can also get stuck inside the treads, making it difficult to drive normally, so if you plan to use street tires for off-roading, then cleaning them regularly is necessary.
Proper tire pressure can also be an issue when driving with street tires in the dirt. Dirt roads are usually bumpy or full of potholes that can damage or pop your tires if they’re underinflated. Since off-road vehicle suspensions are built sturdier than normal cars, having proper tire pressure is crucial for safety reasons.
Are There Any Benefits of Using Street Tires While Off-Roading?
There are some benefits to driving with street tires while off-roading.
- If you’re taking a short off-road trip on comparatively smooth asphalt, then street tires can be used safely for this purpose. Even if your car occasionally skids, the chances of crashing are reduced compared to using off-road tires.
- The other advantage is easier maintenance which is great because you won’t have to worry about cleaning your vehicle’s rims every time you go off-roading. This also means that it’s unnecessary to buy an extra set of rims when you want both street and off-road type tires mounted on your vehicle.
Pros and Cons of Using Street Tires on an Off-Road Vehicle:
- Street tires are less expensive than off-road ones.
- They do well on asphalt surfaces without damaging the rims.
- These tires are lighter than off-road ones, which means faster speeds on-road.
- Street tires do not perform well in wet conditions like mud or rain.
- The roads can be damaged easily by street tires because of their design.
- Proper tire pressure is crucial for safety reasons when using street tires.
Off-Roading with Street Tires Will Harm Your Vehicle’s Suspension:
With all these facts, then you might wonder if it’s even possible to drive with street tires on rough surfaces without damaging your vehicle’s suspension system.
According to experts, driving on bumpy surfaces can cause damage to the shocks and struts over time, so it's important to have them inspected now and then to avoid this kind of damage.
The stiff suspension of an off-road vehicle ensures that it can easily traverse through various obstacles, but this also puts a lot of stress on the drivetrain and underbody, especially in rocky conditions.
Driving with street tires in these kinds of terrain can cause damage to the brake lines and ABS, so you must inspect them regularly as well.
Are There Any Other Factors That You Should Consider?
Some local laws do not allow vehicles without proper clearance from going on rough off-road trails, so always check with your state or county road regulations before doing anything when it comes to using street tires.
As a final note, it’s not advisable to use street tires for off-roading because there are some dangers that drivers will have to face when doing this kind of activity. Street tires perform well on smooth asphalt roads but do not have the same performance as those off-road types, so these should never be used on rough surfaces.
Durability of Street Tires in Off-Road Environment:
If you go off-roading frequently, then expect to replace your street tires within six months or less.
When it comes to street tires, their performance depends on the type of road you’re driving on. If there are lots of sharp turns or traffic, you’ll have limited grip, which can cause problems when braking, especially when it’s wet outside. Generally, one needs to replace the street tires more frequently than off-road tires while off-roading.
Installing Street Tires on Your Off-Road Vehicle:
To install a street tire on your off-road vehicle, you need to use lug nuts that are more secure than regular tire bolts. This is necessary because street tires can pop off when traveling over rough surfaces, while off-road wheels must always stay on the vehicle.
If you still insist on using street tires for off-roading, installing them yourself is possible, but it’s not advisable, especially if your car isn’t equipped with a spare tire. If your street tires pop off through an accident or other type of mishap, then you won’t be able to use them again unless they’re replaced first.
If you want to use street tires, it’s best to have them mounted by a professional mechanic because the incorrect installation can damage your vehicle’s suspension system.
You have the option to buy special adaptor kits that allow yourself to mount a standard road wheel onto a larger hub surface; so consider this as well before buying a new set of street tires for your vehicle.
Some common off-roading techniques are banned when using street tires. Examples of these are power-sliding during turns, making U-turns on two-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles, and driving through deep water since most street tires do not float, so they could easily get stuck in the mud.
Driving Tips for Those New to Street Tires on an Off-Road Vehicle:
If you decide to use street tires on your off-road vehicles, you may need to check out the following tips:
- If you’re used to drive on dirt roads, don’t expect your street tires to handle these surfaces well. Switching back and forth between the street and off-road tires will cause damage to both sets, so consider buying separate wheels for each type of surface condition.
- You should also take it easy when driving with street tires because hitting a deep pothole or bump can cause damage to the suspension system, especially if your vehicle isn’t equipped with shock absorbers.
- If your vehicle is 4WD, then it’s best not to go over 40 mph while using just the front, back, or center differential lock alone instead of all four together.
- Never spin your tires in mud or when crossing water because this can severely damage them even when switching to off-road tires.
- Be extra careful when making turns and coming to a stop because it can cause your street tires to skid and slip, especially if you’re driving on wet surfaces.
How Much Do Off-Road Tires Typically Cost Compared to Street Tires?
Typically, you can expect to pay at least $100 - $300 for a decent set of off-road tires, while the average price for a new set of street tires is only around $50 - $150.
Tires designed for specific terrains and conditions usually cost more than the standard sets, but this typically varies depending on where you live and how much competition there is in your area.
Is It Legal to Use Street Tires While Off-Roading?
You may not get arrested if caught using street tires while off-roading, but most drivers who do this usually get stranded after their street tires pop off, especially when traveling through deep water or mud.
Those who use their cars for competitions sometimes install both tires, but they usually drive slowly and don’t exceed any speed limits.
You may also get in trouble with the law if your street tires damage any property while off-roading such as flattening grass on a lawn caused by spinning the wheels.
It's best to avoid using street tires for off-roading, especially when pushing through harsh terrain, because this can cause extensive damage not only to the vehicle but to the road surface as well. Such accidents might require expensive repairs that you may not be able to afford, especially if your insurance does not cover it.
According to some public roads laws, off-road vehicles equipped with street tires are illegal, so take note of these limitations before modifying or customizing your vehicle. If you decide to sell your car, then be sure to remove the street tires and replace them with off-road ones as well.
Though it is not recommended because of the risk of damage to your vehicle and property, you can go off-road with street tires. Finally, consider all the risk factors and check with your local laws and regulations before modifying a street tire for off-road use.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Will putting street tires on my truck void the warranty?
Putting street tires on your truck will normally not void the warranty. However, if you start to do some serious off-roading and damage your car, then this may be a different story. What’s more, most manufacturers of trucks and cars specify in their warranties that they recommend using M+S or all-season tires rather than summer or performance tires.
What do I need to know before off-roading with street tires?
Before trying this for yourself, consider that your car can be seriously damaged if you use street tires for off-road use. In addition, you should also keep in mind never to exceed the speed limit and constant wheel lockup when going over difficult terrain.
How much does an off-road tire cost, and how much does a street tire cost?
The typical price for an off-road tire is $100-$300 depending on the brand, material, size, and quality, while street tires can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 or more depending on the type of vehicle.
Is it legal to use street tires for off-roading?
Using street tires for off-roading is generally not illegal. At the same time, it is not very safe and can cause extensive damage not only to your car but also to the road surface as well. Also, you might need expensive repairs that you may not be able to afford.
This is Surya. I am an experienced off-roader. I have been off-roading for many years across several terrains. I am passionate about 4×4 driving and want to share my knowledge and experience with others.
My goal is to provide you with the most comprehensive and unbiased information about off-roading.
I curated this article through my personal experience and expertise, and I hope it helps you with what you are looking for.