Tire pressure will depend on the terrain driven on and weight of the rig. Tire pressure will affect the traction, how the vehicle will handle, and the wear on your tires.
(This image was taken during FieldCraft Mobility Training)
Tire pressure table based on weight:
You might ask, “Why does tire pressure matter?” It matters because it's going to ensure that you are successful in your adventure and that you did so comfortably. Tire pressure is going to change depending on what terrain you are traveling on. Softer terrain is going to require a lower PSI, Harder terrain is going to require a higher PSI.
You have probably heard of the term “Airing Down” which means to literally decrease the air in your tires. When traveling on soft or rough terrain decreasing the tire pressure can help dampen the obstacles you face on the trails, improve your ride quality, and most importantly increase traction. Deflating your tires allows more rubber to be in contact with your terrain which is increasing your surface area of the tire. For example, when traveling in sand or dunes you will be running at your lowest PSI possible because of the soft & changing terrain. You want to be able to grab on to as much surface area as you can to gain traction.
There are some disadvantages to airing down your tires if you are not careful. If your tire pressure is too soft there is potential to lose the bead of your tire or even have a complete blowout. Your wheel size is going to help determine what pressure you can run. A general rule of thumb is the more rubber you have the lower the pressure you are able to run. One of the goals of your overlanding adventures to complete your travel without taking damage to your rig. A ding here or there adds some character but having a blow out 20 miles away from town is not fun for anyone.
When changing the tire pressure, you also must be mindful of your speed. For example, if you are running highway speeds with PSI set up for climbing rocks you will cause your tire to wear irregularly and can cause irreparable damage. Always air back up after you are done on the trails and heading back to the pavement. When traveling slow on trails or climbing over rocks you can run lower pressure than moderate speeds on trails. Another general rule is the slower you are going the lower pressure you can run.
Another consideration to have is the weight of your rig. That is the dry weight of your vehicle AND the gear/ supplies you have with you. You are going to need higher pressure to carry more weight. The weight is also going to determine your speed you can hit the trails at. A lightweight vehicle is going to be able to go faster at a lower pressure than a heavy vehicle. As stated before, it is important to make sure you are traveling safely. You should have a general idea of how much your vehicle weighs and how much your payload weighs as well. This will set you up for success when choosing the correct tire pressure.
If you follow these rough guidelines you will have a victorious trip and be able to return to the trails for your next adventure. Be sure that you know what terrain you will be traveling on so you know the amount of traction that is needed. Be mindful of your speed when deflating the tires. Calculate the total weight of your rig with cargo so you do not damage your tires. The great thing about changing the pressure for different terrains is that you can do it on the fly if you have the right components.
How do I air up and air down my rig?
There are simple tools that can be used to accomplish those tasks. A tire deflator is used to decrease the pressure of the tire. Our recommended deflators are from Staun USA Inc. These deflators are easy to use and thread right on to most valve stems. Staun offers a pressure stop on their deflators. This allows you to set a minimum pressure. This way you can regulate how much air you let out.
Airing up requires more hardware than just some brass fittings. You are going to need some sort of air compressor to accomplish this task. They range in all price ranges. You can get some for under $100 but it's going to take an extended time to inflate the tires. We would recommend getting the best you can afford. Figure out what best suits your usage.
Some other tools that would be good to have related to adjusting air pressure are:
Most importantly, as we stated before in the article, choose the correct air pressure for your rig. Everyone is going to be experiencing different terrain with different weight rigs. There will be a sweet spot for everyone and their vehicles that work best for their goals. There is a lot of information out there so it’s important to do your research before hitting the trails. The information in this article is our opinion to help guide you in the right direction. We hope this was inspiring for you to experiment next time you’re on the