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Old 03-04-2016, 03:48 PM   #1
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Do you deflate?

Or maybe a better question is when do you NOT deflate your tires, if leaving the pavement?

Since we seem to be on tire pressure topics, this is a good time for me to learn when I should or should not air down. I have a new 2015 Sprinter 4x4 150S (with the stock Vanco All-Season tires), and I have not done much 4-wheeling, although I've spent many years on 2x4 forest service roads and off-road dirt biking. I'm taking the Sprinter into Grand Staircase Escalate NM this May, and I want to explore easy 4-wheel drive roads (no more than class 3 for now). One particular road is the one to Alstom Point, but there are many others in the area.

I'm ordering a Viair 450P compressor and some deflators, and will begin to experiment with lower tire pressures. So, the question is about your decision on when to air down. If it is a long but easy dirt road with an occasional washboard but no other challenges, do you go to the trouble of airing down? How about a 5-mile road that would be a 1-hour drive, with class 3 (minor) challenges? What are your criteria for airing down?
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Old 03-04-2016, 05:00 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by WestyToSMB View Post
What are your criteria for airing down?
For me the criteria are three.
1. Traction - If I am in a situation where I need a bigger footprint or more floatation in soft materials like sand, I air down.
2. Comfort - Sometimes you have plenty of traction, but the washboard is just killing you, I air down.
3. Do I have air with me? - I do not have an air system on any of my 4x4 vehicles. I tend to pack according to the trip plan we have envisioned. Sometimes it looks as though we will be on pavement the whole time, and all of a sudden we decide to go off road. If I am on a trail where we are miles from the nearest air and I do not have my PowerTank with me, I do not air down, unless I have to for traction. I don't like driving back to civilization at 25mph with 5# of air in the tires if I am 50 miles from air. If it means not getting stuck I air down.
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Old 03-04-2016, 09:49 PM   #3
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If I know I'm going to be on gravel for an hour or more, I air down.

I always have my compressor with me and the less vibration on the van, the longer everything will last. That goes for everything from suspension bushings to interior fasteners and sound system components. It will all simply last longer if it isn't rattled to death.

It makes the roads more comfortable and quieter. Even if it costs me a few minutes each day to air down and back up, and even if the tire sidewalls wear out sooner, it's worth it to me because it will save costs everywhere else in the long run and make my van more comfortable. It's a no-brainer IMHO.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:20 PM   #4
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I only air down if I have too, despite the fact that I have a compressor on board. I find most times I can get away without, although washboard has been known to make me slightly crazy and less air certainly reduces the pain and misery. Deep sand or mud calls for less air, but keeping up your speed really helps too. If i were alone, I would probably give more thought to airing down early, but the few times I've gotten stuck, there have been other folks along willing to give me a tug. As for 4wd, as long as I'm not tearing up the trail, getting into slow technical stuff, crossing water, deep sand or mud I leave it in 2wd. The limited slip in the back works pretty well.
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Old 03-05-2016, 06:59 AM   #5
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I agree with most everything that's been said. We air down when conditions dictate and when leaving the pavement for a period of time on dirt/washboard back roads, it's just a more comfortable ride but we also carry on board air, built into our warn powerplant winch. That being said, while airing down helps with traction on rock and sand and comfort on rough roads, having the proper tires for the conditions is probably more important. Might want to look at getting a bit tougher tire than a highway all season if you plan on doing these sorts of trips, or you may be looking at loosing a bit more air than you want through a sliced sidewall. Take a look at Michelin LTX A/T 2 or for a more aggressive tire see if BFG makes their A/T 2 in your size.
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Old 03-05-2016, 09:09 AM   #6
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I keep two sets of Trailhead tire deflators in my van. One set at 35lbs (most trails) and the other at 20lbs (deep sand). Makes deflating a snap but does nothing for the extended process of airing up.

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Old 03-05-2016, 02:30 PM   #7
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Experiment to see what works for your rig. Usually there is no need to run the max psi unless loaded to the max. There are many variables like the weight of vehicle and tire size and type.

You may be able to find a reduced tire pressure that provides a better ride on washboard roads but still allows for some highway driving between dirt roads.

If I am on dirt roads for multi-day trips I lower the pressure a bit more for comfort and less wear and tear on the vehicle.
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Old 03-05-2016, 07:00 PM   #8
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Thanks for the helpful responses everyone. I had not thought much about reducing wear and tear on the van by minimizing vibration - good point. And Ref got me thinking more about sidewall vulnerability: I guess my all season tires would be more vulnerable than KO2s etc., and that makes me a bit nervous about airing down with my tires. Seems like the lower you go, the more the tire bulges, and then sidewalls begin touching things they would not if fully inflated. Perhaps I need to choose a moderate pressure (like mid 30s maybe) until I get AT tires. Do you suppose BFG and others formally approve of airing down their AT tires, since they are more exposed to damage?
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Old 03-06-2016, 12:26 AM   #9
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I usually run my road pressures all the time when light off-roading, but am always willing to air down at the drop of a hat. I don't have onboard air, taking the philosophy that if I air down, I'd prefer driving slower to an air station than destroying a tire or risk getting stuck.

One mention I didn't see in this thread is driving on gravel roads with especially pointy rocks, like the road to Toroweap on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We've been on that road once so far, and the NPS isn't lying when they say the rocks can be rough on tires. Glad I aired down for that, and had no problems.

As for getting to Alstrom Point from Big Water: We did it with full road pressure. Had no problem. It's a pretty easy road. We didn't venture any farther east past the turnoff to the Point, so I can't say what the conditions are beyond there.
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Old 03-07-2016, 03:08 PM   #10
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Out of curiosity, I called BF Goodrich customer support line today, and asked if they supported the practice of airing down when driving off-pavement. I was not surprised when they told me the tires should never be used with pressures below the vehicle manufacturer's specifications (the placard). I asked the agent if he was familiar with this very common practice of airing down for off-road situations. He was, and said in spite of this, there was no support for it and there would be no warranty coverage for damage under these conditions. I pushed back even harder, citing the wisdom and expertise of all these seasoned drivers, but the answer was always the same; Not supported.

The takeaway for me was that if we choose to use the tires this way, we are kind of on our own, and outside of the design envelop for durability and reliability. And at the end of the day, when we air back up and hit the 70 mph curves coming down the hill on some freeway in our 7000+ pound van, we no longer have the manufacturer's assurance of safety behind us. Kind of sobering, but I guess that's the way it has always been - right?
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