Let’s be honest. Most of us pay far more attention to our tow vehicles than we do to its tires. In fact, according to Goodyear, consumer studies show that approximately 75 percent of us wash our trucks and SUVs once a month, while less than 20 percent of us check our tire pressure that often. We just don’t think about our tires. Until they wear out.
Most boaters probably price-shop when it comes to replacing those tires. Unfortunately, we won’t know if we’ve made a poor choice until we’re skittering along a gravel road on the way to our favorite lake or sliding in the mud and algae at the boat landing. The truth is, boaters who regularly trailer and launch their boats need to make sure they have tow vehicle tires that can handle challenging launch ramps, rough roads and inclement weather, which might involve water, mud, ice and even snow.
Goodyear recognized the need for a new, premium, all-terrain tire in the marketplace. This fall, it launched the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar (WATA). Boaters should be especially interested in tires like these. They provide good performance on highways and pavement, gravel and shell launch ramp approaches and on those dirt roads and tracks that lead to a special boating places both inland and on the coast.
We developed this simple checklist with input from Goodyear’s technical staff while test driving the new Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar. It will help you find the tire that provides the optimum balance of features to best meet your towing needs:
*Consider how you use your tow vehicle. No matter where you tow your boat, all-terrain is the name of the game. That doesn’t mean you need the biggest, baddest tire out there (which likely has the loudest hum). Take a look at all-terrain tires that claim “on- and off-road” performance. These will be appropriate if you estimate 80-percent highway use and 20-percent off-road use. They’ll be tough and capable, but they’ll have quiet, smooth manners for driving the kids to school.
*Look at recommended size and weight rating. Check your tow vehicle’s recommended tire size and towing capacity, then review the tires that stay within those recommendations. Make sure the tire is rated “LT” for light truck. Goodyear’s new WATA tire is available in 20 LT sizes, and a pro-grade version features E load range, the equivalent of 10-ply. An important note: Remember to check tire pressure frequently, as towing with less than maximum pressure affects performance and wear, and it decreases the tire’s ability to carry the load.
*Examine tire construction to determine toughness and durability. If you regularly tow your boat, you’ll want your tires to be able to handle a variety of road and ramp conditions. Examine the tire’s construction to assess its durability. In the case of Goodyear’s WATA, the tire features two layers of Kevlar belts below the tread and above the steel belts, which have 30 percent more steel. (As a bonus, the Kevlar means less weight and improved fuel efficiency.) In addition, Durawall technology resists tearing, cuts and punctures, which are real possibilities if you spend a lot of time on aging, rocky ramps, shell paved marina lots and traversing unimproved roads leading to secret fishing holes and boating spots.
*Check the tread. A plain Jane, five-rib tread pattern is not going to give you the traction you want, particularly if your tires are submerged on a boat ramp. Is the tread too hard? Then it’s also too slippery. Think of towing and launching in a variety of sloppy and off-road conditions, then look for an open tread pattern with open shoulder blocks and traction ridges, like the WATA’s.
*Can the tire provide wet/off-road traction? A good all-terrain tire with an open tread pattern, open shoulder blocks, traction ridges and a good rubber compound will have biting edges as well as the ability to self-clean. In other words, you won’t slip, and the tires will clear away the muck and moisture on their own.
*Don’t forget the tread-life warranty. Warranties aren’t everything — traction, performance and durability are higher on the list — but you’ll appreciate a good one for tread life. Goodyear offers a 60,000-mile tread life limited warranty, which is 20 percent longer than the warranties it offers with other Wrangler tires. Not bad.