Proper maintenance is critical for both safety and maximizing the life of your tires. This guide is intended to help teach you the basics of determining your ideal PSI (both on highway and off-roading), tire rotation patterns and proper torque for your lug nuts.
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Under inflated tires increase the risk of excessive heat and friction, especially when covering long distances on the highway. This can lead to separation of the tire from the wheel. Excessive wear of the outer edges of the tire will also occur.
Over inflated tires increase the risk of a blowout. Excessive wear on the center of the tire will also occur.
Properly inflated tires will evenly grip the road, maximizing traction and wearing evenly, ensuring you get the most life out of your tires.
There is often debate over the proper tire pressure for off-road tires. Your truck or SUV likely came factory-equipped with standard highway tires. Upgrading to mud, hybrid or all-terrain tires may change your ideal PSI. Your vehicle will have some variation of the Tire and Loading Information plate shown below (check the driver-side door frame or glove box). While this is a good starting point for determine your ideal PSI, this is not necessarily optimal for your new off-road tires as they are likely not the same size or construction as your OE tires.
Before we discuss PSI, it is important to note that PSI should be measured "cold." This means the PSI is measured before the tires have run a mile. Likewise, tires should be inflated cold. This is because tires will heat up when driven. Heat will cause tire pressure to increase. Thus, if you were to air up your tires shortly after driving, you will likely under inflate your tires as the PSI will seem high when airing up the tire, but then drop considerably once the vehicle is parked for a period of time.
Most off-road/4x4 shops will recommend somewhere around 45 PSI for larger, hybrid (mud/all-terrain) tires while highway driving. The trick is to find the PSI that allows the tires to grip the road evenly and ultimately provides the most even wear. While your new tires will come with a maximum load and PSI printed on them, this is not necessarily the PSI you should be using - this is the maximum PSI at the maximum load. The PSI calculator below is a good starting point to help determine your ideal PSI. When in doubt, consult an expert such as your local off-road/4x4 shop.
When off-roading, many drivers prefer to air-down their tires. This maximizes traction, improves ride quality and reduces the risk of tire punctures - but should only be done when driving at very low speeds and off-highway. To begin, most drivers reduce their tire pressure by at least 25% from their highway PSI. Often times this is just a starting point. If rock crawling or traversing especially difficult terrain, you may need to decrease your PSI even further. You can reasonably deflate most tires down to around 20 PSI. Some drivers may deflate their tires to even lower PSIs (typically for non-DOT approved tires solely intended for off-roading applications), but be cautious - the lower the tire pressure, the higher the risk of the tire being stripped off the wheel. If airing down for off-roading activities, always air back up before returning to the highway! Again, the PSI calculator below is a good starting point to help determine your ideal PSI. When in doubt, consult an expert such as your local off-road/4x4 shop.
Disclaimer: This calculator was developed based upon a formula provided by Motor Trend. This formula is not an absolute rule, but rather a recommendation that has been found to work well for most combinations of vehicles and tires. Never exceed the maximum tire load or PSI prescribed for your tire.
NOTE: This calculator is specifically intended for "off-road" tires (All Terrain, Hybrid, Mud Terrain, etc.) that are also DOT approved for highway use. This calculator's "Estimated Minimum Off road PSI" has an absolute minimum value of 20 PSI. Some manufacturers may offer non-DOT approved off-road tires that specify even lower PSIs than this calculator permits. Always adhere to the tire manufacturer's guidelines.
NOTE: This calculator was built for SRW vehicles only. Calculations for DRW (dually) vehicles will vary. See the Motor Trend for more information on the calculations.
This chart assumes the use of a Nitto Ridge Grappler tire, in the following 3 sizes.
* NOTE: Different tire brands, models and sizes (including diameter, width and rim size) will have considerably different maximum loads and maximum PSIs, and thus very different recommended PSIs. Always consult your tire manufacturer's website to determine the maximum load rating for your exact tire before calculating the recommended PSI for your tire.
**NOTE: For simplicity, this chart assumes an equal weight distribution at each axle. If not towing/hauling, the front axle of the truck will typically carry more weight than the rear axle due to the weight of the engine. If towing/hauling, the rear may carry more weight than the front. This chart considers the average curb weight of each YMM (including full tank of fuel), plus 1,000 lbs of persons/cargo, equally distributed among each axle. Your calculations may vary depending upon your sub-model/trim package and other specifications. This is only a sample table. Your vehicle weight, tire specifications and desired ride quality should ultimately determine your ideal PSI .
2023 GM 1500
2023 GM 2500
2023 RAM 1500
2023 RAM 2500
2023 Wrangler JL
2023 Gladiator JT
4,021 - 5,740 lbs
5,677 - 7,538 lbs
4,400 - 5,620 lbs
6,105 - 6,950 lbs
4,765 - 6,440 lbs
6,001 - 7,281 lbs
3,948 - 5,098 lbs
4,650 - 5,050 lbs
4,400 - 4,805 lbs
3,915 - 4,550 lbs
5,095 - 5,800 lbs
A good rule of thumb is to rotate your tires every time you change your oil, so roughly every 5,000-10,000 miles (at a minimum). This will help ensure your tires wear evenly and maximize the life of your tires.
When rotating tires, it is best to follow the same pattern each time. Here are our recommended tire rotation patterns for each tire configuration.
When tightening your lug nuts, it is critical to use the proper torque and the proper technique.
Under tightening your lug nuts could result in a wheel becoming loose, causing severe shaking or even loss of the wheel. Over torquing your lug nuts could damage the wheel stud, making the lug nuts difficult to remove or even requiring the replacement of the studs. Normal torque for lug nuts is between 75 to 100 foot-pounds (lb-ft). The exact number is based upon your lug size and should be indicated in your vehicle's owner manual. Use the chart below as a quick reference, but ultimately refer to the manufactuer's guidance for your particular YMM.
To ensure the wheel's center bore is properly seated and centered on the hub, you must always follow a star pattern when tightening your lug nuts. You will first hand tighten the lug nuts using a wrench, then use a torque wrench to tighten the lug nuts to the appropriate torque. Do not use an impact wrench to tighten lug nuts as there is no way of ensuring proper torque.
Within 50-100 miles after installing or rotating your wheels, you should perform a re-torque. Your lugs will settle under the weight of the vehicle, especially when driving over pot holes and rough surfaces. Re-torquing your lug nuts prevents any road vibrations from loosening your lug nuts (and ultimately loosing your wheel).
Per the U.S. Department of Transportation, tires should be replaced when the the tread of any portion of the tires reaches to 2/32" (1/16") of tread depth. Many states have codified this into law. It is important to note that this is the minimum tread depth. For increased safety, you should consider replacing tires when they reach 4/32" of tread depth. The chart below demonstrates the importance of tread depth in terms of stopping distance.
One simple method of determining tread depth is the penny test. Place a penny, head down, into the groves along the tread. If the thread does not cover the tip of Lincoln's head, the tire has reached the end of its tread life. See the diagram below for more details.
Tire wear indication bars are another quick method of determining your remaining tread lift. Horizontal bars are built into the tires (running perpendicular to the tread). When the tread wears down to the point that it is even with the wear indicator bars, the tires must be replaced.
Of course, this method is only an approximation. For the most accurate reading use a tread depth indicator or stop by your local offroad/4x4 shop.
Aside from tread depth, the following factors indicate that a tire must be replaced:
NOTE: Bent wheels should also be quickly repaired or replaced. Improperly shaped wheels may lead to tire separation. This may occur if a wheel is severely curbed or if your vehicle hits a large object/pothole at a high rate of speed, especially if your tire size is relatively small compared to your wheel size (minimal sidewall).
Replacing Only 2 Tires
When replacing only 2 tires, the new tires should be installed on the rear axle, not the front. This is true for rear wheel drive, front wheel drive and 4 wheel drive vehicles.
The rear tires maintain stability for the entire vehicle. The greater the wear of the rear tires. the less the tires are able to grip the road, especially when road conditions are wet. This loss of traction may cause the vehicle to hydroplane.