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Airing Down Your Tires

Airing Down Your Tires

By Lindsay Woods

If you are looking for a way to improve the ride of your vehicle while off-road while improving traction, airing down may be the answer. Airing down tires means you reduce the pressure (psi) in them. The result creates a larger surface area for the tire, increasing the amount of traction between the tire and the terrain. In addition, it also makes for a smoother driving experience and can prevent a vehicle from getting stuck due to a lack of traction. The best part is it’s relatively cost effective to purchase deflators and an air compressor. I have found the greatest cost 

to be my time, each time I air down and air up before hitting the pavement.

There is no airing down standards as it varies on your rig and the tires that you run. So what does that mean? You are going to have to try different psi’s until you find what generally works best for you. Here are some rules of thumb for the following terrains:

  • Rough dirt roads, two-track, and mild trails - a 25% reduction or 10 PSI is a good start
  • Slick rock or more challenging trails with loose terrain, a 30-35% pressure reduction
  • Soft terrain conditions such as sand or mud may benefit from up to a 50% pressure reduction

Anytime you air down your tires, you want to avoid driving at excessive speeds, especially when turning corners. If you dip below 20 psi, you’ll likely want to keep your speeds 20 mph or less.

Airing down can be done in a variety of ways. I prefer to use Staun Tire Deflators because they allow me to set the desired psi for each or all of the deflators.   I have chosen to set two of my deflators at one psi and the other two at a different psi, which I have color coded for my reference and ease of use. I will caution you as these are not fail proof, but if you keep them out of the sand and dirt they should work as designed. I was on a trip where a buddy dropped one of his deflators in the sand and put it on without inspecting it for sand. When he came back his tire was flat.

Another deflation system I have is the MORRFLATE Quad. This deflator/inflator system allows me to deflate/inflate one or all four of my tires at the same time to the exact psi. It is more expensive than the Staun deflators but if you are using a CO2 bottle or a good quality compressor it works great.

Inflation with a CO2 bottle is very quick but the CO2 tank is costly to purchase and has to be refilled professionally and it takes up space. Another inflation option is 12-volt air compressor, which vary greatly so do your research. A simple compressor that is designed to air up a passenger care tire will often overheat when trying to inflate oversized off-road tires and could leave you stranded. I opted to go with the Viair 450P-RV 12 Volt Automatic Portable Tire Inflator Air Compressor which offers:

  • Automatic shut-off function in a larger powerful portable tire inflator.
  • 100% duty cycle unit is capable of pressures up to 150 PSI.
  • Can be operated for up to 40 minutes at a time before needing to be rested.
  • A 60ft. coil hose that allows me to reach all the tires on my rig and RV as well as my friend’s rig.

Whether you air down or not I hope to see you on a trip in 2023. ~ Lindsay

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