The Best Tires for a Passenger Car on a Gravel Roadby Doug Desjardins
Driving on gravel roads can be hazardous and tough on tires, but there are several types of tires that handle the rigors and dangers of gravel road driving better than others.
All-Season Radial Tires
These are the easiest tires to find for gravel roads and the least expensive. As the name implies, all-season radials are made for a wide range of driving conditions including rain, snow and ice and are tougher than regular tires. All-season tires have a deeper tread and will give your car a better grip on gravel surfaces that tend to be very uneven and tough. They'll also guard against punctures and flat tires, a common problem for people who drive frequently on gravel roads. They're affordable and easy to find at retail stores and tire centers.
Tires with a 10-ply rating are considered heavy-duty tires that can handle rigorous conditions (ratings go as high as 18-ply for military vehicles). The name implies that the tires have 10 layers, which used to be the case years ago, but now the rating is based on the equivalent of having 10 layers (most of today's 10-ply tires have two or three layers). The thicker tires will provide a car with more stability, greater protection from blowouts and last longer than regular tires, something to consider because driving on gravel wears tires out quicker than paved road driving.
Keep Tire Pressure Low
Keeping the tire pressure a little below the recommended standard is a good idea regardless of whether you opt for all-season radials or heavy-duty tires. Lowering the pressure softens the tires and helps them grip the gravel a little better (over-inflating tires will make the gravel feel like ice). The only drawback is that softer tires tend to have a negative effect on your car's gas mileage.
Doug Desjardins is a journalist and research analyst. He has worked for more than a half-dozen newspapers, magazines and websites and hiswork has appeared in a number of publications including the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Magazine.