If you’re not mechanically inclined, you may not give much thought to the importance of tires for your vehicle, other than keeping them properly inflated. If you’re a prepper, you should know the importance of maintaining your vehicle so it’s ready to go if a crisis happens.
Smart preppers keep their gas tank close to full at all times by filling up if they get down to half a tank instead of when the gauge hits empty. Other important maintenance tasks include regular oil changes, tune ups, stockpiling fuses and other consumable parts, and preventative maintenance checks so you can repair or replace worn out parts before they break unexpectedly.
All of these things are important for keeping your vehicle in tip top shape. But when it comes to being able to bug out with short notice, even a perfectly otherwise maintained vehicle, won’t get you very far at all if the tires on your vehicle aren’t up to par.
Good quality tires factor into your ability to get the traction you need to drive in bad weather conditions, accelerate or brake on uneven or rough terrain, or manuever around debris and other obstacles in your path.
If you are bugging out or otherwise trying to get to safety with your family, all of these performance issues can be vital. So, in this article, we’re going to give you all the basics on how to choose the best tires for your bug out vehicle, whether it be a car, motorcyle, ATV, or something else.
Table of Contents
Types of Tires
If you’ve never thought much about tires before now, the first thing to learn about is the types of tires. Believe it or not, there are a multitude of tire types out there, each designed for different priorities when it comes to performance.
To choose the right tires for your vehicle, you need to consider the possible conditions you might be up against and prioritize the kind of performance you need from your vehicle in different situations.
For Cars, Trucks, and SUVs
Low profile tires are smaller, and typically designed for smaller cars where fuel efficiency is a high priority. They work best on flat, even road conditions.
So while you may be able to manage on a dirt road or uneven terrain, handling won’t be as reliable, the ride will be much rougher, and tires may be more prone to damage. Low-profile tires might be great for your everyday commute if it’s mostly freeway, but probably aren’t the best choice for a BOV.
Types of Seasonal Tires
The seasons can really impact how your tires perform if you aren’t careful about which tires you choose. If you reside or travel in a climate with only mild seasonal changes, you can choose different seasonal tires than if you drive routinely in an area that gets lots of rain or deep snow and ice.
Summer tires are designed for fuel efficient highway driving. While these are good if you drive a lot of freeway miles for your commute to and from work daily, they aren’t going to be the most practical in extreme weather conditions or a bug out situation. Summer tires could be a good option in dry, desert areas as long as you keep in mind they won’t perform well if you end up needing to go off road.
Snow tires are exactly what their name implies. They are designed for cold weather driving and will give you greater traction on wet and icy roads.
All Season tires are designed for driving all year round. While these initially may seem like a practical choice for preppers, they aren’t going to do very well in extreme winter weather or if you have to go off-road to get around debris or stalled traffic. But keep reading to find out how to choose the right tire tread to make all season tires work best in rain, mud, and snow.
Studded Snow tires are a practical choice in areas where wet, icy terrain will be a factor for significant periods of time. Studded snow tires are designed to keep a firm grip on icy roads but they aren’t legal in all states, so be sure to check your state laws before going with this option.
The term high-performance is a bit misleading when it comes to tires. These tires are primarily designed primarily for flat, smooth terrain. Though you may think fast handling, high speeds, and fast cornering would be a priority during a bug out, these tires won’t perform well on uneven terrain, in poor weather, or in the event you have to go off road.
These are one of the most practical tire choices for preppers, especially if your BOV is an SUV or truck. All-terrain tires are as the name implies, designed to perform well on many types of road surfaces, including the occasional off road detour.
While extremely muddy conditions may cause some issues with these tires, most other conditions, including snowy roads or uneven gravel won’t be a major problem. You will find that all-terrain tires reduce fuel efficiency and make more noise than other types of tires, but it’s a small sacrifice to make so that your vehicle will be reliable under tough driving conditions.
Mud tires are designed for exactly that, muddy, off-road areas where most vehicles would get stuck quickly. Heavy snow or gravel isn’t an issue for mud tires either. You will see a reduction in fuel efficiency and an increase in noise when using these tires so they may not be the best choice if your BOV is also your vehicle for that daily commute.
So, what else is important about tires and how do you choose the best tire for your BOV when your performance priorities overlap into a couple of the categories above?
Tread Pattern Types
Choose your tire type above based on the driving conditions you expect to deal with most frequently or those that are most important for your area. Once you choose your tire type, look at tire tread patterns to make sure your vehicle has the extra performance you may need under certain conditions.
Directional/Asymmetrical tread pattern combines the best features of other tread patterns to give you great reliability even in wet or snowy weather.
This is the least common tire tread, usually reserved for supercars and high performance vehicles, which could limit your ability to find a similar replacement in a SHTF scenario. If you decide to go with this tread, stockpile extra tires to make sure you’re prepared in an emergency situation.
Symmetrical tread patterns are the most common pattern. This is a good choice if you need maximum flexibility in tire rotation. If you want the flexibility to move the rear passenger tire to the front driver’s side position, look for a symmetrical tread pattern.
Because symmetrical tread is very common, choosing this pattern for your BOV increases the likelihood that if you get a flat tire in a crisis, you can find a suitable replacement by taking it from an abandoned car or truck.
Directional/Unidirectional treads have V-shaped grooves designed to push water and snow to the outside, away from the tire.
Proper rotation is limited to front to rear on the same side of the vehicle and improper rotation can actually push water and snow to the inside of the tire and increase the risk of hydroplaning at high speeds through standing water. Other than the restriction on tire rotation, this tread type can be a good choice.
Asymmetrical tires are also a good choice for a BOV. Tires can be rotated in any of the rotation patterns which provides flexibility. Larger outside (outboard) portions of the tread contribute to better handling and cornering. Smaller inside (inboard) portions of the tread help with traction in snowy or wet conditions.
What to Do For a Flat Tire
We have probably all experienced getting a flat tire while driving. If you haven’t yet experienced this while driving, consider yourself very lucky. A flat tire can be frustrating and inconvenient during your daily commute.
But in a bug out situation or SHTF event, a flat tire could become a life or death situation for you and your family. It’s important to know what to do for a flat tire when it happens and to be prepared with the right equipment in advance.
Temporarily Inflate the Tire
A portable air compressor powered by your vehicle’s cigarette lighter will help you to put air into the tire so you can get from wherever you are to home or another safe location. It’s the quickest and easiest way to get back on the road without having to change a tire. Make sure you keep spare fuses on hand for your vehicle so you can replace a blown fuse if needed.
A product such as Fix-a-Flat can be used in an absolute emergency for minor leaks in a tire. It’s not recommended as the first option because the liquid and compressed air that is put into your tire can actually do damge to the tire.
If you use fix a flat on a tire, you will need to replace the tire rather than have it repaired in most cases. If you do take a tire to a professional for repair, make sure to warn them that you have used fix a flat in the tire.
A tire plug kit is also a good thing to have on hand. This works great for a flat tire caused by a puncture, like from a nail or screw. A tire plug kit can provide a more long term repair to your tires, which will keep you on the road, and won’t cause as much damage to your tire as using something like a fix-a-flat product.
Spare Tire/Replace the Tire
A scissor jack and tire iron, which typically come with your car, are the bare minimum needed to change a tire and put on a spare or to replace the tire.
Your vehicle operator’s manual will include proper jack placement to safely lift your car. Remember to loosen the lug nuts prior to jacking the car up. For additional safety, you can add a breaker bar, full size jack, blocks, and jack stand as demonstrated in the video below:
Your vehicle should always have a spare tire whether it’s a donut tire, only good for emergency driving, or a full size tire and rim which can replace the flat tire permanently. Check your spare periodically to ensure that it’s fully inflated and free or dry rot or any other issues that would make it unreliable in an emergency.
Consider Multiple Vehicle Use
One of the things to consider when choosing the size of the tires to purchase for your vehicle is being able to use the tires on multiple vehicles. If your family or group owns more than one vehicle, having tires that are the same size can make it easier to swap out tires.
This means if one vehicle goes down or becomes inoperable, those tires can serve as spares for another vehicle. This gives you maximum flexibility to make sure at least one of your vehicles can be outfitted with the proper tires to keep you on the road.
Tires for Other Vehicles
Some preppers may not have a car or truck as their BOV or may choose to use a recreational or other vehicle as a backup BOV. But just like with cars and trucks, there are multiple types of tires for recreational and other vehicles too.
Just like with your car or truck, motorcycles have different tire types which are designed to perform under certain conditions. Touring/Cruising tires are designed with a deeper tread and durability for heavy mileage.
They have firmer sidewalls which can withstand not only the heavier bike, but also the weight of two people as well as extra weight carried in panniers or saddlebags.
Super Sport/Hyper-Sport tires aren’t the best choice for a BOV as they are designed to prioritize high speed performance and handling. Sport-Touring tires would be a practical choice for a BOV. These tires are designed to provide great traction as well as durability for long miles.
Dual Sport/ADV tires are approved for offroad handling. They have a distinct knobby surface for increased grip on mud, gravel, shallow sand, and dirt. A good choice for preppers, you can find ADV tires designed for 90% off-road riding to 50%/50 riding, to just 15% off road driving.
In addition to getting a tire that is the right size for the rims on your bicycle, you again want to consider the tread pattern on the tire. In most, if not all, cases, more tread means better grip on the road but also more resistance to rolling.
So you may have to prioritize between smooth acceleration on road surfaces and more grip for off road riding. Slick tires are made for city commuters, mountain or touring bikes and will provide good acceleration on smooth surfaces.
Semi-slick tires have a smooth middle with prominent treads on the sides of the tire for better cornering. These will be good for most road surfaces and light off road riding. Inverted tread tires could be a good choice for preppers who want to use their bicycle frequently for asphalt but anticipate riding pothole filled or rutted roads during a bug out or crisis.
Knobby tires provide the most grip and are specifically designed for off road or trail riding. Tread with tinier knobs are better for smooth trails whereas larger knobs provide better traction over rocks and roots. You can find a tread on knobby tires specifically designed for smooth trail, soft trail, mud, rough terrain, or hardpacked ground.
Tiire types are designed around the terrain you will be operating in. This is even more true for four wheelers and ATV’s. Tire types include mud, sand, snow tires (mud or stock tires with added chains), hard or rocky terrain tires, and racing tires.
For preppers who anticipate needing to ride on different types of terrain, an all terrain tire might work best. Each tire type consists of treads designed specifically to provide traction and performance when operating over that terrain.
When it comes to trailers, there are two types of tires to choose from. The type of tire you choose can be critical to getting your load safely to your destination. Select the tire that will work best for your specific trailering needs and further customize by selecting appropriate treads for anticipated weather and road conditions.
Radial tires are good for hauling light to medium loads over long distances. The tread on these tires will last longer because the tires stay cooler, which results in less resistance and a resistance to flat spots.
Bias ply tires are best for heavy loads over short distances or for trailers that will be used off pavement. Utility and construction trailers will often have bias ply tires. Bias ply tires are often less expensive than radial tires but keep in mind they have a reduced tread life.
If you are a prepper who might need to rely on a wheelchair during a bug out situation, there are a lot of factors to consider in addition to the wheels and tires. You’ll have to choose between mag wheels or spoke wheels depending on your specific needs.
Wheelchair tires can be air filled (pneumatic), semi-solid (flat free), or solid. Pnematic, air-filled tires, provide a smoother ride but are more prone to tire damage and flats, thus requiring more maintenance.
Flat free tires are pneumatic tires but filled with rubber, foam, or urethane which make them semi-solid and virtually flat proof. Solid tires are great because they are nearly maintenance free however the ride will be much bumpier which could be painful for some users.
This wheelchair resource guide has more detailed information on how to choose wheelchair tires and accessories that suit your specific needs.
What is your current BOV? Is it fitted with tires that will be reliable in a bug out or SHTF situation? Share your plans and thoughts in the comments below.
A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she’s a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.