Towing Equipment

Sometimes when you need to be towed or pulled by another vehicle the need is urgent.  Like when you are stuck at the top of a long steep hill or when you are about to toll over.  In those cases you may need towing help immediately.

Your tow strap, and anything else needed to attach your strap should be within reach of either the Driver or Passenger, not in the back of your vehicle. (I keep mine on the floor behind the passenger seat.)  If you need a Shackle or other device to attach your strap to your vehicle it should also be easily available.  Loosen the pin on your shackle before the run.  Use wire or some other device to keep the pin from coming loose on the trail.  (I use Bungy Balls.)

Warning – Winches and Synthetic Winch Line

Many people don’t know, unless they read their winch manual carefully.
Most manuals  says you should  NEVER run the line out using the winch motor. Instead you should always put is in free spool and pull the line out manually.  That is the case for most brands of winches, including the Warn Brand.
The reason is that,  on most winch brands, including Warn winches, there is a friction  brake inside the drum.and it  is always on when you are running the line out using the winch motor. This is to prevent a “Run Away” while un-spooling under a load.   The motor is actually overcoming the brake  when running the line out and thus the drum gets very hot from the  friction. .   (Some other brands have a braking system outside the drum.)
One enemy of synthetic winch line is heat..
In Suzanne’s case the melted winch line didn’t cause the line to break.  I suspect it was one of the other enemies of synthetic winch line,  Old Age and Sunlight..
Synthetic line is great and nicer to use than steel cable but it can be damaged by heat, and sunlight as well as sharp rocks.  Since mot people go a long time between use of their winch, one should inspect your winch line from time to time.
Whether you have Synthetic winch line or Steel Cable, you should not use the winch motor to  un-spool your winch line.  Doing so can wear out the winch braking system if you have a winch with a braking system in the drum.

Welcome New Members

If you haven’t already done so, please consider posting a message on the Group Bulletin Board introducing yourself to the Group.

Tell us:

  • What you drive?
  • Are you new to 4 Wheeling?
  • What type of Runs are you interested in?
  • What city do you live in?
  • Are you interested in Camping Runs?
  • How did you find out about JustRuns ?
  • More about yourself.

(Before posting a message please read the JustRuns Posting Instructions.)
Send your message to

I look forward to meeting you on a Run soon.

Roger Mullins
JustRuns Founder

Yes, that’s how it is spelled.  One word with a capital “J” and a capital “R”.


Where is your Tow Strap ?

Often, when we ask a driver in need of a quick tow, “Where your tow strap?”  the answer is  “It’s in the back somewhere”.

Sometimes when a strap is needed, it is needed quickly.  We don’t have time to sort around looking for the strap.

Everyone’s tow strap should be within reach of the driver or passenger while they are in their seat.  A great place for one’s strap in on the floor behind the passenger seat.  That way the driver can quickly reach the strap and hand it to the person hooking it up.  Also, if your vehicle needs a shackle to hook on a tow strap the shackle should already be on the strap.


All Vehicles Must Have a 2 Meter Ham Radio.

All participants must have a Ham Radio in their vehicle.  CB isno longer be used for Trail Communications on our Runs.  If you don’t already have a HAM, we recommend the Baofeng UV-5 which is available on EBay or Amazon for about $25.  No license is needed to Buy a or Monitor Ham Radio or to use one in an Emergency situation.

If this is your first Run with us, many of our Run Leaders  have extra ham radios to lend to 1st time Guests to monitor trail communications.  Contact the Run Leader.

Dogs on Runs

Dogs  are Welcome on Runs unless Forbidden by Area Regulations.
Please be considerate of others who may not “Love” your dog like you do.

Please be considerate.  Not all people Love your dog like you do.  Keep your dog on a leash while in camp, on the trail or when the group is stopped for lunch.  Please pickup after your dog.

While on the trail, do not allow your dog to run free as the group travels.  Doing so can cause a  distraction for other drivers and can result in an accident damage or injury to participants or the dog.

While at camp, if you want to allow your dog to run Off-Leash, do so away from the camp area so it doesn’t annoy other Participants.

Trail Etiquette

  • Have all Required Equipment and be properly equipped for the Difficulty Level of the Run as well as any Special Equipment indicated in the Run Announcement..
  • Arrive at the Meeting Place with fuel for a whole day of 4 Wheeling and in time to prepare your vehicle for the trail.
  • Drive a Reliable Vehicle.  If a vehicle has a known reliability problem do not participate on a Run.
  • Be Considerate of othersEveryone may not love your dog, or your cigarette/cigar smoke.
  • Many people enjoy the sounds of nature.  Please keep your music low.
  • Radio communications should be relevant and brief.
  • Learn the name of the driver directly ahead and behind you as well as the Leader’s name in case you need to call for help..
  • It is each Driver’s responsibility to keep up with the vehicle ahead.  If you are having difficulty keeping or need to stop let the Leader know by radio.
  • If you Stop for more than a few seconds, for any reason, let the leader know by Radio.
  • When coming to intersecting trails or confusing turns, make sure the vehicle behind you sees which way to turn before you proceed.
  • At  an intersection if you are not sure which way to turn, STOP.  Don’t guess and don’t proceed.   Radio the person directly ahead by name for directions.
  • If you decide to leave a Run early, or take a different Trail from the Leader, let the Leader and those following you know that you are deviating from the Leader’s route.
  • If a vehicle becomes stuck or breaks down, let the other vehicles and the leader know to stop.  Keep other vehicles informed of the progress of repairs.
  • The driver of a disabled vehicle needs to help with repairs.  Even if not mechanically competent he/she should not expect others to do all the work.  (Do something, even it it is only to fetch tools.)
  • When a vehicle is disabled, everyone should provide assistance as needed.
  • The driver of a disabled vehicle that is repaired on the trail needs to return or replace any borrowed tools, parts or supplies.
  • In the event of a rollover or other dangerous situation with potential for a fire, all drivers should rush to the scene with their fire extinguishers.  Stop the engine and extract the occupants immediately.
  • At an obstacle, the vehicle behind should leave room for the vehicle ahead to negotiate the obstacle. If the obstacle is “Challenging” the vehicle ahead should wait just past the obstacle until the vehicle behind clears.  As soon as the vehicle behind clears the obstacle the first vehicle should pull far ahead enough or clear the trail for the whole group to negotiate the obstacle..
  • When approaching oncoming traffic  on a narrow road the leader should warn the following vehicles via radio.
  • When meeting oncoming traffic on a narrow trail, the leader should let the oncoming traffic know how many are in the group.  The last vehicle should let them know he is last.
  • When vehicles are passing from the rear the last vehicle should warn the vehicles ahead via radio.
  • In steep terrain, if there isn’t room for approaching traffic to pass, the vehicles headed down hill should give up hill traffic the Right of Way.  California Vehicle Code 21661  (Note: Even though vehicles traveling uphill have the Right of Way, common sense should be used.   Sometimes it is safer for the smaller group to pull over to allow a larger group to pass.)
  • On very narrow trails, when oncoming traffic approaches, use common sense.  Whichever group can more easily pull over should do so regardless of the Vehicle Code mentioned below.
  • On narrow trails, it is best to leave generous space between vehicles in case you need to pull over to allow oncoming traffic to pass.  It is easier to find a single turnout than a turnout for several vehicles.
  • On narrow trails, where vehicles headed in one direction must pull off the trail, the leader of the group that is proceeding should inform the other group how many vehicles are following.  The last vehicle in the group that is proceeding should let the pulled over vehicles know that he is last.  The “conventional signal” is for the last vehicle driver to hold up a closed hand indicating no vehicles behind.
  • When approaching an obstacle going uphill, the driver ahead should move far enough ahead to allow the vehicle behind to clear the obstacle but remain close in case the following vehicle needs to be pulled.
  • When an uphill bound driver requests a spotter, it is usually best if the spotter come from a vehicle behind if there is an experienced spotter aboard.
  • When going downhill it is usually best if an experienced spotter comes from the vehicle ahead.
  • When stopped on a trail for a break, all vehicles should allow room for other vehicles to pass..
  • Remove all trash and pick up trash left by others.
  • Tread Lightly.  Avoid damage to the environment.
  • Remain on established trails.
  • We prefer you drink your alcohol after the day’s run while in camp.  We require participants to follow California State Law which forbids drinking while inside a motor vehicle at any time, even on private property.  We do not allow drinking while on the trail except we do allow adult participants to consume one single beer at lunch while outside their vehicle.  See: Click
  • Use appropriate language on the radio, during rest stops and in camp.  This is a “Family Oriented” group.
  • To avoid confusion, only one person should give directions when spotting someone over an obstacle.  Others should only offer advice if they see a danger that the spotter doesn’t see.
  • When convoying on the highway, turn headlights on day and night and  leave room between vehicles to allow other cars to pass..
  • Once the person behind you has cleared an obstacle, move your vehicle far enough ahead or off the trail so all other vehicles can clear the obstacle.
  • When attempting an obstacle, accept a tow after 3 unsuccessful tries. Do not risk injury or vehicle damage.  Don’t tear up the trail for others by spinning your wheels.
  • If a damaged vehicle leaves the Group, offer to provide an escort to a safe area.  Never leave a disabled vehicle’s occupants on the trail without another vehicle.
  • Tow straps and winch controllers should be available and easily accessible not “buried” in the back of your vehicle.
  • When passing other vehicles, hikers, equestrians or camps, slow down for safety as well as to lessen your dust cloud.
  • Be considerate.  In camp,  do not run generators or play music after 9 PM or before 6AM.
  • Be considerate.  Some prefer hearing Nature rather than your preferred music.  Please keep music at low volume.
  • Not everyone loves your dog, please keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it.
  • When convoying on the highway, all vehicles should have their headlights on.
  • When convoying on the highway, leave room between vehicles so overtaking vehicles can safely pass.

Replace a Tire Valve Stem the Easy Way

Occasionally a tire valve stem is damaged or torn while on the trail.  This often happens, particularly if the stem is old and has become brittle from age and the sun.

Here is a simple and easy way to remove and replace a valve stem without having to remove the tire from the vehicle or without having to break the tire bead to get inside the tire to remove and replace the rubber stem.



Where is Your Tow Strap and Winch Controller ?

Often, when one asks 4 Wheelers they will say in the back of their vehicle, often still in its original wrapper inside their tool box.

In an Emergency, when you need a tow strap or winch controller, you usually need it quickly.  They should be somewhere the driver can reach quickly while in his/her seat.  You certainly don’t want to have to open the back and sort around trying to find them.  When alone, a good place is on the floor in front of the passenger seat.  If you have a passenger, on the floor behind the passenger seat.

Alcohol Policy


Participants on our runs must follow California Laws on alcohol at all times. The law forbids operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and forbids drinking alcohol at any time while in a vehicle by either a driver or passengerwhether moving or parked. No open containers are allowed by law.  The law and our Rule do not distinguish between public or private property or the driver or passenger..

Participants should consume their alcohol in camp or at home, after the run.

We do not allow drinking during our Runs except  we do allow adults to drink no more than one beer during lunchbreak  while outside the vehicle.

We do object to participants (including passengers) having more than one beer, or other alcoholic drinks during the Run.  If they insist on drinking on a run, they will be asked to leave the Run and not go on future runs with the Group.

Like driving anywhere else, driving a vehicle off road while under the influence endangers the person drinking, other occupants of his/her vehicle as well as others on the trail.

Anyone, whether Driver or Passenger who refuses to follow this policy will be asked to not attend JustRuns Events/Runs.

Narrow vs. Wide Tires

My wife prefers narrow (Pizza Cutter)  tires (9.50 or 10.50) on her Jeep and she usually gets better traction than I have on my Jeep using wide tires. (12.50).    She has better luck in both  deep sand and on loose dirt.  The article below seems to agree that for most off-road situations we often encounter, narrow tires are better.  That is even though they don’t look as “Macho”.  – Roger

Tire Selection for Expedition Travel: The impact of tire width on traction

Article Type: Position Paper, White Paper

By: Scott Brady, Expedition’s West
Date: 3/28/2005 (revised 4/17)

Position: A tall, narrow tire is a superior choice for all off-highway surface conditions with the exception of deep, soft sand or mud.


I. Summary
II. Abstract
III. Definitions
IV. Understanding tire placarding
V. Understanding off-highway tire performance
VI. Recommended Sizes for GVW
VII. Real world examples of narrow tire use
VIII. History of tire engineering
VIIII. Other tire selection considerations
X. References


This is an empirical summary of my position. The supporting details of this argument are contained in the body of the document. The start of my study came as a result of asking the critical question. What is better for most trail surfaces; a wide or narrow tire?

This initially led me to research the physics of tire traction, which is mostly related to dynamic friction as the vehicles are not just parked on a surface trying to maintain a static state. There has been some research on the subject related to performance vehicles and race cars, operating on highly tactile surfaces, and running at high speeds (and subsequent heat generation), but there was no significant research done for off-highway vehicle operation. So I spent several months researching the subject, testing the logic and formulating a position. Why a position, and not a conclusion or “law” of tire performance? For me to proclaim a conclusion would require much greater testing volume, samples, variables etc., which time does not allow. So, the following is my position.

When driving off-highway, the performance of a vehicles tires is influenced by the elements of friction as related to the following items: Adhesion, momentary molecular bonding, deformation and mechanical keying (Haney, 2003). Where a race car operates on a highly tactile surface, which allows wide, even smooth tires to perform exceptionally (due to adhesion and bonding), an off-highway vehicle operates in the exact opposite environment, with minimally tactile surfaces. Rocks, dirt ledges, dusty boulders, highly irregular surfaces, sandy washes, etc. occupy the fourwheeler’s environment. Surfaces that do not provide high adhesion rates or momentary bonding. However, these surfaces are highly irregular, which does provide the opportunity to take advantage of mechanical keying and deformation. These traction elements require high contact pressure, coupled with low air pressure to get the tire to flex with the terrain. A wide tire distributes the vehicles weight over too large of a surface, preventing deformation from occurring at the same rate as a narrow tire with the same pressure (force). A narrow tire will hold better than a wide one by keying to the surface aggregate due to the greater vertical force.

It is important for me to note that this document is NOT about reducing tire air pressure “airing down”. Airing down provides its own performance benefits which are not covered in detail in this paper. For all examples assume that the wide and narrow tire are both at 15psi for the trail.


While the coefficient of friction (Ff = Cf x Fv) is linear and not affected by width (on a perfectly smooth surface, traction is consistent despite width), it is the variability of the road surface conditions off-highway that improves traction for a narrow tire. The greater the contact pressure, the greater of effectiveness of the friction elements of Deformation and Mechanical Keying. A narrow tire also presents less rotating resistance on a soft surface, like shallow mud, snow and sand. Additional performance is gained by the assumption that most vehicles can fit a taller tire if it is narrower, which provides greater axle clearance. Final arguments are made for the benefits related to reduced rotating mass and unsprung weight.


The argument is further bolstered by the assumption that a taller tire can be fitted to the vehicle if it is narrower. For example, a Toyota Tacoma can fit a 33×10.5 with 2″ of lift, but not a 33×12.5 with the same wheel off-set, suspension, etc. A taller tire allows the driver to air down further (maintaining sufficient ground clearance), increasing tire deformation on technical terrain and increased flotation on surfaces with low shear resistance (like sand).

The argument assumes that the surfaces encountered off-highway are not typically highly tactile, like concrete or asphalt, but are irregular, and loose, with poor surface condition (either dusty, muddy, wet, etc.)

This article is specific to heavy expedition vehicles with nominal lift and stock engines (as is desirable for extended travel reliability). The article is NOT about 1,500 lb. sand rails with high HP motors, or other competition platforms with one dimensional surface conditions.


Friction: (Mech.) The resistance which a body meets with from the surface on which it moves. It may be resistance to sliding motion, or to rolling motion. [1913 Webster]

Adhesion: Intermolecular forces that hold matter together, especially touching surfaces of neighboring media such as a liquid in contact with a solid.

Momentary Bonding: The brief molecular connection of two surface elements under heat, pressure or mixing.

Deformation: The change in geometric size, shape, form or position due to force.

Mechanical Keying: The interlocking of surfaces

Understanding Tire Placarding: As would be read on the sidewall of a tire

Reading a flotation tire: Example LT 31×10.5 R15 C

“LT”= Light Truck. Intended to be used on a heavier vehicle, with a higher GVWR than a typical passenger car.

“31”= The tire height, represented in inches.

“10.5”= The tire width at the section (widest point of the carcass), represented in inches.

“R15″= Indicates the tire is a radial and has a rim size of 15 inches.

“C”= The load rating of the tire. It can also be D, E, etc. The higher the letter, the greater the load carrying capacity.

Reading a metric tire: Example LT255/85 R16/D 119Q

“LT”= Light Truck Tire

“255”= The section width in millimeters

“85”= The aspect ratio. Expressed as a percentage of the section width (so 255*.85=216mm). The result is the height of the tires side wall. To determine the overall height of the tire, the following equation is used [(side wall height)*2+(rim height)=total tire height]. For the example tire the equation reads [(216*2)+406=838mm] Note: A 16” wheel is 406mm tall

“R”= Radial Construction

“16”= Rim diameter in inches

“D”= Load Range . Indicates ply rating (example tire is 8 ply), and load pressure, or the recommended tire pressure at maximum load (example tire is 65psi) Available Chart=

“119”= Load Index, which is the load carrying capacity of the tire (example tire is 2998 lbs.) A good load index chart is available here

“Q”= Speed Rating (example tire is 95mph). Available Chart=


Understanding Off-highway Tire Performance:

Important note: For the sake of the following details, assume that the test vehicle is 5,000 lbs., and a narrow tire would be considered a 33×10.5 R15, and a wide tire would be considered a 33×12.5 R15, both run at 15psi for trail use.

The benefits of a narrow tire:

The Argument: A tall, narrow tire is a better choice for all off-highway surface conditions with the exception of soft sand, snow and soft mud that’s depth exceeds 110% of the vehicles minimum ground clearance. Here is the explanation.

•  Contact Pressure: Contact pressure is expressed as the vehicles curb weight distributed over the contact surface of four tires. The contract pressure is not equal to all four tire road surface contact points as the vehicles weight is not perfectly distributed. To ease the description, let’s assume that the test vehicle weights 5,000 lbs and has a perfect weight distribution. Each of the vehicles four tires would be creating 1,250 lbs. of vertical pressure on the terrain. Let’s assume for the sake of this example that the vehicles tires are 10” wide, where the load and tire pressure results in a total surface area of 30 sq. inches. The total pressure per square inch (without equating the secant) would equal 40 lbs.

Off-highway effects of contact pressure:

Deformation- On a smooth surface (like concrete), a tire gains most of its traction by adhesion. On an irregular surface like granite and boulders, a tires contact patch will deform as a result of vertical pressure. The wider the tire, the less the rubber will deform to the surface irregularity given the same vertical pressure. The greater the deformation, the greater the tires resistance to shearing forces (spinning). This is the strongest argument to using a narrower tire.

Real world example: When climbing a ledge with a jagged surface, the narrower tire will wrap the protrusions with more contact due to the increased deformation depth. The wider tire will rest on the surface of the protrusions and will have a greater chance of spinning (shearing).

Mechanical Keying: This is the second critical benefit of a narrower tire. As the vertical load increases, so does the compression and flexing of the tires tread and rubber to the surface protrusion. A narrower tire generates greater vertical load on the rubber and the tread, increasing tread compression in conformance to the surface irregularity. A wider tire in contact with more surface conforms less, and will shear sooner than a narrow tire.

Adhesion- On a flat surface, the adhesion rate of a narrow tire and wide tire are the same, as the wider tire makes more contact (friction area), but the narrow tire generates more pressure (vertical load force). On a highly irregular surface, the higher vertical load force of the narrow tire becomes an advantage, increasing molecular bonding between the tires rubber and trail surface. That bonding becomes so great that either the vehicle moves forward, the tire tears leaving rubber on the surface, or the trail surface breaks away.

Typical Questions:

What is the limit of a narrow tires effectiveness? Tire load capacity and rubber tearing. At some point the tire becomes so narrow and the contact pressure so high that the tires rubber molecular bonding cannot sustain the tearing load created by the bonding and mechanical keying to the surface. Remember, the width of a train rail cars wheel is only 4”, and they have incredible traction on a very smooth surface due to the intense vertical load force.

Why do race cars use wide tires? Lateral stability and cooling. Performance cars have wide tires for handling performance not acceleration. A wider tire exhibits less “roll-in” or deflection which affects tire camber and handling. Performance vehicles also drive at high speeds, which generate heat. A wider tire has a greater surface area to dissipate heat (generated from cornering and acceleration forces) at speed. Smooth performance tires rely on the highly tactile track surface with allows for exceptional adhesion.

•  Rolling Resistance: A narrow tire presents less rolling resistance on improved surfaces, increasing fuel economy and performance.

•  Frontal Resistance: This is another key benefit of using a narrow tire. When driving through mud, snow and sand a narrow tire presents less surface area to the medium. A narrow tire will cut easier through mud, snow and sand than a wide one (due to resistance). The best example of this is when turning in sand. When the front tires turn, they present a wider surface to the sand. You can feel speed reduce immediately when a turn is initiated because of the resistance.

•  Rotating Mass: A narrower tire weighs less than a wider one of the same height. The difference in weight between a 33×10.5 and 33×12.5 is about 5 pounds, coupled with the narrower, lighter wheel, the affect on rotating mass is significant. A lighter tire and wheel is easier to accelerate and stop.

•  Size Fitment: All things being equal, a narrower tire is almost always easier to fit with less fender trimming and total suspension lift that a wider tire of the same height. Wider tires affect turning circle, compression travel (which needs to be limited by lowering the bumpstops, etc.).

Practical Application: I find a good rule is to use as tall a tire as possible with the same section width as the widest tire available from the factory for that particular model. That way the tire will compress into the wheelwell designed for that width, without rubbing due to width. Example: I was able to fit my Tacoma with a 33.4”x10.5” tire with only a 1 ¾” lift. A 33×12.5” tire would require additional trimming, less wheel offset and lowered bumpstops.

•  Weight: Without making this an article about suspension, one of the jobs of a properly engineered suspension is to control the cycling of unsprung weight, which is comprised of the axles (control arms, knuckles, etc. in an IFS), tires and wheels. The lighter those assembly’s are, the easier it is for the suspension to control it, improving performance.

•  Airing Down: This is another critical concept highlighting the advantage of a narrower tire.

As quoted from Sahara Overland, a Route and Planning Guide by Chris Scott (2004, ISBN: 1-873756-76-3):
“…Note that it’s the diameter or height of the tyres that makes the difference in sand, and not, as many imagine the width… For the desert, you want tyres with a high aspect ratio of around 80 because this represents a taller sidewall so corresponds to added ground clearance when firm, and a longer contact area when deflated”

Traction in soft surfaces: It is a common misconception that airing down a tire for off-road traction only makes the tire contact patch wider. That is not the case. In fact, only 20% of the increased contact comes from the width. 80% of the increased contact patch comes from the tread patch becoming longer. A tall, narrow tire allows for a very long contact patch when aired down. That, coupled with the minimal frontal resistance (area), negates much of the downside to narrow tires in flotation situations. The taller tire allows for a long contact patch and still maintains good ground clearance.

Traction on rocky trails: Another common misconception is that when airing down it is the increased amount of tire on the rock (more contact patch), that allows better traction. It is not the contact patch that creates better traction, but the tires ability to conform to the surface irregularities (deformation and mechanical keying). When an aired down tire comes in contact with a rock on the trail, the tires tread collapses under the vertical and horizontal forces, causing the tire to wrap the rock, as opposed to sitting on top of it. The wrapping effect provides greater shear resistance, and in turn better traction. (Technically: the shear load is distributed over multiple planes, not just a horizontal one).

Tire spring rate: One of the great benefits of airing down a tire is improved smoothness. Less pressure allows the carcass to flex. A taller tire has greater sidewall compression, and in turn a better ride. (expressed as compressive strength=N/mm). That is why your grandma’s Cadillac had such tall tires…

Negative Effects: Nothing in the world is perfect, so there are some downsides to using a narrow tire…

Stability and high speed deflection- A narrower tire (and in turn a narrower overall vehicle track width) provides less stability on the road and on cambered trails. In addition, a taller, narrow tire’s sidewalls deflect more under severe turning forces, causing the inside of the tires contact patch (midline to the vehicle) to lift (roll in) from the road, increase the chance of a high shear force skid, or loss of control.

Increased potential for trail damage- A tall narrow tire has greater contact pressure, so when crossing a sensitive area like a muddy track, the tire will want to dig down until traction is found as opposed to floating on top. Make sure to air down and apply light, smooth throttle to minimize trail damage, or just turn around and save the trail from any damage at all.

The Benefits of a Wide Tire:

The flotation tire provides three benefits. Greater high speed handling safety and improved lateral traction on constructed roads (concrete, asphalts, etc.), greater section width for support of the heavy vehicle on soft terrain, and appearance. The engineering concept behind the flotation tire can be found in its name. These tires were designed to provide flotation on loose surfaces like sand. Flotation only comes at the cost of contact pressure. Flotation is achieved by minimizing the surface pressure per square inch exhibited by the vehicle. These features are important for heavy, full size trucks and SUV’s, but not most trail vehicles.

  1. Improved handling: The wide tires on sports cars are not for traction under forward acceleration, they are for cornering grip (lateral). A wide, low profile performance tire provides the car with a wider track, and with minimal tire deflection. As a tire deflects under cornering loads, a portion of the inside (midline to the vehicle) tread is lifted off of the road surface, reducing grip due to the change in camber. In a flotation tire for a 4wd vehicle, the same applies. A wider tire (creating a wider track) improved cornering safety and grip. That is the reason most flotation sizes grow wider as they grow taller, to improve road handling and safety. It is important to remember that an improved road surface (like concrete) is highly tactile to the tires rubber, which is why a wide tire can performs well in forward acceleration on the road too (adhesion).
  2. Greater Section width for flotation: A typical 33×12.5 all terrain tire will perform better on soft surfaces like deep mud, snow and sand than its metric equivalent (285/75 R16 or 33×11.2) as the weight of the vehicle is spread out over a larger surface area. The wider tread creates less stress to the surface tension of the strata of sand (as expressed in kN/m2) and the vehicle will not sink as easily. The smoother and wider a tire is, the better it will perform in sand, as the width creates flotation and the smoother tread displaces less sand under (horizontal) acceleration (shearing force). The same influences apply with snow and mud. If the snow and mud are deeper than 110% of the vehicles minimum ground clearance, than it is better to run a wide tire, aired down and have the vehicle “float” on the surface.
  3. Appearance: Big flotation tires look great (in the mind of some). There are thousands of SUV’s driving with wide, oversized tires as a fashion statement. For a vehicle relegated to pavement work and cruising, then the “balloon” tires are a good choice.

Negative Affects:

There are several negative affects to wide tires, many of which are the opposite of the narrow tires benefits. Wider tires weigh more, create more rolling resistance on the highway, are more difficult to accelerate and stop, etc.


Recommended Section Width: (Represented in typically available tire sizes)

This chart represents the recommended tire width, based on the vehicles weight (GVWR).

Vehicle GVWR Mixed Terrain Typical Soft Surfaces Typical
3,000-4,000 8.5-9.5” (215-245mm) 9.5-10.5” (245-265mm)
4,000-5,000 9.0-10.0 (225-255) 10.0-11.0 (255-285)
5,000-7,000 9.5-10.5 (235-265) 10.5-11.5 (265-295)
7,000-9,000 10.0-11.0 (225-285) 11.0-12.0 (285-305)
9,000-12,000 10.0-11.5 (255-295) 11.0-12.5 (285-315)
12,000- 10.5-12.5 (265-315) 12.5-14.0 (315-355)
Several Real World Examples: (just to show I am not the only one who believes in a narrow tire) 

The Turtle Expedition who has literally traveled around the world used a 255/85 R16 (33.3 x 10) for many thousands of miles on their full size Ford. Land Rover uses narrow 7.0 R16 XCL tires in most of their Camel Trophy events. The Rain Forest Challenge and The Trophy challenge have all been won by the aggressive Simex Trekker tire (35×11.00). Tom Sheppard often uses the 7-7.5 R16 Michelin XZL and XCL for many of his expeditions. All very narrow tires in relationship to their height…

A Brief History of Tire Design and Engineering: 

The History of Flotation Tires: Tires in the past were always tall and narrow. From the 4” wide solid train wheels to the earliest automobile, tires were always tall, and very narrow. It was not until the late 1970’s that this trend began to shift, with the popularity of radial tires increasing, along with the size of American full-size trucks. These factors are what created a change from the older bias designs and sizes (Like 7.5 16, etc.). The trucks were bigger, heavier and traveled at faster road speeds, so the application of a wide tire became more appropriate.

Metric Tire History: Metric Tire engineering became standardized in 1964 with the inception of the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization (ETRTO). This consortium pursued design and fitment standards that optimized tire performance and safety in the European market. One of the first results was the creation of a standardized tire range and labeling method. The range first included the sizes of 235, 265, 285, etc. with aspect ratios of 75% of the tire width. The engineers determined that the ratio of 75% created the best compromise between handling safety on the road and low surface traction performance. As a result, metric tires for tight trucks are typically found in that aspect ratio (example= 265/75 R16).

Other Factors to consider in tire selection:

•  Durometer, Viscoelasticity (Hysteresis)- I am going to touch on this lightly in this article, but a softer durometer rubber compound will have a much higher adhesion and deformation rate than a hard tire. There are several tires available with softer compounds, like the BF Goodrich Moab edition and the Goodyear MT/R. An easy test of the viscoelasticity of tire rubber is to press your thumbnail into the tread. The longer it takes to recover, the softer the durometer and higher the hysteresis. However, the softer tire will also wear out much faster.

•  Siping- Siping is a great way to improve a tires traction. Siping provides greater tread deformation to the road surface, which is why it is so effective on icy and wet roads. The more the tire can conform to that very slick surface the greater the traction.

•  Tread Design- On a high traction surface like dry concrete, a totally smooth tire has the greatest traction as the adhesion rate is highest between the two surfaces. On the trail however, surfaces are varied, including wet rocks, mud, dirt, etc. That is why off-road tires are so specialized and require a compromise of other capabilities. As a general rule, and aggressive all terrain tire with soft tread compound and siping will provide the best overall performance. A Goodyear MT/R or BF Goodrich MT with siping cut after purchase will also perform well in varied terrain.

Tread Design- Selecting the tread appropriate to the terrain you are driving.

Deserts: An all terrain tread without large shoulder block to displace sand under acceleration. Use a tall tire without heavy lugs and slightly wider than for hard surfaces (use a tire in the 75% aspect ratio range). Avoid rims taller than 16″ as it is necessary to have sufficient section height to allow for a long contact patch (for flotation) when aired down. (recommended tires: BF Goodrich (BFG) All Terrain KOYokohama Geolander A/T+II’s)

Mountains: The mountains will present the most rugged terrain, requiring the greatest clearance, traction and damage resistance. Choose a tall, narrow tire (in the 80% aspect ratio range). One that is a load rating or more above you GVWR requirement to ensure a sufficiently strong sidewall. Rocks, loose climbs and ledges are present on many mountain tracks. Use either an aggressive all terrain or a mud terrain tire in these conditions, and favor brands with stronger sidewalls. (Recommended Tires: BFG Mud Terrain and all terrainGoodyear MTR).

Jungles: Jungle tracks require a tall, narrow, and aggressive tire. Large voids between tread blocks allow the tire to clear mud from the tire and maintain traction. The large voids also provide lateral control to help limit sliding and oversteer. Use the tallest tire possible (without excessive suspension lift), to allow axle clearance in deep ruts. (Recommended tires: BFG Mud Terrain KMInterco Super Swamper Radial, Simex Jungle Trekker)

Section Width- A narrow tire will provide superior performance to a wide one. Wide tires are not appropriate for use on an expedition vehicle, unless they are crossing the Gobi. Contact pressure and its affect on adhesion, deformation and mechanical keying are the critical components of traction on rugged terrain.

Section Height- As a general rule, expedition vehicle tires do not need to be very tall, unless the vehicles break over, approach and departure angles require it. Typically a tire taller than 33-34″ is not required. Do not select a tire that is so tall that it requires lowering the bump stops, or fitting the vehicle with a suspension lift of greater than 2-3 inches. Most well designed SUV’s intended for extended, rugged terrain travel have sufficient clearance from the factory, or can be fitted with a minimal lift (1-2 inches). Of course, the larger the vehicle, the larger the tires that are mounted. Unimog’s for example use nearly a 35″ tire from the factory.

Fuel Grade/Octane (Is Premium Better?)

Many people believe that using a higher Grade/Octane than called for in your User Manual is better for your engine.  It is not.  Using a higher octane than specified for your engine is not better for the engine and can cause damage.  Too high Octane can cause Un-burned fuel to pass through the combustion chamber into your exhaust system damaging it including your catalytic converter.  An exception is at high elevation.  There lower octane fuel than specified for normal driving elevations is recommended .  If you go to a gas station in high elevation locations like in Colorado you will notice that the octane rating for each grade (Reg./Mid/Premium) fuel is lower than the octane ratings at lower elevation location.

Sway Bar Disconnects

The purpose of being able to disconnect the front sway bar on a straight axle vehicle when off road is to allow the left and right front tires to move up and down somewhat independently.  With the front sway bar connected, whenever the wheel on one side goes up the sway bar tries to also lift the other wheel.  When one wheel moves up like to go over a large rock the sway bar tries to move the other wheel upward too.  Likewise with sway bars disconnected, when one wheel drops, like into a hole, the sway bar tries to make the other side drop. This causes the whole vehicle to rock side to side more. With the sway bar disconnected articulation is improved because  each wheel can move somewhat independently.  Besides giving a much more comfortable ride off-road, having the sway bar disconnected tends to keep both front wheels on the ground and thus improves traction.

A sway bar is basically intended for highway use.  In sharp turns, particularly at high speed, the sway bar tends to reduce a side to side rolling motion of the chassis particularly in turns at high speed.

Should I Drain Melt Water From My Ice Chest ?

As long as there is ice in the water inside the ice chest, you should not drain it unless the contents are being damaged by the water.  When water still has ice in it, the water is at or near 32 degrees F.  If that is colder than the air outside the ice box it is continuing to cool the contents.  You should not drain it unless you the contents are being damaged by the water.  A good solution is to put your ice inside a “Dry Bag” like is used for kayaking to keep things dry.  As the ice melts, the water will stay inside the dry bag and not damage the ice chest contents.  Keep in mind that when you drain the water, its volume is replaced by warm outside air.  Thus warming the ice chest contents.

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High Lift Jack (aka The Widow Maker)

High lift jacks are notorious for being Unreliable and Dangerous tools for changing tires. High Lift jacks are also heavy and bulky.  They are not the best tool for lifting your vehicle for  changing a tire. High Lift Jacks are also poor tools for the other things some people  claim they can be used for.

Much better and safer tools for lifting vehicles are available.   A safer way to lift your vehicle on the trail  to change a tire  is the jack that came with your vehicle. Probably Either a scissors jack, screw jack or a bottle jack.  For Liability reasons, no manufacturer includes High Lift Jacks with new vehicles and they do not allow their franchised dealers to install high lift jacks as aftermarket items when they sell a new vehicle.)  If your vehicle has been lifted so the OEM jack is no longer tall enough to change a tire, carry blocks to allow it to work.  Or take a look at hydraulic jack extensions like the ones offered by Bogert Manufacturing at

One reason high lift jacks are unreliable is that they are badly designed, crudely manufactured and are seldom maintained properly.  Also, they are usually carried outside of vehicles where they are subject to weather and dirt. The mechanism for these jacks is easily jammed either from dirt, rust or mechanical scoring of the moving parts.  Generally whenever you go to use your High Lift you also need to get a Hammer and Lubricant to make the mechanism work.

Another problem with them is because many people use High Lift Jacks improperly when changing a tire. Most people simply put the jack under the Bumper or Rocker Panel Slider and begin to lift the vehicle. They have to lift the vehicle quite a a bit before the tire begins to  lift off the ground. The reason is that lifting from the bumper or the body one has to first “Unload” the springs before the tire begins to lift. As a result the jack has to be high up on the mast, thus  less stable.  This is particularly dangerous if the vehicle is not on flat and solid ground.

If you still insist on using a high lift jack, below are some techniques that make using a High Lift Jack safer.

  • Make sure the wheels are chocked to prevent the vehicle from rolling.
  • Try to place the foot of the jack on level, solid ground. Often this is not possible.
  • Use a ratchet strap between the frame and the axle so that when you lift the frame from the bumper, the tire raises immediately, without having to first unload the springs.
  • Make sure everyone stays clear from under the vehicle or near the jack.
  • When lowering the vehicle do not stand too close to the jack handle. 
  • When lowering a vehicle on a High Lift Jack, NEVER let go of the jack handle.

The  best place to store your  high lift jack while on the trail is back home in your garage.

About High Lift Jack Hood Mounts:
Do you really want that heavy mass of iron near your head in an accident, particularly a rollover?  It is likely going to break loose from the sheet metal hood in an accident .


Ham Radios

JustRuns now Requires all Participants to have a 2 Meter Ham Radio in their vehicle. No License is required to buy a Ham Radio or to monitor Ham frequencies or to transmit using Ham radios in an emergency.  A good 2 Meter Hand Held is the Baofeng UV-5 R which is available on eBay or Amazon for less than $30.  No license is required to buy a Ham Radio.
We recommend all 4 Wheelers buy a Ham Radio for their 4×4.


Always run your engine when using your winch.  Running your winch on the battery alone will cause the battery voltage to drop and overheat the winch motor.