10 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING 4 WHEELING

Going offroad is amazing. Whether you are conquering challenging terrain or traveling to remote locations, offroad travel has major benefits. It also comes with some responsibilities. There are some general safety rules and proper trail etiquette that everyone should know before venturing off the pavement.

Truck: Toyota Tacoma
Tires: Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

1. Know Your Rig

You should have a good understanding of your vehicle before you hit the dirt. You need to familiarize yourself with the strengths and potential faults found on your model vehicle, and the specific weaknesses of your own rig. It’s also a good idea to regularly inspect it for loose bolts, leaking fluids, or unnoticed damage.

If you know what it’s supposed to look like, it makes it much easier to assess what’s wrong if you run into trouble. At the same time, you need to have a decent supply of typical replacement parts and the tools needed to replace them. Things like belts, hoses, U-joints, and tire repair kits are universally brought along for emergency use. If you are not mechanically inclined, it’s safer to travel in a group with someone who is.

2. Know Yourself

Do you take regular medication? Do you have allergies to poison ivy, bee stings, or sunburn easily? Make sure you have what your body needs to function properly and let others know your condition so they can assist you if needed. Always have water and food. If you take more than you need, you can share it on the trail with those who are in need. I always have a box filled with drinks and snacks that stays in the truck at all times.

It’s also important to carry clothing. Do you have a change of clothes in case you get wet, or coated in something foul? How about a windbreaker, or raincoat? Changes in elevation or location can cause huge swings in temperature and humidity. A good pair of gloves will protect your hands, and keep them warm if needed. Being prepared also includes having a bedroll or some warm blankets just in case. Things that every vehicle should have are a first aid kit, tow rope, and a fire extinguisher.

3. Know Where You Are Going

Many of us live to explore and are driven by our curiosity of what lies around the bend, or over the next hill, but it’s wise to do a little research before you venture out. Is there a highway to the north, a major river that runs to the ocean, or a mountain peak you can use for reference? You should have a general idea what’s out there. Trails can be blocked, vehicles might be damaged; emergencies can, and will happen. Do you know which direction to go for help? Always have options in case something goes wrong.

Vehicle: Toyota Tacoma
Tires: Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

4. Know How To Navigate

Can you read a map and a compass? Do you understand topography? There are things in nature that can assist you when navigating through the wilderness. Water generally runs downhill. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, and the higher you go, the less vegetation will be present. If you need to signal someone, head to the highest point.

Vehicle: Ford SVT Raptor
Tires: Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

If you seek shelter, get down in the valley. A couple more good bits of advice are that perfectly straight lines in the distance usually means something there is man-made, and nobody builds a road in the wilderness for no good reason.

Vehicle: Toyota 4Runner
Tires: Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

5. Know the Rules of the Trail

The first rule is to stay on the trail! If the trail you are on is not challenging enough, find one that is. Never head off the trail to challenge obstacles or take short cuts. Trail etiquette includes keeping the trail clear if you decide to stop. Always give the vehicle heading uphill the right of way, and don’t follow too closely. Always make sure others on the trail are OK. We can be stubborn asking for help, so always break the ice with strangers you may meet by offering help if it is needed.

When someone pulls over to let you pass, let them know how many vehicles are traveling in your group. Hold up however many fingers corresponds with the size of your group, or if it’s more than 10, you might want to stop and tell them.

Always have options in case something goes wrong.

If you encounter wildlife or animals on the trail, give them space. Take pictures, admire them, but don’t startle them, or harass them. Taking a selfie with a wild animal is not wise for several reasons. Always pack out your trash, and don’t feed the animals.

6. Know How To Communicate

Almost everyone carries a cell phone these days but reception in more remote areas is spotty at best. Do you have a 2-way radio? Do you use a device that will send an emergency beacon if needed? How about a satellite phone? There are all types of communication available both high tech and primitive.

You can use rocks or sticks to show which direction you are traveling and use a whistle to send messages as far as the sound will travel. Like stated in #4, perfectly straight lines are typically man-made, so a giant X or an arrow can help people in the air spot your location. The military uses hand signals to communicate when they need to be silent. The same techniques may be useful when you are within sight, but out of shouting distance.

7. Know Your Biology

You should know what types of plants, and/or animals pose a danger to you where you are traveling. Is that a typically docile lynx, or a mountain lion looking for a meal? In the worst case scenario, you will need to know how to find food and water. Do you know which types of plants need lots of water to grow? This also provides a great way to stay entertained.

If the kids get bored, quiz them on what types of plants they are seeing. Get some books and keep track of the plants or animals you see along the way. The more you know about the ecosystem you are in, the more you will appreciate how nature works. It can also help you with situational awareness. When the vegetation changes, you know you are entering someplace different.

8. Know Situational Awareness

It’s easy to forget about what you are doing when you are away from the crowds. Nature is so rewarding, but it can also be dangerous. Whenever you are on the trail, you need to read the terrain. Is the trail getting rockier, sandier, or muddier? Are you heading down into a valley, or higher into the hills? Do you see weather conditions changing on the horizon? You should be relaxed and enjoying yourself, but you should also be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Many people just follow the trail without making a mental note of landmarks they can use on the way back. If they get mixed up and on the wrong trail, they get lost. Part of navigating successfully is paying attention to the direction of travel, forks in the road, side trails, and other distinguishing points along the way. You might not know exactly where you are at all times, but you should be able to realize when you are going down instead of up or heading into the sun instead of away from it.

Vehicles (left to right): Jeep JK 4 Door, Jeep JK 2 Door
Tires: Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

9. Know How To Relax

Taking your vehicle offroad can be stressful. Learning your capabilities takes time and experimentation. You will get stuck. You will get flat tires. You will probably get lost. The key in all those situations is to relax. Things are usually not as bad as they seem and if you have done all the other things mentioned here, you will be prepared. The situations that come up might be daunting at the time, but they will become fond memories and great stories to share in the future.

Solving problems is part of the adventure.

Most of the negative things that happen are caused by rushing. See some sketchy obstacle ahead? Get out and check it first. When you go to try it, is your seat belt on? Did you air down your tires? Are you in the right gear? Slow down and relax, it will pay off in spades. If you are in a situation, a clear head will be vital in solving your dilemma. Solving problems is part of the adventure. Adversity helps us to appreciate how easy most of us have it in our daily lives. If you are not on fire, you aren’t dying of thirst, and you are not injured, it’s not that bad, you’ll be OK.

10. Know All These Things and More

These are only a few ideas that will make your offroad journeys more pleasant. There are endless things to learn and understand about nature. Many people love to cook in the outdoors and thank goodness they do. There is nothing better than a gourmet meal in the fresh air of the wilderness. You may develop an interest in bird watching, photography, geology, hiking, biking, you name it.

There are so many opportunities that make themselves available once you become an offroad traveler. The key is to keep learning as much as you can. The skills you pick up along the way will benefit you your entire life and can be passed on to your friends and family as well. So hit the dirt, have fun, and stay safe on the trail.

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ON A DIME: BRAKE TECH – BRAKE ROTORS

Brake Rotors

Tire: MS932 SPORT

“Come on,” you’re probably thinking, “those break rotors are just big slugs of metal cut to fit my car.” Nope, break rotors are another very complicated part of your brake system. However, there is a huge misconception on how they should be designed. Those cross-drilled rotors you have are pretty much junk.

How Are Break Rotors Made?

Rotors are typically made of cast iron known as grey iron—a type of cast iron with graphite in the mixture and sometimes other compounds such as copper, silicon, or other materials that bond with iron. Early front disc brakes and many rear brakes today are a solid disc. However, these discs can have trouble with dissipating heat fast enough. This is where the invention of the vented disc brake came in to fix that issue.

Both types of discs are molded, but vented discs are done in a procedure known as sand casting. The veins of the vented rotor are made of a separate sand core. It’s placed between the cope (top portion of a mold) and drag (bottom portion of the mold) and the metal flows into the mold.

Those cross-drilled rotors you have are pretty much junk.

Once the metal cools, the core is removed by hammering it out, using air, or various other methods of removal depending on how the sand cast was made and bound. After that, the rotor is then machined for vehicle fitment before final surface finishing and coating—if a coating is being applied, that is. Drums are usually made in a very similar way with molds.

Rotor Faces

Rotor faces come in four distinct types: solid, slotted, cross-drilled, or slotted and drilled. How does each of those work and what are the advantages of each? We answer that in this rotor article.

Solid Face Rotors

A solid face rotor will be the most rigid and can dissipate heat very well. It can take a little more abuse and can also be resurfaced easily from “warping”. It’s the simplest design that all OEs take advantage of because it doesn’t require extra machining or complex work to build or mold it. While it’s simple, it’s still very effective in most high-performance brake systems where pad gassing and debris clearing isn’t an issue.

Slotted Face Rotors

Tire: MS932 SPORT

A slotted faced rotor is designed to keep some of the rigidity and heat dissipation of the solid rotor but create a space for gasses and incandescent materials to be wiped away from the friction lining. Gasses come from the natural breakdown of the adhesive that holds the brake friction to the brake pad as it heats up from use. This gassing creates a bearing surface, like how an air gap works, and creates a form of brake fade because the gasses can’t be compressed. The slots transfer those gasses away from the friction and rotor surface along with the incandescent materials to improve braking performance in high-performance applications. A street car normally won’t see this, but if you track yours then you will and is why a slotted rotor is an excellent choice.

Cross-Drilled Rotors

A cross drilled rotor has holes drilled straight across each rotor face that also feature chamfered edges to reduce hot spots at those drill points. This design is for maximum degassing as the venting of the rotor helps pull those gasses away from the rotor surface. The problem you start to encounter with a cross drilled rotor is the reduction of surface area for cooling. This can cause heat stress cracks at the drill points and a loss of rigidity overall for the rotor.

With modern adhesives and pad construction, the requirement of a cross drilled rotor has been reduced to the point that they aren’t used that often. This includes professional motorsports. The exception is environments where having high rotor surface temperatures are needed for brake pad friction effectiveness or where the rotating material just needs to be removed. In other words, you don’t need a cross drilled rotor on your daily driver. The brake temperatures won’t be high enough for pad degassing and the pads you are using don’t need that much temperature to operate.

Slotted and Drilled Rotors

The combination of slotted and drilled seeks to gain the advantages of both: the maximum degassing of a cross drilled rotor and the wiping of the friction surface of the slotted rotor while also retaining some of the rigidity from the slotted rotor design. However, if you’re not experiencing any degassing issues with solid rotors, you’re not gaining much in terms of performance from switching to either version. You’ll also lose surface area that helps with cooling your brake rotors.

…if you’re thinking about getting those drilled or slotted rotors, you may want to reconsider.

Both a slotted and cross drilled rotor will be slightly lighter, but only by a few grams at best. Unless you’re in a Formula Car or maximized the reduction of the weight of your tires and wheels, losing weight at the rotor isn’t going to be of much use to you. It can be detrimental if you don’t buy a high-quality slotted or drilled rotor.

Losing Weight with a Two-Piece Rotor

However, if you want the maximum rigidity but want to reduce weight, you should consider a two-piece rotor with an aluminum hat, as you see here. The aluminum hat reduces the weight of the rotor significantly since that large mass of metal is of a lighter material. You also gain the ability to change rotor faces and material without changing the rotor hats and this type of hat can allow you to work with a custom design by just changing the hat instead of the whole rotor. This does come at a price increase over a solid hat and rotor but if you’re going for maximum lightness, the price usually isn’t a concern at that point.

How a Rotor Cools

Tire: MS932 SPORT

Again, rotors come in solid disc or vented disc, with most front rotors being vented. The venting design is a centrifugal (radial) fan type, where—in the simplest terms—the blades create a low-pressure area on the outside of the rotor as it rotates. The high-pressure area between the blades flows in to fill in that low-pressure area, which then creates a low-pressure area behind that to pull in more air. Again, that’s oversimplifying it. Changing the angle of the blades can increase efficacy but will make the rotors directional. There are also multi-blade designs that direct airflow for better hot spot cooling.

So, if you’re thinking about getting those drilled or slotted rotors, you may want to reconsider. If you’re simply going for the looks, we can’t argue against it. If you’re going for performance, consider staying with a solid face rotor and finding other ways to either reduce rotational weight or brake cooling.

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CHOOSING THE RIGHT TIRE

Let’s face it, the weather out on the West Coast is awesome. The conditions are more or less predictable, the climate is almost always in the ’70s and sunny, and it’s generally easy to prepare for changes in conditions if, say, you travel up to Tahoe for some skiing.

But for those of us that live virtually anywhere else, Mother Nature chooses to be comparatively more cruel with her distribution of weather conditions. Those of us residing in the Midwest and on the East Coast, as surely you already know, experience seasons; actual changes in temperature and conditions from winter to summer and vice-versa.

Whether you’re an automotive novice or expert, you know that tires are your vehicle’s direct line of contact to the road. Aside from monitoring your vehicle’s tire pressure, treadwear, etc., it’s essential that you also choose the right tire for the season and conditions you’re driving in. The circumferential grooves, tread blocks, lateral grooves, and even whether or not a tire is siped can have an impact on how a vehicle handles and brakes in both the wet and the dry.

Every kind of tire from all-season to all-terrain has specific conditions in which they excel, and this article will help you decide on what kind of tire to use when.

All-Seasons, Not All-Conditions

These are the most common kind of tire found on standard passenger vehicles and SUVs. As their category name suggests, all-seasons can be used in virtually any weather condition. Most vehicles that are equipped with these kinds of tires are used for commuting, not racing, have tread patterns with wider circumferential grooves (for removing water), more basic lateral grooves and tread blocks, have lower speed ratings (S- or T-speed), and longer-lasting rubber compounds.

For vehicles that are more performance-oriented, a performance or ultra-high performance tire isn’t necessarily more appropriate but will compliment your vehicle’s handling and braking abilities in dry conditions, while maintaining wider circumferential grooves to disperse water. These tires have a more intricate, aggressive tread pattern from the outboard to inboard shoulders, higher speed rating (H- or V-speed), and a softer compound, which tends to wear quicker than regular all-seasons.

Tire: MS932 SPORT

The Milestar MS932 Sport and MS932 XP+ tires are great examples of this. Both are high-performance tires that feature optimized tread patterns along with wide circumferential ribs and grooves for improved grip and water dispersion. Compared to the MS70, which has both vertical and variable siping for inclement weather, the Sport features lateral siping while the XP+ features 3D, zig-zag siping, which are geared more for a performance grip. The XP+ has the addition of wider shoulder tread blocks for better handling and cornering.

When it comes to colder and wetter conditions though, the performance-oriented all-season tires aren’t as great. Their rubber compounds aren’t made for colder temperatures and the more aggressive tread patterns mentioned limit the vehicle’s ability to not only grip the road but also disperse precipitation when there is water or snow on the road.…tires are your vehicle’s direct line of contact to the road.

In extreme cases, this could result in hydroplaning, which is essentially when water cannot effectively pass through a tire’s circumferential grooves causing the tire to ultimately lose contact with the road.

Tire: MS932 SPORT

Condition Specific Tires: Winter And All-Terrain

When temperatures drop below 40 degrees or the terrain becomes rough, rocky, or muddy, an all-season tire isn’t going to cut it. Lower temperatures demand tires with specialized, temperature-specific rubber compounds for better grip, while inclement weather conditions and rougher terrain demand specialized tread patterns for better grip. That’s why winter and all-terrain tires exist.

Tire: PATAGONIA M/T

A tire which has met the required performance criteria in snow testing (like the situations mentioned above) will be branded with a three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS or 3PMSF) symbol on its sidewall. Traditionally, this designation was used only on winter-specific tires, but as of late, more all-seasons have been receiving the certification as well.

Tires: PATAGONIA A/T W

Both winter and all-terrain tires have wider, deeper circumferential grooves for maximum water dispersion along with siping. This is where siping, tiny straight or zig-zagged grooves within the tread blocks, really comes in handy. As the sipes come into contact with a surface, they aid the tread blocks with better grip.

Tires: PATAGONIA A/T W

In more extreme cases, adding studs to or wrapping them in chains might be necessary. These studs are small pieces of metal that can literally be installed into the tire’s tread and help the tire dig into ice and snow.When temperatures drop below 40 degrees or the terrain becomes rough, rocky, or muddy, an all-season tire isn’t going to cut it.

Milestar’s Patagonia A/T W is an excellent example of a studdable tire, which has small indents throughout the tread for stud installation and is supplemented with segmented wishbone tread blocks and silica compound for better overall grip.

Similarly, wrapping a tire in specialized tire chains also helps a tire dig to ice and snow, but can be harmful to the pavement when ice or snow isn’t present. Consulting both your car’s user manual as well as with a tire shop is highly recommended if you choose to go for either of these options.

When it comes to all-terrain tires, their inboard and outboard shoulders are typically comprised of lugs—extra large “chunks” of tread—in addition to most standard tire components. The Milestar Patagonia M/T is a great visual example of this. It features high void, lugged tread for maximum traction on rough terrain.

With All That Being Said…

No matter which brand of tire you decide to purchase for your vehicle, it’s essential to choose the right one for it as it could potentially have a huge financial impact. Driving on a winter tire year-round, for example, will yield much quicker tread wear along with poor overall gas mileage. On the flip side, driving on an ultra-high performance tire in inclement weather puts you at a much higher risk of hydroplaning and even crashing.

“The choice is yours, and yours alone. Good luck!”

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honda s2000 on milestar tires

ON A DIME: BRAKE TECH – THEORY AND WARPING

Theory and Warping

Your brakes are possibly one of the most important parts of your car or truck. However, it’s probably one of the least well known after the shocks. Let’s talk about the basic theory of your brakes and discuss what “warping” really is.

You need to stop or slow down for that next corner but letting off the gas won’t slow you enough in many cases. In those cases, you need to get on the binders. When you hit your brake pedal, fluid is sent from the brake master cylinder to your calipers and/or drum wheel cylinder to move a set of pads or shoes against a rotating surface.

Those pads and shoes are fitted with a friction material that clamps down on that surface to take kinetic energy, in our case that is wheel rotation. That then turns that kinetic energy into thermal energy from the friction between the friction material and the rotor or drum surface. This friction causes the wheel to slow until it is stopped.

Well, they don’t warp like a wet piece of board does.

While your tire’s traction will determine how effective your braking is, the coefficient of friction of the brake liner will determine how much bite the pads or shoes will have on the rotors or drums. That thermal energy is then radiated away by airflow over the surface area of the rotor or drum.

Discs or rotors of the disc brake system do an equal amount of the hot work of the brake system, but they also do more than just transfer heat. Their face designs help the pads do their job, but what about the issue of rotors “warping?” Well, they don’t warp like a wet piece of board does. What’s happening is that the pads are leaving some of their friction material on the rotor surface under harsh braking.

Notice that “warping” is in quotation marks here. Your rotors do not warp in the sense that wood warps when it gets wet. Instead, what’s happening is that the brake friction material is transferring unequally to the rotor face. This can happen because of unequal temperatures on the surface of the rotor, a hotter spot on the rotor will transfer more friction material onto the rotor surface than the colder spot.

…what’s happening is that the brake friction material is transferring unequally to the rotor face.

This creates an uneven surface that transfers into the brake calipers and creates the judder and vibrations associated with “brake warping.” When a technician resurfaces the rotor, they are removing that access material along with the rotor surface to create an even face again.

That’s not to say a brake rotor can’t warp, but if it does there’s a whole host of other problems going on and usually, the rotor will crack and break before that warping happens.

Tires: MS932 SPORT

Now that we’ve covered that, how about those rotors or brake pads?

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BIAS PLY VS RADIAL PLY: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

When it comes to your standard driving tires, bias ply hasn’t been a term used in decades to describe the latest and greatest tires coming out on high-performance cars. In the racing, trailer, and even motorcycle worlds we still see bias ply but, even then, it’s quickly being displaced by radial tires. So, what is a bias ply and why has it been replaced?

Milestar Streetsteel Radial Ply tires on Raymond Ernandez’s 1974 Chevy Cheyenne Super 10

What’s being referenced when you talk about bias ply and radial ply are how the cords that make up the carcass of the tire are run from bead to bead. You’ll never see it until you wear the tread beyond its rubber layer. The term “bias” and “radial” are describing how the patterns of the ply are done.

Bias Ply tires on the “Big Oly” 1970 Ford Bronco from Legends of LA
Photo Credit: Petersen Automotive Museum

A bias ply tire has its plies in a crisscross pattern as they overlap each other. So, one ply will lay in one diagonal (between 30- and 40-degrees from the direction of travel) while the other will lay in the opposite direction and would make an “X” if you were able to see through them. You can have multiple plies in a bias ply tire, too, usually in 4, 6, 8, or even 10 plies.

Bias Ply tires on a Ford hot rod

Most will be 4 plies, though. Bias ply tires also use far more rubber to create both the sidewall and tread as well as being supported by the plies. This was how tires were done from the 1930s all the way into the 1970s, with the last few cars coming with a bias ply in or around 1974.

Bias Ply tires on a hot rod at the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show

A bias ply tire is far more flexible, so they can make for great off-road tires and drag radials where sidewall flex is beneficial. They also exhibit better traction at low speeds and in straight-line travel.

[Bias ply] treads wear faster and exhibit more rolling resistance, so you go through more money as you use up the tires and your gas far more often.

Because so much rubber is used, they are far more resistant to cuts and punctures. However, because they use so much rubber and are more flexible, they lose traction in cornering because they tend to roll-over on to the sidewall.

Bias Ply drag slicks on a drag car

The treads wear faster and exhibit more rolling resistance, so you go through more money as you use up the tires and your gas far more often. This also means you’ll get flat spots if you allow a bias ply tire to sit on the vehicle’s weight for too long. You’ll also feel like your wandering due to cracks, ruts, and bad driving surfaces as these tires tend to follow those deformations.

Bias Ply tire on a Chevy Nova drag car

While the tread isn’t directional, the way you rotate bias ply tires for maintenance is specific to them. You’ll take a left rear tire and move it to the left front, left front to the right rear, right rear to the right front, and right front to the left rear. Well, unless you have five tires (where you can use the spare as a normal driving tire) and then the left front becomes the spare and the spare moves to the right rear.

Bias Ply tires on a classic race car at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018
Photo Credit: Tony Thacker

A radial tire, however, has its plies in a 90-degree pattern from the direction of travel from bead to bead (or radially from the center of the tire and where they get their name from). They have been around longer than most people realize, with tire patents dating back to 1915 by Arthur Savage in San Diego, California (the patents expired in 1949).

Milestar MS932 Sport Radial Ply tires on Raymond Ernandez’s 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS

In France, Michelin designed, developed, patented, and commercialized a radial design by their researcher, Marius Mignol, in 1946 and Michelin X radial tires were installed as a factory standard tire for the 1948 Citroen 2CV.

…[Radial ply tires] have been around longer than most people realize…

The first factory standard radial tire for the US is credited to the 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III after the August 1968 issue of “Consumer Reports” showed that they had better tread life, better steering characteristics, and less rolling resistance.

What makes the radial superior to bias ply tires (outside of high-load capacity) is that those radial cords allow better flex. It makes a tire act more like a spring and improve riding comfort even as load capacity rating increases. This also increased tire life as the flexing required was easier than bias ply, which would resist and begin to overheat the tire. Because of its radial pattern and using less rubber, you’re able to run a much wider and flatter tire footprint.

These tires will also have a rigid set of belts to reinforce the tread, usually made of steel, Kevlar, polyester, Twaron, or sometimes even a combination of them. That means that your sidewall and tread function as two independent part of the tire instead of one like a bias ply.

Milestar Streetsteel Radial Ply tires on Curt Hill’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS

These belts can also be added between plies to meet specific design goals like reinforcing the sidewall for puncture resistance, increasing load capacity, and many other objectives.

Milestar Streetsteel Radial Ply tires on Raymond Ernandez’s 1974 Chevy Cheyenne Super 10

Because of that and the expansion of rubber compounds using silica, we’re starting to see more and more applications that use radial tires over bias ply. In racing, many tires are now radial over bias because of the advantages of feel and character of the radial.

Much like the carburetor, the bias ply won’t go away but it will be only around for the niche.

Even drag radials are offering more straight-line grip and sidewall flex needed for powerful launches on the strip with the added benefit of not needing inner tubes.

Radial Ply tires on a drag car
Milestar MX932 XP+ Radial Ply tires on a Nissan 370Z NISMO

For off-road, radial tires offer better flex and more grip on the rocks and sand. Trailer tires have even begun to make the switch to radial, even in higher load capacities typically reserved for bias plies. If you’re trying to look period correct, there are even radial tires for you.Henry Astor’s 1932 Ford Roadster

The short story is that the areas where bias ply dominated are no longer solely for them. Radials have become an acceptable replacement in those areas. As ply and rubber technology continues to improve, the need for any type of bias ply will be left for those who are just in it for numbers-matching correct restoration. Much like the carburetor, the bias ply won’t go away but it will be only around for the niche.

Milestar Streetsteel Radial Ply tires on Mike Hegarty’s 1971 Chevy C10

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IS THERE AN ULTRA-HIGH PERFORMANCE TIRE RIGHT FOR YOU?

You build your car and have made it look like something straight off the race track. However, you don’t plan on driving it on the track all that often. Should you really have a set of Ultra-High Performance (UHP) tires on something you don’t track?

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

Someone who builds a cool looking car that’s low and functional doesn’t always end up on the race tracks across the world. There’s nothing wrong with that and people have been doing that since the early days of hot rodding. Even if they do track their cars, many drivers assume they need UHP Summer or “R-compound” tires for their car when, in reality, they don’t need them for daily driving. They quickly realize they are starting to waste a lot of money on those rubber donuts.

Summer/Extreme UHP Tires: Nankang NS-2R Sportnex

This type of UHP tire is typically designed to be used in environments that are warm and dry enough that they provide the right amount of traction to drive fast. The tread itself is very thin, usually no more than 5/32-inch deep with few sipes and grooves.

They quickly realize they are starting to waste a lot of money on those rubber donuts.

This means their tread pattern is focused on providing maximum grip to a “clean” driving surface and their tread blocks will have very few voids and channels for water evacuation. Their rubber compound will also be softer to provide more mechanical grip at the limit.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

This also equates to a tire that can take some time to learn to drive on the limit with. Many times, they don’t make enough noise or even breakaway slowly. When you go over their limits, it characteristically happens fast and without any audible warnings like you get from your typical street tire. It’s why many track day teachers will tell you not to drive on a UHP tire on your first few events until you get used to your car and how to drive by feel rather than sound.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

It’s these characteristics that also make a UHP Summer tire wear faster than a standard street tire and doesn’t work in all seasons. If you drive your car where it rains often or you must drive through even light snow, these tires won’t work. They just aren’t designed to evacuate precipitation that hits the ground and you’ll begin to hydroplane.

UHP Summer and even Winter tires aren’t meant for daily, yearlong driving…

While having a softer compound is great for cold climates—where normal street rubber would become harder and not grip—that compound will also wear much, much faster. UHP Summer and even Winter tires aren’t meant for daily, yearlong driving because they wear much faster in warmer weather.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a UHP tire you can’t take advantage of. You should look at the UHP All-Season tire for your daily driving needs. These tires have the tread pattern to allow for water and even snow evacuation so you have grip in the wet. The tread is usually between 8/32- and 11/32-inch deep but their tread siping is also designed to support their neighboring tread blocks using interlocking sipes. This means, as you corner in a high-G load, the tread blocks support each other and prevent them from bending too much during cornering, decreasing heat that leads to tire tread chunking and degradation.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

They also have a specific tread compound that works in both warm and cold environments as they contain more silica in the compound. The black color your tires have comes from carbon black. This carbon black also helps determine the softness of the rubber compound, so the more carbon black, the softer the compound is.

…UHP All-Season tires really can let you have your cake and eat it, too.

Tire manufacturers have begun to use silica (also known as silicon dioxide), a type of compound that many try to describe as sand. Silica is only a part of sand, however, as this compound is also found in quartz and even living organisms.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

What makes silica amazing, and why it’s being used in UHP tires more often, is that it provides a lower rolling resistance while also improving the grip of rubber tires and results in a more elastic and flexible compound at lower temperatures versus similar tires with more carbon black. According to Rubber World, “The use of silica can result in a reduction in rolling resistance of 20% and can also improve wet skid performance by as much as 15%, substantially improving braking distances at the same time.”

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

So, UHP All-Season tires really can let you have your cake and eat it, too. However, if you are participating in a track day and have some experience under your belt, you should be using a set of UHP Summer tires then. If you’re just trying to look the part, you can stick with the UHP All-Seasons all year long. That way, you get the benefits of more grip without the headaches of spending money on constantly replacing worn tires and worrying about hydroplaning in the wet.

All-Season UHP Tires: Milestar MS932 XP+

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ALL FOR THE LOVE: SORIA’S LEXUS RC F IN THE MAKING

“I fell in love with the IS 250 when it was released in ’06 but never pulled the trigger to call it my own,” stated Laguna Beach, California resident Ray Soria. The following year, the F brand introduced the IS F as the import adversary to the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C Class AMG. The Lexus F series models continued its production but for Soria, they seemed to lack the excitement and design that was needed to stir up his emotions.

Then in 2015, a new opportunity arose with the release of the RC F—the newest RC sports coupe that was branded as Lexus’s most powerful V8 performance car ever. This was the perfect pitch that immediately caught Soria’s attention.

“It was a no brainer, given the perfect opportunity in ’15 to purchase a brand new RC F and a suitable replacement for my GT500.” He was quick to admit that it wasn’t loved at first sight. “I thought the RC F was ugly when it was released.”

“I’ve owned a number of cars over the years but I wanted to try to build a Lexus. I liked the fact that it was rear-wheel drive, looked good, powered by a 467-hp 5.0L V8 (2UR-GSE) engine, and coupled to an 8 Speed Direct-Shift Automatic,” Soria recounts.

I thought the RC F was ugly when it was released.

As the Southern California import scene continued to evolve, so did Soria’s RC F. Car meets and local show events continued to flourish around him, which ultimately fed his desire to begin modifying his ride. His game plan was a simple, but ultimately time-consuming one; he would keep the engine and interior alterations of his Lexus to a bare minimum and devote all of his time into remaking the exterior.

It sounded easy enough but complementing the RC body already outfitted with wider wheels and tires, cooling ducts, an active rear wing, and stacked exhaust tailpipes is anything but. The complexities of it are actually one of the main reasons why you don’t see as many cleanly-executed RC Fs as you would on, say, an IS 250 or 350 model.

“I slowly began modding my ride over a two-year span with a plan for the car to be different than all the other RC Fs I saw online.” As promised, the outward appearance of his RC F was his main focus, as he outfitted it with a number of aero enhancements which consisted of an Alpheyga Carbon Fiber GTS spoiler and Lexon Carbon Fiber Diffuser but not before wrapping the body in Satin Black.

I’ve owned a number of cars over the years but I wanted to try to build a Lexus.

The added room from the factory fenders offers just enough space to house the aggressive staggered fitment of 20×10-inch and 20×11-inch HRE FF04 wheels in Tarmac Finish wrapped with Milestar MS932 XP+ 275/30-20 up front and 285/30-20 in the rear.

In the suspension department, an Airlift suspension kit was installed alongside an Airlift 3P management system. The end result was a comfortable and smooth cruise carving the canyon roads with no traffic to endure; one of the many guilty pleasures Soria enjoys partaking in.

Though Soria’s RC F is quite simple as a whole, we were impressed with the overall execution of his project. Often times, less is definitely more, especially when it comes to modifying a Lexus.

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GOING BIG: A GENERAL GUIDE TO GOING TO 40-INCH TIRES

Going off-roading means you need big tires and the bigger the better, right? Well, maybe not. There are some things you need to take into consideration before going oversized.

SUV: Dan Fresh’s 2018 JL Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Tires: 40″ Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

First, we must confess that this is a bit of a generalization. What we’ll be discussing here might not be exactly what your truck or SUV needs to make that jump to a 40-inch tire. For example, your rig might come with axles strong enough to turn a 40 without breaking the splines or itself in half. You might be able to remove your fenders on your Jeep but the guy in the F150 can’t.

If you’re just a mall crawler, you might be fine with mostly stock stuff, but if you do go off-road, you’ll need upgrades. So, this will be a guide of things to take into consideration before plunking down cash on those big tires. We won’t touch on anything specific to any single vehicle.

SUV: YJ Wrangler
Tires: 40″ Milestar Patagonia M/Ts

Let’s start with the thing everyone points out as the first thing to change or at least modify: your axles. First, why? Why do you need to consider your axle when changing to larger diameter tires? Much of it has to do with the diameter and additional weight of the tires. Yes, you need to re-gear (and recalibrate your speedometer) to overcome the increased overall gear ratio. A 33-inch tire will have a rollout of 103.7-inches and will rotate 630 times per mile.

A 40-inch tire, on the other hand, will have a rollout of 125.7-inches and will rotate 517 times per mile and means you are going further on each rotation. By changing to a taller tire, you’ve essentially increased your overall gear ratio and will be showing a slower speed than what you’re actually doing. So, if you were doing 65-MPH with a 33×12.50, you’ll be doing nearly 80-MPH with a 40×13.50 while still showing 65-MPH.

…if you’re going with big tires, most likely plan on going with bigger axles at the same time.

This means you would not only have to recalibrate your speedometer but also need to re-gear to keep the engine RPMs close to the same for the corrected speed. Fortunately, there are many online calculators to help you determine what gear you need for the tire size increase as well as handheld tuners that allow you to recalibrate your speedometer for your tire size and gearing.

That won’t be the only problems with your axles, though. Because of the increased weight, you’ve also increased the rotational mass and resistance to rotation. This means you’ll need more torque and you’ll do that by adding power or decreasing your gear ratio or both. This increases stress on the axles and usually leads to failure at the splines and axle shafts on straight axles and, additionally, failure of U-joints or constant velocity joints on independent axles. So, if you’re going with big tires, most likely plan on going with bigger axles at the same time.

You’ll probably want to invest in new driveshafts, as those will be the next weakest links when it comes to transferring torque to your axles. Most truck and SUV transmissions and transfer cases can operate fine with big tires, but you’ll want to inspect them more often or consider a swap out for heavier-duty versions from the aftermarket. You won’t necessarily need an Atlas or even an NP205, but definitely look for upgrades for your chain-driven New Process transfer case that will allow it to handle more torque. However, if you have a regular NP241, get something better or at least an NP241HD.

You’ll need a lift, even if you already have a 2- or even 3-inch lift you’ll need to go a bit higher to clear the tires. This is where an IFS suspension starts to lose its advantages as you raise the truck higher, it will continue to ruin the steering and feel of the truck or SUV. You’ll also wear parts out much quicker because of the stresses and the increased load of the lift as well as the tires.

…it’s probably best for only hardcore off-road rigs and showboaters.

You’re looking at a custom suspension regardless if you stay with your IFS or swap the front to a solid axle. For the rear with leaf springs, you’ll be able to find re-arched springs for a decent lift without needing to resort to a huge block for sprung-over axles (where leaf sits on top of the axle). For sprung-under, you’ll have to convert it to sprung-over or you’ll have arches so large it will be pointless.

If you don’t lift, the body will need extensive modification for a 40-inch tall tire to work. If you don’t want to cut sheet metal, your only other option will be to replace it with fiberglass parts made for prerunners and desert trucks. If you cut metal, most states will require you to have something to cover the tires and have clearance lights on fender extensions to remain legal. Easy to do on a Jeep, not so easy to accomplish on anything with a regular body.

You’ll also have to make sure the wheels you use to give you the right backspacing (offset) to clear those very wide tires. The rear can typically be more aggressive than the front and can get away with higher backspacing (lower offset). The fronts, however, need to be spaced so that you can turn properly and not rub the frame or suspension components. Again, in many states, there are also legal issues with tires rubbing the body and chassis.

Running 40-inch tires isn’t easy, in fact, it’s probably best for only hardcore off-road rigs and showboaters. It’s not impossible to run that big of a tire, but there are many, many things you need to consider before doing it. This is just a short list as there are explicit things you need to do to specific vehicles to run tires this big. The best piece of advice we can give you is to research. Look for who’s done it with a vehicle like yours and see the trials and tribulations they had to go through to make it work. Then, decide if you’re willing to do the same.

If not, there’s nothing wrong with running 35s on your truck, SUV or Jeep and they are plenty capable. Just ask the guys who race in the Ultra4 Every Man Challenge.

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THIS TOYOTA IS READY FOR ANYTHING

Venturing far off the beaten path takes preparation. The farther you wander from civilization, the more you need to be self-sufficient. The saying goes that two is one, and one is none, but it’s also easy to go overboard with parts and equipment. You can get so overloaded, you lose efficiency. Building something that has everything you need, and nothing you don’t takes careful execution.

One such truck that hits the mark is Noah Voloshin’s Toyota Tacoma. Amazingly it’s his first build, but he learned a lot helping friends on their vehicles. When it came time for his own, he knew exactly what he wanted. Everywhere you look on this truck you see the details that make it special. The quality of the components stand out, but the way they are so cleanly integrated into the truck really sets it apart.

If you look closely you will also notice the scratches and patina that lets you know this truck is the real deal. Those don’t detract from the truck, they are like badges of honor. Souvenirs from a do or die rock climb, an overgrown goat trail, or a night spent hunkered down in the dirt during gale force winds.

Judging by the raw aluminum exposed on the beadlock rings of Noah’s Method Race Wheels, the aggressive tread design that wraps down onto the sidewalls of his Milestar Patagonia M/T tires has come in handy. Those gouges had to have come from big rocks, deep sand or course mud; all areas where the Patagonia M/T’s shine. They have taken everything Mother Nature has dished out.

They have taken everything Mother Nature has dished out.

Keeping the tires planted is made possible by a custom suspension based on Total Chaos upper control arms in front, and Deaver progressive leaf springs in the rear; all damped by King Shocks.

It’s obvious that Noah’s Tacoma isn’t afraid to conquer tough terrain, so having the protection that covers both sides, front and rear is a must. Up front, a C4 Fab full plate front bumper provides protection while blending seamlessly with the DB Customz fab grill, and factory sheet metal.

The bumper is loaded with essentials like recovery rings, and a Warn Zeon 12s platinum winch. It also mounts a full complement of Baja Designs LED lights. A light bar, fog lights, and ditch lights at each corner give Noah specific lighting for all conditions. His custom lighting covers the entire truck with supplemented rack, rock, reverse, and recovery lights. Along both sides of the Tacoma are C4 Fab rock sliders, and Pelfreybilt skid plates protect underneath.

Outback is a C4 Fab high clearance rear bumper with swingout. In addition to the recovery points and LED lighting like the front, it also carries a full sized spare, 2 Rotopax fuel containers and sand ladders.

With everything to get there and back, it was time to outfit the truck for gear and other essentials. An AFE intake supplies clean air to the engine. For electrical storage, dual Odyssey batteries are used. Noah also carries an ARB twin air compressor. In the cab is a Goose Gear seat delete, and National Luna fridge freezer.

…makes one want to head out to the boonies…

Solo Motorsports jack mount keeps the jack secured, and Leitner Designs bed rack and storage pods stow additional gear. A Front Runner Outfitters roof rack offers even more utility and creature comforts are provided by an Alucab rooftop tent and side awning.

Looking at this Toyota and learning about its capabilities makes one want to head out to the boonies without a care in the world for some rest and relaxation.

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HOT ROD WAGON

A Classically Modified 1955 Chevrolet Nomad

It’s a dream of many hot rod enthusiasts: to have a wicked looking Nomad Wagon. It is the staple of rare but “cool” to modify vehicles and Brian Hill of Hill’s Rod and Custom used his expertise to create this beautiful utility rodder out of his own 1955 model.

If there was one show and actor that helped cement the Nomad for modern hot rodders it was Tim Allen and his show, Home Improvement. That car is even listed as the 19th of the top 50 TV cars by Rod Authority back in 2016. It was owned by Allen and the 1956 Nomad was tied to the main character, Tim Taylor, but canonically the car was the daily driver of his on-screen wife, Jill.

However, it would be the episode titled “Don’t Tell Momma” that would cause every Nomad and Bel Air enthusiasts’ hearts to collectively sink when the car was “crushed” on accident. Fortunately, the stunt car was a four-door Bel Air with a wagon roof added, rear doors welded and smoothed enough for the shot, and crushed on-screen while the real 1956 Nomad wasn’t harmed.

…it’s not a proper looking Nomad if the top isn’t its signature pristine white…

He even pulled the car on set to show it was still around to the live audience for that show’s taping. It would eventually be sold for Ebay’s “Auction for America” on October 4th, 2001 to benefit victims of the September 11th attacks just a few weeks earlier.

Fortunately for Hill’s Rod and Custom in Pleasant Hill, CA, this 1955 model wasn’t crushed or destroyed but was still put through a full, frame-off restoration before it was modified. Brian Hill pulled every piece and part off to strip, bang, straighten and finally repaint his in the Lamborghini Orange Pearl. However, it’s not a proper looking Nomad if the top isn’t its signature pristine white for that classic two-tone look.

All the glass was then replaced with new reproduction versions with modern weather-stripping for a noise-free ride. This was done to make sure the Vintage Air heating and air-conditioning system didn’t leak the cool interior air to the Bay Area’s hot atmosphere.

…a 1955 Nomad that’s worthy of television stardom.

That’s even as this Nomad makes its own atmosphere when it arrives. The interior is a fully-custom leather that carefully compliments that Lambo orange and chrome touches throughout. New, but classic gauges complete the classic looks of the Tri-Five dashboard.

Those new gauges are designed to work with the TurnKey Engine Supply LS1 crate engine, a 5.7-liter displacement that makes 410-horsepower and 420-torque to the crank with its 10.25:1 compression. Inside, the rotating assembly is lead by a set of Mahle forged pistons and squeeze fuel and air into cathedral port GM heads.

It’s designed to be installed and ran as it included everything, even the throttle pedal for the LS1 electronic throttle body but its ECM is calibrated with a TurnKey tune so it doesn’t need a GM PATS key. The only change was the addition of “Nomad” script emblems on the engine covers and painting the intake to match the Lambo orange of the body. Its power is then sent to a GM 6L80E six-speed automatic transmission.

We certainly wouldn’t mind being caught in it.

To control sway and pitch as Brian drives his Nomad, a modern set of coilovers were installed up front but the rear retains its leaf spring design. It’s not a race car and you’ll be able to haul more utilitarian loads thanks to the leafs if you desire or need it.

It’s fitted with a set of 17-inch American Racing VN508 Super Nova 5 in a mirror chrome finish and wrapped in Milestar MS932 Sport tires in 205/50R17 front and 225/60R17 rear.

Brian Hill and Hill’s Rod and Custom have certainly designed a 1955 Nomad that’s worthy of television stardom. Thankfully, it doesn’t come with the usual headaches fame brings but instead gives its driver the comforts of modern cars with the looks of a great classic Tri-Five. We certainly wouldn’t mind being caught in it.

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