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The Air Pressure Balancing Act: How to Air Down to Get More Performance Without Debeading

Figuring out exactly how much tire pressure you should run on your rig depends on so many variables. Your wheels, your tires, the terrain you’ll be hitting, and what kind of options you have to air back up when you get off the trail for the day. If you trailer your rig into the trailhead, that’s another thing to consider altogether. It’s a lot to think about, but we’ll help you work through it, and after some trial and error, you’ll be able to figure out what works best for you.


First and foremost: performance. When you deflate your tires a little bit, you’ll wind up with a larger contact patch on your tire. That means more traction, and in the off road world, that means more go. It’ll also help prevent tire damage on the trail, but we’ll touch on that later.

On a level everyone in your truck will appreciate: it will make for a more comfortable ride. The softer tires will absorb more impact, rather than passing it through to the truck.

Of course you’ll give up some fuel efficiency and highway handling, but we’ll get into why that doesn’t totally matter a bit later, as well.

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Jeep Wrangler Off-Road

Beadlock wheel


Not street locks, not faux beadlocks - real deal beadlocks, that are working to keep your tire mounted on the wheel, no matter what ridiculously low tire pressure you try to throw at the thing. If you’re not running beadlocks, test out lower air pressures on an obstacle close to home. If you de-bead a tire, you’ll still have to put a spare on, but you’ll be grateful to have a destination close by where you can get that de-beaded tire back on the wheel so you can get back to torture testing your truck.

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Think twice before using a key (or something similar) in your valve stem to air down your tires. It’s not that it won’t work, but it can be slow going, and much worse than that, it will leave you in the dark when you’re trying to figure out how much time is enough to let out air. Use a tire gauge with a deflator included like the ARB E-Z Deflator, and you’ll be able to keep an eye on air pressure along the way.

Even better than that, consider buying a set of adjustable deflators. You can set them to the pressure you want for the trail, and then when you stop at the trailhead, they’re ready for action. Attach one to each valve stem, wait for the hissing to stop, have a conversation with your buddies, remove the deflators, recap your valve stems, and you’re good to go. Deflating doesn’t get any easier or more accurate.

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ARB Tire Deflator

ARB Compressor


If you have a good quality compressor - one that’s designed for off road trucks, and not just compact passenger cars, airing back up can go from a time consuming ordeal to no big thing. Just like having the right tools to air down, when you have the right tools for airing up, life just gets easier (and much, much faster).

Take a look at the ARB Compressor Twin Portable 12V compressor. You can connect it directly to the battery for maximum efficiency - you’ll be back on the road in no time.

Maybe there’s a gas station close by where you can air up before you head home. Regardless of how you plan to air up at the end of the day. If you have to get back on the highway to go home, it’s flat out unsafe to do that on aired down tires at highway speeds. If it’s all too much trouble for you, might we suggest trailering to and from the trail? Yeah, if you’re not already doing that, it’s probably not the right choice for you. Don’t endanger other drivers on the road because you were too lazy to buy and use a compressor. Pull yourself together, man.

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Not all tires are built to be aired down substantially. When you air down, you’ll inevitably be exposing more of the sidewall to potential damage, and if that sidewall isn’t built to take it, you could be sorry. When you’re hunting for tires, choose some with a thick, sturdy sidewall. It will give you more flexibility when it comes to air pressures so you don’t inadvertently puncture a sidewall in an effort to wheel better.

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Toyota Offroad

Dessert Racing


Even though we just finished saying that airing down could expose you to potential tire damage, depending on the terrain you’ll be traveling, not airing down could expose you to more damage, too. Airing down allows obstacles to press into the tread of your tire without puncturing. If you’re planning to be on sharp rocky surfaces, plan to air down, and do it only on tires that are built for offroad abuse. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in the desert when you blow out a spare and your friends have to go to Las Vegas hours away to get you new tires, and you’ll be so bored and stuck not wheeling. Or so we’ve heard.

Just in case... we have recovery options too!

Whether you’re looking forward to time on the trails, or you just want to get the most out of your new grocery-getter, IAG Off-Road has the accessories and expertise you need. If you’re looking for advice, need help with an install, or just don’t know what truck modification you might want to check out next, IAG Off-Road has your back. Give us a call at 1-410-840-3555, or shoot us an email at - we’d love to help!

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