Your Off-Road Vehicle and why good tires are important

Sometimes I just didn’t know what kind of vehicle I cared to own.  Most of the time it was one I could pay with cash so I had money to adventure.  When I was in the Army I use to laugh at the people who would slave away just for a car and then sit in the barracks and do nothing.  How boring right?  Still,  normal adults do this all the time and work just for a car.  My goal to keep things cheap and it caused me to buy the wrong vehicle not once but twice.   Who doesn’t want to spend money on lift tickets instead of a car payment?  Still, if you can’t get to the ski lifts because you are driving a car instead of something with 4 wheel drive then what is the purpose?

While living in Colorado I bought myself a Mazda 323.  While living there and having access to back roads for the first time since I had lived in Europe I quickly discovered this was not the right vehicle for me.  Just a drive from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek on a back road showed me that.  Still, I was a budding adventurer and did not know what was a proper adventure vehicle.  After what I experienced living in Colorado I did not make that mistake when I got to Reno.  I did not have enough cash for a Toyota 4runner or Jeep Cherokee so I got a Suzuki Sidekick.  That little Sidekick got me more places in the backcountry than you can believe.  It was a great off-road vehicle.  Still, a little lift and some chunkier tires could have made it from okay to awesome.

While in Honduras I made a grievous mistake of buying a car.  As you read in one of my previous posts in a country that you need a great off-road vehicle I made a cardinal sin of buying a car (Dodge Intrepid).   In Colombia, I had a Chevy Trailblazer that I had access to. This SUV did not get my stamp of approval.  Hell, it almost killed me one day driving down a hill that was overly muddy.  I slid right down and hit the president of my paragliding clubs Kia.  Luckily this great man was pretty forgiving.

For all the bad car mistakes I have ever made luck smiled upon me when I got to the Dominican Republic.  A coworker sold me his Nissan Xterra that already had some lift and good chunky tires.  This was the off-road vehicle I always needed but never knew it. I had no issues tromping around the Dominican Republic. I feared no road not matter how crappy it was.

So impressed with the Nissan Xterra when I returned to the US I went to go buy another one.  I first checked out what other good off-road vehicles existed.  The nuts of all the SUV’s had been chopped off due to high gas prices at the time!  The only proper SUV’s were the Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4runner, Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep Wrangler just did not have space in the back that I needed so it got crossed off quickly.  The FJ Cruiser got horrible gas mileage (20MPG).  The 4runner was good and might be my next SUV since the Xterra has been discontinued.  Shame on you Nissan!

The used ones were not that cheap. So I decided to buy my first brand new car.  It hurt when I dropped the 27 grand but at least I knew that I would not be breaking down on the side of the road and I could make it to the ski lifts.   In retrospect, I wish I had gotten the Pro-X model (32 grand) that was already a great off-road vehicle.

One night I got a  flat tire driving to the airport, it was damaged beyond repair by a piece of a bike wheel. After Les Swabb telling me I need to replace a factory tire they offer me an expensive tire (185 per one) called Mastercraft. Really it should have been called Mastercrap because numerous times on Utah back roads I have gotten a flat just from rocks with this brand of tire.  What is the purpose of a great off-road vehicle like the Xterra if you have crappy tires?

Numerous times I have driven by a shop called Fat Bob’s in Layton Utah.  I saw plenty of modified and lifted off-road vehicles and thought that place has to be expensive.  Well, recently I  got yet another flat up on Crawfords Mountian near Randolph, UT.   My patience for the crappy Les Swabb Mastercraft tires had ended.

Thanks Mastercrap Tires!!

I went to Fat Bob’s and had them quote me their fattest chunkiest tires.  One was 185 the same price as Les Swabs Mastercraft.   The other was a Toyo for 220 and it was the fattest tire you could put on the Xterra.  I asked about a 2-inch lift and it was only 200 USD.  Labor not included of course.

The new improved Xterra

I am pleased with what I got back and won’t hesitate to return to Fat Bob’s over Les Swabb’s.  Today he told a customer he would beat anybody’s price even online.  Watch my vlog below on why to avoid Mastercraft tires and maybe even Les Swabb!  Shop local because you might find better quality.

Tell us more about your adventure vehicle mistakes and what you learned in the comments below!