Monday, March 19, 2012

Tires, Part 3: Treadwright Guard Dog with Kedge Grip

Once I finally determined what size tires and what type of tires I wanted to fit on my Jeep, I had to start selecting from the dozens of different tread patterns available as a 35" tire for a 17" wheel.  Extensive research and debate resulted in my choice being the 315/70-R17 Treadwright Guard Dog M/T.

Treadwright tires are different than any others in the light truck market.  Instead of being a sub-brand of a larger tire manufacturing company (as are most big- and small-name tire brands) they take good tire casings with worn-out tread, and retread them into good-as-new tires.  This results in much higher-quality tires than could otherwise be made for the prices they charge.

How are retreaded tires made?  Treadwright explains the process on their website:
We have a 7 step process to ensure each tire meets our high standard of quality and safety:

1. We find “gently used” tires that have the highest grade.  These used tires are inspected in 17 different areas before we accept them.
2. Once the tire is approved we buff the thin top layer of rubber from the tire.
3. Then a computerized machine wraps a continuous ribbon of new Full Grade Truck Rubber on the tire for the specific mold and tread design the tire will have.
4. We then computer balance each tire.
5. The tire is then "cured" and given a new tread design.
6. Once the tire has cooled we do a thorough inspection and testing of the tire to ensure it was made correctly and is safe for use.
7. Tires are then taped and shipped. 
You can also visit their YouTube Channel to watch videos of the manufacturing process.

5/10/2012 Update:  I just read this article on the growth and success of TreadWright and felt it was worth sharing with my readers.

The tread pattern on the Guard Dog may look very similar to the old Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tread pattern, but there are some significant differences.  Whereas the Goodyear is absolutely a mud-terrain tire, the Treadwright is a hybrid all/mud-terrain design with a significantly tighter tread pattern than the Goodyears.  The tread blocks are smaller with narrower voids between them, but they retain the full tread depth of a mud-terrain tire.  They've also added additional sipes to the tread blocks to further increase the number of biting edges.  The slightly less-aggressive tread compromises a bit of the tires' ultimate performance in mud, but it provides big gains in performance on asphalt, rock, dirt, wet roads, and particularly in snow & ice.

Treadwright Guard Dog M/T:

Goodyear Wrangler MT/R:

I appreciate the fact that Treadwright seems to be thinking outside of the box in finding a way to improve upon a mud-terrain tire's notoriously poor performance in wet, snowy, and icy roads.  Kedge Grip is their name for the unique mix of crushed walnut shells and glass that they can optionally add to the liquid rubber before pouring it into the molds.  Here's what they say about it:
Kedge Grip: Our own unique blend of crushed (recycled) glass and crushed walnut shell particles blended into our full grade truck rubber.  Kedge Grip acts in a twofold way; first the walnut shell is designed to come out leaving small (approximately 1 mm) size pits in the tread surface that will act as additional siping and create more traction edges to grip the road. The second is the crushed glass which is designed to stay in longer and create a gritty surface to help anchor you to the road.
Does it work?  Four Wheeler Magazine did a comparison review between identical Treadwright Guard Dog tires, the only difference being the standard rubber mix and the optional Kedge Grip mix.  The difference in traction on snow and ice was significant.

MoabJeeper Magazine has long-term-tested multiple sets of Treadwright all/mud-terrain tires over the years and have written some refreshingly honest reviews.  They've also posted a couple videos on YouTube:

Their only real criticism of the Treadwrights seemed to stem from the fact that they used a Load Range D tire under a lightweight TJ due to the limited availability of this tire in the larger sizes at the time of their review.  Treadwright has addressed this issue by expanding their availability in larger sizes and a broader selection of load ranges.

Others have had good experience with Treadwright's tires too, such as the Carbon Neutral Expedition:


Based on my initial experience with 31" Guard Dogs on my Samurai, and since various reviews continue to be so overwhelmingly positive, I decided to go ahead and order a set of five Guard Dogs with Kedge Grip in the 315/70-R17 size.  I had a very pleasant phone conversation when I ordered them, and was given an estimated shipping date of 10 days.  That evening, I received an email with five FedEx tracking numbers, and three days later they arrived at my house.  Under $1000 for five 35" tires delivered to my door is an awesome price!





Initial inspection of the tires was very favorable.  They are on matching BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO Load Range D casings with no scuffs, patches, plugs, or bruises anywhere.  The tires are even balanced internally with a small patch glued to the inside of the tires, which simplifies the balancing process and minimizes how much weight is required.  The crushed bits of walnut shells and glass are clearly visible in the tread blocks upon close inspection.  My bathroom scale says they weigh 73 pounds each.


I took the tires to my local Big-O Tires to have them mounted on my OEM Rubicon wheels after I installed my suspension lift.  They all balanced very well, each needing no more than 2.5 ounces of weight, making them the best-balanced set of 4x4 tires I've ever owned.  Driving them on the road at up to 75mph has confirmed that there is no tire shake, steering shimmy, or other vibrations.


Aired up to 32psi on the OEM 17x7.5" wheels, these 315/70-R17's measure a hair over 34 inches tall - right on with the conversion from 315/70-R17 equaling 34.4 inches. With the vehicle's weight flattening out the tires' contact patches, the rolling diameter adjustment with my Superchips Flashpaq programmer is set at 33.75 inches, which puts the speedometer dead-on with my GPS.



At this point, everything has met my expectations.  Upon first driving the Jeep with the new tires, however, there were two small initial disappointments:

The first is that the tires were very slick in the rain when first mounted - no worse than the OEM BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains that they replaced, but not better as I was anticipating.  I feared that the ESP traction control system light and I were going to continue to be best friends, but I was relieved to determine that this was simply a result of the coating of mold release agent from the manufacture of the tires.  After a few days and a couple hundred miles, the release agent wore off and the tires are now exceeding my expectations for traction on wet and dry pavement.

The other issue is that the tires are a little bit noisier than I expected them to be.  However, I suspect this is more a matter of perception than reality, because whereas the OEM BFGoodrich tires made a very loud but indistinct "white noise" that blended into the background, the Treadwrights produce a more obvious hum.  The initial impression behind the wheel is that the Jeep is so much smoother and quieter now than it was on the original tires, but the Treadwrights' sound is more obvious than before because of the easily-pinpointed source of the noise; they have a distinctive "Swamper-lite" hum between 35mph and 65mph.  Once up to speed on the highway, however, the hum is a high enough pitch that it fades into the background and is masked by wind and other road noises; it's not an issue on road trips.  Overall, they're not as quiet as an All-Terrain tire, but they're not as loud as Mud-Terrain tire, which is exactly as one should expect from a hybrid tread pattern that splits the difference.

As of this writing I've only driven on the tires for 600 miles, but I'm very pleased with them so far.  They've met every expectation for quality and daily driving duties, but I will provide regular updates on this blog as I get to test them in various terrain over the life of the tires.  I'm very anxious to see how they compare with other All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain tires when I get them into the snow.

*** 8/1/2013 UPDATE *** 
The Outdoor Channel Outfitters have reviewed the TreadWright Guard Dog M/T and have been very pleased with the tire's performance.

*** 9/13/2013 UPDATE ***
Off-Road.com has also favorably reviewed the TreadWright Guard Dog M/T.  Their setup is very similar to mine: 4-door Jeep Wrangler with 315/70R17s on OEM wheels with Spidertrax wheel spacers.

28 comments:

  1. Great write up! any updates? Also, did you get your tires pre-drilled for studs at request or did they come that way? How many miles did you get out of the guard dogs on your Samurai?

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  2. Thanks for the comment. I plan to provide several more updates over the course of the tires' life, including a 1-year report after I've had an opportunity to see how they perform in all 4 seasons. So far, I have roughly 6,000 miles on them and I am still in love with them on every terrain I've driven. They are wearing evenly and consistently.

    The Guard Dogs came pre-molded for studs, a feature that is available both with and without the Kedge Grip.

    The Kedge Grip holes have now really opened up in the tread. The closeup photos of the tires when new really don't give you any idea how much of a difference the crushed glass and walnut shells make in the surface area of tread blocks. I will share some updated photos of the tires in a future blog entry.

    So far, the only downside I've found to these tires is the level of noise they produce, especially at highway speeds on certain roadway surfaces such as concrete. This came as a surprise to me since the 31-inch Guard Dogs on my Samurai still make no noticeable noise. I think the larger 35-inch tires on the Jeep requires larger tread blocks and a larger gap between each of the tread blocks, which in turn creates the hum that the smaller-gapped 31-inch tires do not produce.

    The same set of 31-inch Guard Dogs have been on my and two other friends' Samurais for over 3 years. They've seen many trails and countless daily-driver miles, and still have no appreciable treadwear. I can't accurately report how many miles are on them, but it should be 20,000 miles or more. The tires under my heavier Jeep will not live as long, but the Jeep's set look to be good for at least 40,000 miles based on the current rate of tread wear.

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  3. How do they preform in the snow?

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    1. I haven't had them in snow yet. By the time I picked them up in the Spring, the snow had already melted. I'm looking forward to seeing how they perform this winter, and I will provide a thorough long-term report on their performance.

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  4. Do you prefer the bigger tires over your old ones... Is the hit in mpg and power worth it? I'm torn between the 315 and 285 the folks at tread wright said the 315's weight around 5 lbs I wonder how much worse they are over the 285's

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  5. Overall, these tires drive so much better than the half-worn original 255/75-R17 BFG MT's. I wouldn't let the decision over 285's and 315's be based on the driveability; rather, I would consider how much suspension lift your Jeep has, and then fit the right size tire to the lift. A 285 fits with little to no suspension lift, while a 315 is better suited for 2.5-4.0 inches of suspension lift. I spent quite a while debating which suspension and tire size was right for me; here's what I came up with: http://rubicon4wheeler.blogspot.com/2012/07/choosing-right-suspension-system.html

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  6. What kind of mpg are you getting now? Did you regear?

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    1. I did not regear - part of the reason I bought a Rubicon instead of a lesser model is because I wanted the 4.10 gears that are designed for 35's right from the factory.

      I've been getting around 15.5mpg in mixed daily driving, and I get 17-18mpg on the highway. 6th gear pulls just fine in the flatlands, including towing my offroad camper trailer.

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    2. Thanks for the info. I have the 4.10 gears in my Sahara and a 2.5 BB lift so I think I should be ok with the 315 treadwrights.

      Thanks!!!

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    3. Doug, it all depends on which engine and transmission you have.

      If you have the new 3.6-liter engine in the 2012+ models, you'll be just fine with the auto or manual. If you have the older 3.8-liter engine in the 2007-2011 models, you'll be fine if you have a manual transmission.

      But if you have an automatic with the 3.8-liter, you'll be barely adequate in the flatlands and your transmission will be doing a lot of hunting in hilly terrain and at high altitude.

      Here's a link with some useful charts for determining your gear ratio and tire size options with the different engine and transmission and tire size combinations:

      http://www.jkowners.com/forum/showthread.php?t=68588

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  7. Thanks again. I do have an 07 auto. So jumping from 33/12.5/17's will make that much of a difference? Sorry for all the questions just want get the right tires.

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    1. I drove my buddy's 2008 JKUR with an automatic and 4.10's with 35-inch Dick Cepek Fun Country II's, and his Jeep's performance was adequate at low altitude flatlands, but the transmission does a lot of hunting on hills and at higher altitude because 4th gear is barely usable. However, he lives at 7500 feet elevation and hasn't bothered to change the gears out in 4 years.

      It's certainly usable with 35's and 4.10's with the automatic; you may decide it's just fine, or you may hate it and insist upon regearing. Those charts I linked to will be helpful in determining what ratio will work for you.

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  8. How loud are these tires? I'm dabating between the mud guards and warden A/T tires from treadwright.

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  9. My ONLY complaint with these Guard Dog tires is that they are noisier than you would expect from such a mild Mud-Terrain tread pattern. They sound like a more aggressive tire, but they are still quite a bit quieter than a Super Swamper or Pit Bull or Nitto Mud Grappler tire.

    All-Terrain tires will definitely be quieter than these, but TreadWright doesn't yet make either of their A/T tires as a 315/70-R17. Keep in mind that an All-Terrain tire will also be compromised in off-road traction compared to a Mud-Terrain; you just need to determine what your priorities are, and how much road noise plays a part in your decision. For me, the Guard Dogs are still the right choice because they offer the perfect mix of on- and off-road capabilities, and if I'm paying only HALF what a comparable new tire costs, then you bet I can tolerate a little tire hum!

    After three seasons and 7,000 miles, I am EXTREMELY pleased with these Guard Dogs' traction. I'm really looking forward to finally playing around with them in the snow this winter!

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  10. Any updates on how they handle in snow? I hope to order guard dogs or wardens soon, thanks! Great write up!!

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    1. I have an update on their snow performance coming very soon, but to answer your question with a generalized statement, yes these tires are absolutely fantastic in the snow! Since I haven't compared them back-to-back with the same tire without the optional Kedge Grip, I can't say how much of their snow performance comes from the tread pattern and rubber compound alone, but there's no doubt in my mind that the Kedge Grip's addition of crushed glass and walnut shells makes a notable improvement. Four Wheeler Magazine actually measured the significant improvement in traction that comes from the Kedge Grip in this story: http://www.fourwheeler.com/techarticles/wheels/129_0908_treadwright_retreads_bfgoodrich_at_ko/viewall.html

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    2. AWESOME! You just confirmed that I will be getting the guard dogs! One quick dumb question, i see you got the stud holes.. If I get them could they act as more siping even If I would not plan to stud them? Thanks! Excellent write up! Can't wait to see your full length winter update!

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    3. They come already pinned for studs. These would be some really formidable snow/ice tires if you studded them!

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  11. Great write up! When will a update on how these tires preform in snow be ready?!?!?

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    1. I will testing these tires side-by-side in the snow later this month with 30+ other JKs of various build levels. That will give me a perfect opportunity to really see how these tires measure up to the benchmarks set by well-known tires.

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  12. Well put ,my concern was on how loud these tires are ,but clearly am covered no point of asking the same question.Thanks,that was very informative and I must say my choices are now more informed when in comes to tires.

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  13. Got a 1-year plus update in the works on your treadwrights? I'm in the market...

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    1. I'm working on a long-term update report, but I can tell you briefly that I have NO hesitation recommending these tires. They work awesome in every type of terrain. The Kedge Grip is not a gimmick - it's well worth the $10 extra per tire. Nothing compares to a Super Swamper in mud, and a street tire will be quieter on the road, but in any other terrain there is no tire that will outperform these Guard Dogs. Seriously. And in snow/ice, no other mud-terrain or all-terrain tire can approach the level of traction these tires provide.

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    2. Other than saving a lot of money is there a reason you stayed with the factory wheels? Did you use back spacers and if not is there any rubbing issues?

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    3. Yes, here's the reason:
      http://rubicon4wheeler.blogspot.com/2012/04/aftermarket-wheels-or-oem-wheels-with.html

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  14. Are you using the stock tire carrier still or did you need to upgrade?

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    1. You can't fit a tire this big on the factory tire carrier - not only is it not strong enough, but it also needs to be spaced differently. I have a MetalCloak rear bumper and tire carrier that is fully adjustable to fit any size spare nice and tight against the Jeep.

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