SWISS ARMY KNIFE OF ALL-TER­RAIN TIRES

Like a tool for every oc­ca­sion, ready at a mo­ments no­tice, the Falken Wild­peak A/T3W were asked to be an in­stant per­former through con­stantly chang­ing weather and ter­rain.

4WDrive - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOS BY PERRY MACK

It was early April and spring was in the air, just not here. The tem­per­a­ture hov­ered around 0°C, un­pre­dictably danc­ing and dip­ping above and be­low the freez­ing point, while un­der preg­nant, mois­ture laden grey skies, we be­gan our jour­ney into the moun­tains to test tires. Within ten min­utes we could barely see.

3W stands for wear, wet and win­ter. It seems the Falken en­gi­neers were

tar­get­ing north­ern cli­mates with this tire. All-ter­rain (A/T) tires are de­signed to be the daily driver for off-road trucks and SUV’s, per­fect for the week­end war­riors and the guys on job sites where trac­tion in loose rock, sand, snow and mud is just as im­por­tant as good road man­ners on dry and wet pave­ment. The M&S rat­ing gets you through the win­ter on these tires, un­for­tu­nately this four sea­son driv­ing also

means you rack up a lot of kilo­me­tres. We need trac­tion and a tire that wears well to pro­tect our pocket book. Can we re­ally have it all?

If you are into off-road rac­ing, in­clud­ing events like King of the Ham­mers, you’ll rec­og­nize the Falken Wild­peak A/T name as it won the 2012 KOH Ev­ery­man on a buggy. The Falken en­gi­neers were de­ter­mined to pro­vide

ev­ery­man (you and me) with sim­i­lar of­froad prow­ess in a tire that we can drive every day and ev­ery­where.

The folks at Falken seem to think they have it nailed. Some of the tires’ fea­tures are go­ing to sound fa­mil­iar - and they should. These are A/T tire de­sign fea­tures that are proven to work. An ag­gres­sive up­per side­wall and stag­gered, off­set shoul­der blocks pro­tect the side­wall from rocks and curb dam­age, and pro­vide ex­tra trac­tion while aired down, claw­ing out of ruts or climb­ing said curb. The sil­ica tread com­pound re­duces rolling re­sis­tance and im­proves trac­tion on ice and wet sur­faces, as does the an­gu­lated sip­ing. The sip­ing pro­vides suc­tion to the pave­ment and the angles pro­vide sta­bil­ity to the tread block to re­duce the wear that cut­ting sipes cre­ates. It’s im­por­tant to note that the LT tires don’t have the same sil­ica com­pound as the other tire sizes. It de­creases the wet per­for­mance of the LT, but en­hances the dura­bil­ity.

Speak­ing of tread blocks, the spa­ces be­tween the blocks are a mixed bless­ing. Move­ment of the blocks on pave­ment re­duces han­dling but we need them for trac­tion off-road to claw through dirt and mud, and we need them to clear them­selves of the de­bris every ro­ta­tion so they con­tinue to work. Steps like a Mayan pyra­mid are built into the sides of some of the A/T3W blocks, help­ing to eject ma­te­rial, stiffen the block, while keep­ing a large open­ing to grab ground on every ro­ta­tion.

Falken en­gi­neers also spent some time and money on the A/T3W side­walls, specif­i­cally close to the bead. In­ter­nally, they built a sec­ondary bead apex to re­in­force the side­wall. This makes the tire tougher in this area and it acts as a heat shield. This has a net ef­fect of im­proved dura­bil­ity and han­dling. Ad­di­tional cool­ing comes from their heat dif­fuser tech­nol­ogy, lo­cated ex­ter­nally in the same sec­tion of the lower side­wall. Keep­ing the tire cooler pro­vides more sta­bil­ity, es­pe­cially when car­ry­ing a pay­load or tow­ing heavy loads.

LT tire sizes have the deep­est tread in the seg­ment at 10/16” so you get the most con­sis­tent per­for­mance through­out the life of the tire. They back the tire up with an 89,000km (55,000 mi) lim­ited tread life war­ranty.

Our test tires are LT285/75R17 E/10, weigh­ing in at 29.5 kg (65 lb) a piece, and wrapped around a set of Dee­gan 38 Pro 2, 17x9 wheels on our 2015 Wran­gler JK Un­lim­ited Sa­hara with a Ter­aflex 3” lift.

Early April in the Okana­gan is usu­ally a warm pleas­ant af­fair with flocks of tourists ar­riv­ing for Easter va­ca­tion. This year, es­pe­cially at higher el­e­va­tions, it was a crap storm of fog, rain, sleet and snow, cap­ping off an un­usu­ally high and deadly ac­ci­dent sea­son on the up­per high­ways.

With the tires mounted, we set out to test Falken’s claims.

We had a cou­ple weeks on dry pave­ment and the tires held the road well and were on the quiet side for A/T tires. Cor­ner­ing was solid and con­trolled and brak­ing dis­tance and time un­com­pro­mised. The ‘ugly’ weather test day pro­vided a lovely com­bi­na­tion of rain and wet snow. Cor­ner­ing on wind­ing, wet moun­tain roads felt the same as dry

pave­ment, and they per­formed re­li­ably up to our max test speed of 100 kph. A stock 3.6L Pen­tas­tar is never go­ing to be a drag racer, nev­er­the­less, the tires didn’t slip when I mashed the skinny pedal to the floor from a dead stop in 2WD. Check­ing the rear-view mir­ror and find­ing no one be­hind me, I said a short prayer and slammed on the brakes from 80 kph. The ABS did not kick in and the truck came to a fast com­plete stop trav­el­ling in a straight line. Bonus.

We con­tin­ued to climb head­ing up to Big White Ski Re­sort. With the hill still open, and the snow pack at record highs, I knew we would find snow. I owned a ski and board shop for more than a decade. I spent 16 years driv­ing 4x4’s into these moun­tains to ski roughly 40

days a sea­son, the last four as a vol­un­teer ski pa­trol. In all hu­mil­ity, I’m not shy about driv­ing a truck fast on snow - with good tires. Four-wheel drift­ing through cor­ners on the way up the moun­tain was the warm-up to an adrenalin-packed day of ski­ing and board­ing.

The Falken A/T3W are good, al­most take-the-fun-out of-driv­ing-on-snow good. Trac­tion is solid and the treads cleared the wet snow very well. The stag­gered side­walls pro­vided ex­tra trac­tion to side-climb snow banks, prov­ing that there is no rut you can’t get out of.

Days later we spot­ted some mas­sive piles of bro­ken con­crete, gravel and rock at an 'un­su­per­vised' con­struc­tion site, and de­cided these hard, harsh, sharpedged stone pieces would pro­vide a great dura­bil­ity test and a real loose rock trac­tion test. And since it was in town, if we blew a cou­ple tires at once, the tow­ing charges wouldn’t be too bad. While it wasn’t as fun as driv­ing trails, it did show with cer­tainty how tough the tires are, and how good the trac­tion is.

The Bot­tom Line

We tested the LT ver­sion of the A/T3W tires, which forego sil­ica in the com­pound to im­prove dura­bil­ity given the ex­tra load and harsher driv­ing ter­rain in which they are used. If you plan on lighter use, and want even bet­ter wet road and snow/ice han­dling, get the non-LT ver­sion of this tire.

As a caveat, a des­ig­nated mud tire like the Yoko­hama M/T G003 will be a bet­ter mud ter­rain tire, and a ded­i­cated win­ter-only tire will be bet­ter on ice. But spe­cial­iza­tion means you have to make com­prises in all other ar­eas of tire per­for­mance, mak­ing them less de­sir­able on a daily driver and week­end ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle.

The Falken Wild­peak All-Ter­rain A/ T3W proved to be a great per­former in snow, wet and dry pave­ment, mud, sand and loose rock. This is a tire ev­ery­one can en­joy ev­ery­day and ev­ery­where, in all con­di­tions. It’s a hero tire you can count on when the go­ing gets tough, which makes it a top choice for a 4x4 tire.

An ag­gres­sive up­per side­wall pro­tects the tire and helps you clear ruts.

Con­sis­tent trac­tion in mud.

Sip­ing im­proves wet trac­tion and the angles sta­bi­lize the tread block to re­duce wear.

Where do you go for steep hills and snow? A ski re­sort, of course.

Dare we say Pyra­mid Power? Steps clear mud, snow and de­bris.

We tested trac­tion and dura­bil­ity in gravel and bro­ken con­crete..

Vis­i­bil­ity go­ing to zero in the rain, wet snow and fog.

Deep tread depth pro­vide trac­tion and longevity.

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