Long Term Review – Falken Wildpeak AT3W (Update: March 2019)
30 second review: First impressions are the Falken Wildpeak tires look really aggressive (awesome) on the Tacoma. Compared to my previous tires – which weighed 6 lbs less – the acceleration on flats is about the same if not slightly quicker. Acceleration uphill seems to require a bit more power but I’ll update on that in my next post. The most noticeable feature however is that the Wildpeaks have virtually no road noise. I actually heard the sound of wind instead of the drone of my tires on the drive home from the tire shop. Check back as I will be updating on tire wear, and on and off-road performance every 10,000 miles and after each new type of terrain the tires see.
After 40,000 miles it was finally time to replace the Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs 265/75/R16 that came on my truck when I bought it with Falken’s Wildpeak AT3W’s. While the Duractracs were good enough I always seemed to have issues on relatively minor mud or snow and had to turn on 4 wheel drive at times that didn’t really call for it. The Duratracs also wore really quick and I had chunking which exposed the underlying wire from only a few trips which is ultimately why I decided to search for a different tire.
I did a lot of research on brands and sizes and chose to give skinny tires a try. For the uninitiated, these are tires with a high aspect ratio of usually 80 or 85 (the second number in your tire size, e.g. 235/85/R16). Historically skinny tires were used for off-roading, and frankly physics justifies their use over the some big ole’ 315’s, which while they look bad-ass aren’t necessarily the best for the overlanding we’re planning on doing.
There used to be a classic article about the benefits of “skinny” versus “fat” tires on Expeditions West, however that website no longer exists. The basics though are that a skinny tire will:
- Generally weigh less than its counterpart with the same diameter (meaning better fuel efficiency)
- Cut through mud, snow, and sand as opposed to floating on top of it (meaning better traction but you may lose some ground clearance)
- And when you air down the contact patch is longer, allowing for more conformance to obstacles, and the additional sidewall allows for more compression and a smoother ride.
Now this all sounds great but the main downside is that you will have less stability against lateral movement. Also, because the tire tends to dig in to soft materials instead of floating, you are theoretically more prone to trail damage to the underside of your vehicle. To this I say: take your time on obstacles and know when to go around, and if you’re digging into soft materials there generally aren’t the rocks that would damage your truck.
Now onto tire model. Once you’ve limited yourself to skinny tires there are a handful of 235’s (which end up being 32″ tires) and even less 255’s (a 33″ tire). I chose to go with the Falken Wildpeaks because of the numerous reviews I’ve read claiming their great off-road ability, very good wear rate, and the best part of all is they look really good and they’re half the price of comparable BF Goodrich and Cooper models.
In the next few months we will be taking the Tacoma through the desert, rock gardens, and the Sierras a couple times so I will be continually updating this blog to record my experience with how the tires perform. I will also be tracking the wear of the tires to see if the claims of longevity are true.
March 2018: Just got the Falken Wildpeak AT3W’s mounted and they look great. They have a deep tread and a very aggressive side wall. Combined with their E-load rating (common for skinny 235’s) the Wildpeaks should be damn near unstoppable on the trail. Driving home from the tire shop my initial perception is that the truck seems more nimble and the acceleration on the flats seems quicker than my previous Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs which weighed 6 pounds less. However, I did feel a bit of hesitation on climbs and I’ll be paying special notice to this and any MPG hit on upcoming trips. The most noticeable change however is that the Wildpeaks have virtually no road noise – I actually heard the sound of wind instead of the drone of my tires!
- Mounted Diameter: 31″, so it looses 0.7″ when loaded (note my truck weighs about 200# more than a stock Tacoma)
- Tread Readings:
- Tire 1 (Driver Front) : 13mm, which is much closer to 16/32″ versus the 17/32″ that Falken claims on their spec sheet
- Tire 2 (Passenger Front): 13mm
- Tire 3 (Passenger Rear): 13 mm
- Tire 4 (Driver Rear): 13 mm
April 2018 Update: We just got back from Joshua Tree and you can check out our trip report here. Before leaving for the trip I performed the “chalk test” on the Wildpeaks and determined that the front tires should be inflated to 46 psi, and the rears to 40. So you Tacoma owners can use that as a reference point.
To do the chalk test you:
- Air your tires up beyond where you think they need to be – probably close to 50 psi, but don’t exceed your rating printed on your sidewall. That way you’re only adjusting the pressure down which makes life easier when you’re trying to dial in the perfect pressure as you’ll read later.
- Mark a 1-2″ line across each tire.
- Drive a couple hundred feet or so and check the tires to see the wear pattern of the chalk.
- If more chalk has worn toward the outsides your tires are under inflated.
- If more chalk has worn toward the center your tires are over-inflated.
- Play around with the pressures until you have even wear of the chalk and make note because once you’re done wheeling you’re gonna want to air back up when you’re driving on hard pack dirt or asphalt (we used the Viair 88p which worked like a champ and it’s small and inexpensive).
More importantly, Joshua Tree was the first time the Wildpeaks got to see some dirt. I ended up airing the tires down to 30 psi to ease up on the washboard ruts that are the product of the park grading Geology Tour Road so that it’s accessible for all types of cars. Toward the end of the trail and all of Berdoo Canyon the trail is not maintained and that’s when I actually got to check out the traction. There were a couple good sized ruts and rocks, and some sandy, gravely, and off camber sections to get through and the tires never slipped once. This definitely wasn’t a hard trail by any stretch so they performed as expected. We are planning a trip to Anza-Borrego where the tires can really be put to the test for desert terrain. Sooner than that we’re heading to the Sierras so be on the lookout for the next update.
June 2018 Update: I finally got to do a proper off road trail you can read about here. Overall the tires were great but I did notice they seemed to slide around a bit and I felt a distinct slide into a rut on a steep downhill which was honestly a little alarming. The reason the tire was prone to doing that is because it is a skinny tire. That being said I didn’t air down at all but I have no doubt that had I aired down this would not have happened since the foot print would increase.
March 2019 Update: We took the truck out to Ocotillo Wells to check out Fish Creek and the tires were fantastic in the deep sand. We aired down to 30 psi for a little extra traction but never had any issues the entire trip. The tires continue to be silent on the highway as well which still amazes me compared to the previous tires.