Overland Gear – Off-Road Tire Inflation Systems
Under the pump
Imagine never having to manually inflate and deflate your off-road tires again – welcome to the world of the Off-Road Tire Inflation System.
Tire pressures are a lot like gear ratios. Which gear you select depends on what the vehicle is doing, and that varies from moment to moment. The optimum tire pressure changes almost as frequently too. At high speeds, heavily loaded, you want high pressures. As soon the road turns to dirt you’ll want to drop, and further again for low range work. Then maybe there’s an extra-steep hill where you’d want another few psi out, then quickly back in, or a short stretch of pavement. Perhaps you’re about to hook up a heavy trailer. Or maybe it’s two o’clock in the morning after an extended day trip and you just want to get home and not stop to air up in the cold rain.
The problem is that tire pressures aren’t easy or quick to change, so we tend to compromise and only change them occasionally. We bounce around in the rough for short distances or wear out tires on the pavement when they’re set low because it’s too much trouble to air up or down for a short drive in different conditions.
Now that excuse is out the window with the Off-Road Tire Inflation System, the term used to refer to systems that allow the driver to control tire pressures from the cab. Off-Road Tire Inflation Systems has been around since the 1940s and are widely used by the military and trucking companies that drive on a mix of soft and hard roads. It’s also available as an option on large vehicles like Unimogs.
Off-Road Tire Inflation Systems haven’t really been available to Overlanders until recently, with kits available from UpDownAir, Viair, ARB and a few others. The setup is pretty simple; you need an on-board air compressor, hoses to each wheel, a tire pressure gauge where the driver can see it and a control box to inflate or deflate. The only tricky part is getting the air to the tire. No modifications to the rim are required, and any competent home mechanic could install it.
It’s a great experience to be able to look at an obstacle and dial in exactly what pressure you want, and the effect is a more capable Overland vehicle.
This is one impressively useful device. The cost for the kits is around $300 plus the on-board air compressor or fitted with everything it’ll be $850-$1,400. The system can be installed to manage all four tires at the same time, adjust individual tires or split front/rear.
Up Down Air Systems lets you easily equalize all your tires to the same tire pressure in just a few simple steps. Airing up or down is easy, fun and simple. All your tires are accurately set when you’re using the Air It Up System. Whether it’s in the sand, mud or dirt, Overlanding or crawling, you can air up or down to the proper tire pressure easily and quickly. Then when it’s time to return to the road, you can put your mind at ease knowing that you can drive home with properly inflated tires.
When you drive on improperly inflated tires, it can cause permanent damage. When you’re driving on the pavement you want to make sure you have all 4 tires set at their properly recommended tire pressures. It’s the same thing when you’re driving off-road also. Now you can easily switch between the proper on and off-road tire pressures in just a few easy steps using Up Down Air Systems.
Now, you could argue an Off-Road Tire Inflation System isn’t necessary, and you’d be right, in the same way, that a five-speed gearbox isn’t necessary, and nor are variable-speed windshield wipers. But necessary or not, once you’ve tried adapting the tire pressures to the terrain as easily as we can change gear you realize it’s not a gimmick, it’s a very good idea.