Trucks are cool. They used to be solely utilitarian vehicles, meant for work and work only, but those days are long gone. Today’s truck is capable of so much more, and you don’t have to live in Texas to own a cool one. Take the powerTV 2011 F150 for example – it has the all-new Ecoboost V6, which manages to knock down 22 mpg, while producing 365hp and 420 lb/ft, the best fuel economy in the full-size truck market. Not only is it efficient, it looks good and has the cheese to haul our projects around. Because trucks are so popular, even a brand new rig like this can get lost in the asphalt sea of the local shopping center parking lot. We needed to fix that by adding a set of Dick Cepek Torque wheels and Mickey Thompson STZ tires.
Dick Cepek Torque Wheels
Additionally, these wheels are designed to work with the truck’s TPMS, or Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Each wheel has a pressure monitor mounted to the backside of the valve stem. A good aftermarket wheel must be capable of mounting this, otherwise you lose that feature and gain a check engine light.
“The Dick Cepek Torque wheels were designed specifically for late-model trucks that have TPMS sensors to allow you to directly transfer the original sensors from the stock wheels without any clearance problems on the inside of the wheel” said Don Sneddon of Dick Cepek & Mickey Thompson Performance Wheels and Tires.
While we could have gone with 20s or even 22s, this truck is used for hauling and will see some off road action, so we decided to keep the stock wheel size (18×8.5”) and started looking for tires. Also, increasing the diameter of the wheels can begin to create problems with the speedometer’s calibration as well as suspension interference.
Mickey Thompson STZ Tires
Mickey Thompson tires are known around the world as the leader in high-performance, on the street, strip, and on the rocks. No, we aren’t talking about Vodka and limes, these rocks don’t melt. Mickey Thompson off-road tires are considered by many to be the best in the business, offering durability and aggressive grip that gets you up and over the mountain. The problem with off-road tires has always been the noise factor. Aggressive tread means lots of road noise; it is just a part of the equation, up until now.
Mickey Thompson Baja STZ PN# 50831
- Strategically Placed and Shaped Siping to Promote Long Wear and Improve Traction on Wet or Icy Surfaces
- Serrated Tie Bars and Shoulder Scallops for Improved Tread Element Stability and Off-Road Traction
- Multi Draft Lug Angles Improve Self Cleaning, Increase Lug Stability, and Reduce Stone Retention
- LT Metric Sizes Offer Increased Towing Capability
The compounds today have improved to help both on highway performance and off road traction.
The designers at Mickey Thompson went all out on the Baja STZ, incorporating key points such as multi-angle lugs in the tread to provide self-cleaning (less mud) and more stability in the tread itself. This also reduces the tread’s tendency to retain rocks, which become projectiles when you get back to the highway.
The Baja STZ tires were a good choice for our truck, as they also increase the towing capacity. We have a lot of projects that get towed to the drag strip, along with the occasional desire to go off roading, so the lifespan and capacity are big factors in our tire choice.
With a treadwear factor of 560 (for comparison, the BFG Radial TA has a 400 rating), these tires should last many, many miles. Sneddon told us, “We estimate around 50,000 miles if properly maintained. Tire pressure should be checked and adjusted monthly and tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.” We stayed with the stock tire diameter so there was no need to adjust the speedometer, a good thing too because there is currently no method of adjusting the Ecoboost speedo.
We mounted the tires in the PowerTV shop and bolted them to the truck. As you can imagine, this project is about as tough as changing a flat tire. Since the wheels we used are under 20-inches, there were no issues with suspension interference. Keep in mind that many older tire machines are not capable of mounting 20-inch and larger wheels, which means you may have to skip the Tire Shack and take your rims to a big tire shop (which means paying a little more for the same job).
But How Do They Perform?
With the wheels and tires mounted, balanced and bolted to the truck, it was time for a test drive. We expected an increase in road noise, after all, these are off-road style tires. Amazingly, there was very little in the way of additional noise. Yes, the road noise did increase a little, but nothing like set a 44-inch mud boggers. The sound insulation on the F150 is certainly sufficient to quell most of the increase.
“The biggest difference we saw with the new Mickey Thompson tires is the ride and handling” said Editor Mark Gearhart, “The ride firmed up a little, which is good because the stock tires were too soft, they have a real tendency to roll in the corners. The Baja STZs don’t.” Off-road performance is even better. The tires give the truck more confidence whereas the stock tires were a little sketchy. Having more traction and more confidence in your tires makes off-roading more fun and that is the whole point.