Safely operating a vehicle on unpaved backcountry roads requires different practices than driving on a highway or asphalt street. The rough terrain and uneven surface present several hazards that can harm your vehicle and compromise your safety. The next time you venture down one of these paths, use the following driving tips to protect your car tires and other auto parts.

How to Drive on Unpaved Roads

1. Slow Down & Pay Attention

While you might be able to get away with going five to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a paved highway, you should avoid that on a dirt road. Driving too fast can cause you to lose control of the vehicle if your car tires go over a large rock or hit a pothole. Actively scan the road ahead for holes and uneven surfaces, and try to keep your speed at 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Being proactive will help you to carefully maneuver the vehicle to avoid problematic spots. You’ll also be able to notice any wildlife crossing the road in time to stop without skidding, which can destroy the rubber on your tires.

2. Stay in the Middle

car tires

A paved highway will always have clearly defined lanes, but that’s not the case with back roads, which are also often incredibly narrow. For this reason, you should stick to the middle of the path. As long as you aren't driving too fast, you should be able to move over without any problem when you see a car approaching from the other direction.

3. Know What Your Car Can Handle

Typically, front-wheel drive vehicles don’t handle very well on dirt and gravel roads. A rear-wheel drive offers more stability, but it also doesn’t compare to owning a four-wheel drive for these conditions. 

The latter type is able to travel much easier down this type of terrain, allowing reasonably faster speeds without the worry of reduced handling or bumpier rides. Even so, if you have to drive down particularly rough roads frequently, consider getting shocks that offer increased tire traction and more stability control.  


If driving on an unpaved road damaged your car tires, head to M & C Tire for a replacement set. For 42 years, this shop has provided tires, wheels, and rims to motorists in Kalispell, White Fish, Columbia Falls, Big Fork, Lakeside, and Somers, MT. They offer tires from some of the leading brands, including Michelin® and Hankook®. Visit their website to shop for new car tires today, or call (406) 752-9662 to schedule maintenance.