4WD Tyres are one of the hardest things to compare accurately for a whole range of reasons. You'll have heard some people rave about a particular brand, whilst others rubbish it and say another brand is the best. Whilst there is often some truth to what they are saying, you should take 4WD Tyre comparisons with a grain of salt as there are far too many variables to accurately compare without digging a lot deeper.
Don't believe everything you are told
Pick any brand and model 4WD tyre, and you can be pretty sure to find a bad review of them online. The thing is though, that information may be completely irrelevant to your situation. There are so many variables that affect how a tyre performs that every comparison and review is slightly different, which skews the results.
I'd go as far as to say its not possible to accurately compare 4WD tyres unless they are on the same vehicle, under the same conditions for a long period of time, and that never happens. Even the proper tyre reviews done under controlled circumstances still only get a small perspective; wear, quality, puncture resistance and a whole range of terrains are not properly considered.
The bottom line is this; when you are looking at 4WD Tyre comparisons and reviews, take the time to dig a little deeper, as results and opinions are often skewed.
Why do tyre results vary so much?
4WD size and weight
Perhaps the most obvious variation comes from the difference in 4WD size and weight. You can't possibly compare how a tyre performs between a fully laden Land Cruiser and an empty Suzuki Jimny, but people still do. The more weight you have in your vehicle, the harder the tyre has to work. If you have a full size 4WD, compare tyres with others that have similar weight and tyre sizes.
Next on the list is the tyre pressures that you run. Not everyone understands the Importance of 4WD Tyre pressures, and people complain about getting poor wear from their tyres after travelling thousands of kilometres on rough gravel roads at full tyre pressures.
The better you adjust your tyre pressures, and the more careful you are with them the longer your tyres will last. You can't compare tyres between someone who doesn't pay any attention to their tyre pressures to someone who won't drive 100 metres down a gravel road without letting their tyres down correctly.
Tyre and wheel size
There are more tyre sizes on the market than I'd like to think about. Wheel size plays a role in how low you can deflate your tyres, and tyre size changes the contact patch on the ground. How hard your vehicle has to work to turn the wheels is directly related to tyre size; smaller tyres are more likely to slip and spin, which increases wear. By Fitting bigger tyres to your 4WD, the engine has less power and torque, which results in less wheel spin.
Terrain being driven
This is another major difference in accurate 4WD comparisons. We have every terrain imaginable in Australia; from soft, sloppy mud through to soft dirt tracks, the jagged rocks in the Pilbara and even snow in the high country. You cannot compare tyres between someone who lives in the Pilbara and someone who lives in the high country; the terrains are totally different, and will drastically affect the tyres.
This is exactly why you can take some of the best brand name tyres into the Pilbara and they don't perform well at all, even at the correct tyre pressures. If you've been through the Pilbara, you will know the rocks I'm referring to. They are small, sharp and endless, and play absolute havoc with the mining vehicles, which drive on it all day long.
The percentage of terrain being driven is also imperative; someone who spends 50% of the time on the road and 50% on the beach is going to get much better mileage than someone travelling gravel roads all day long in the Kimberley.
Style of driving
Everyone drives differently; some people are gentle and careful with their vehicles and tyres, and others want to get going as fast as they can. You are talking easily 30% faster wear from someone who doesn't really care about their tyres.
New model Tyres
They say tyres have a life span of about 5 - 7 years. Beyond that, the rubber starts getting hard and they lose their performance ability, as well as become more likely to fail. If you do 25k a year, you'll have tyres for around 3 years, and in that time a whole new range of tyres have come onto the market. You can't compare an old model to a new one, as they are usually completely different. There's no point looking up Tyre reviews for a particular brand if they no longer make them!
Number of tyres being used
When someone says to you that they got 110,000km out of a set of tyres, ask them how many they were running. I know people who run 4 tyres and don't ever touch their spare. If you got those sort of figures, it would be impressive. However, if you have 6 tyres (like we do), and rotate them all into the mix, perhaps the figures are not quite as impressive? Rotating all of your tyres into the mix will give you substantially greater kilometres from your tyres.
Attention to maintenance
Tyre rotation and wheel alignments are critical to getting good mileage. With mud terrain tyres especially, if you don't rotate them regularly you will end up with scalloping in the tread. Ever wondered why so many mud terrain tyres roar as they drive past on the bitumen? Most of them are not like that new; its due to the way they've worn (which is often due to poor maintenance).
The way you rotate your tyres also plays a big role in how they wear; some people swear by just going front to rear, and others suggest rotating them all the way around the 4WD. That is a can of worms for another day, but its food for thought.
Bad batches of tyres
Like 4WD's, there are bad batches of tyres from time to time. If a company moves manufacturing facilities, or uses different rubber, there is potential for a bad batch of tyres to come through. These should be warranted, but find out as much information about it all so you can make an educated decision.
How can you compare 4WD tyres accurately?
So, if its almost impossible to take 4WD tyre reviews seriously, how can you get a tyre that is good quality?
Use your experience
If you've been in the 4WD game for a few years, your experience becomes the most valuable source of information. If you've been running Coopers, BFG's, Bridgestones or something else for years and never had a problem, then that's fantastic. If you think they are good value for money, stick with them. However, if you've had a bad run out of a set of tyres, get something else! You'll gain knowledge through your circle of mates and soon work out what works and doesn't.
Get as much relevant information as possible
The most important point is to look for relevant information. Compare what other people run on vehicles the same as yours, where they live and what they think of them.
We live in a world where there's information overload. Forums and Facebook are a great place to start, providing you take the information with a grain of salt and sift through it. Look for non biased reviews, done externally to the manufacturer.
What's important in a 4WD tyre?
There's a tiny little contact patch on each corner of your 4WD, where the tyres touch the ground. This is the only thing that gives you the ability to brake, corner and accelerate. Traction is king when it comes to 4WDing, and without good traction you have nothing.
There are a variety of different tread patterns out there, with most 4WD owners opting for all terrain or mud terrain tyres. Traction across a wide range of terrains is important too; mud, rocks, gravel, dry bitumen, wet bitumen and sand. You should match your tyre tread pattern for the terrain you drive on most.
4WD tyres are not cheap. We are talking $220 - $650 per corner. You want a 4WD tyre to wear evenly and to last the distance. If you are only getting 15,000km out of your 4WD tyres, the wear properties are no good (or you are doing something majorly wrong!). Most good 4WD tyres should get 50,000 - 100,000 km. Of course, this vastly depends on where and how you are driving.
4WD's get put through some pretty nasty places, and your tyres should be able to resist punctures. There's nothing worse than a hole in your tyre, whether its through the sidewall or the tread; its expensive, often not repairable and at best a frustrating exercise in the bush. Look for ply thickness on both the sidewall along with the tread, and whether they have extra armour.
Value for money
I hate getting ripped off. I'd rather pay more for a product that is going to last the distance, than be let down by an inferior one. I say value for money and not cheap, because there is a big difference. It's fine to pay a decent chunk of money for a tyre that is going to last a long time and cause you no problems. Cheaper is often not better value for money.
Beyond the above, the general quality of the tyre is important; if it de-laminates or you get lugs breaking off, the tyre is a let down.
Speed and load rating
When you replace your 4WD tyres, take a minute to ensure they are suitable for your vehicle. They need to have a higher speed and load rating than what is specified on your tyre placard.
Above all, 4WD tyres are extremely important
When it comes to getting new tyres for your 4WD, take the time and do it properly. They are one of the most important components on a 4WD. They affect your safety, hip pocket, comfort and ability to drive difficult 4WD tracks. Do a bit of research, find relevant, accurate feedback and buy your next set of tyres knowing they are worth your hard earned.
What do you reckon about 4WD Tyres? What else should you look for? Have you had a bad run with a particular brand?