Putting new tyres on your 4WD is always a fun time. However, its not a decision that is made very often, so you want to get it right. A good set of 4WD tyres should last you in between 40,000 and 120,000km, with lots of variables influencing this. That’s a lot of driving!
Today, we look at everything you need to know about picking a new set of boots for your 4WD, so you don’t regret it for the next 2 – 7 years!
Tyres are super important
People spend thousands of dollars on accessories for their 4WD’s, but many aren’t willing to spend the money on a good set of tyres.
I cannot over stress how important your 4WD tyres are. They are the primary object in determining your level of traction. Traction is super important for driving on the road, and even more so off road.
A poor set of tyres puts your family at risk for braking and handling, as well as increases the chance of a blowout or a puncture. If you do a lot of remote driving, they are even more important; plenty of people have been left stranded because of punctures!
Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon in crocs, the wrong tyre for 4WDing can put you in a world of pain and trouble.
Picking your 4WD tyres
In general, there are 3 types of tyres you can buy for your 4WD
- Highway terrain
- All Terrain
- Mud Terrain
Within these, you can get light truck tyres, which we always recommend. There’s also some grey areas today, with tyres like the Toyo Open Country RT almost being a hybrid between a mud terrain and all terrain, but inevitably you’ll have to pick a tyre within this range of 3.
Take everyone’s opinions with a grain of salt
When it comes to buying new tyres, chances are you have a reasonable idea of what is out there. One of the first things people do is ask their mates and look online for reviews on different tyres. This is fine, but remember, people have conflicting opinions, and you need to make your own decision.
Consider how different tyres handle on different vehicles; a light weight Suzuki Jimny is going to have a totally different experience on a set of tyres to a fully laden Land Cruiser, in both wear, performance and puncture resistance. This is why 4WD tyre reviews are often so flawed.
In general, if a whole heap of people agree that a particular tyre (like BFG KM2’s) are good, then there’s a pretty good chance that they are. If you find conflicting advice though, you have to make the best decision possible.
Remember that because tyres have such a long life (for most people at least 2 – 6 years), very few people get to compare apples with apples. What I mean by this is that by the time someone has gone through a set of tyres, they’ve often upgraded vehicles or a new model of tyre has come out, making their review redundant.
There are a lot of tyres being brought in from China nowadays. I get emails almost daily from Chinese tyre companies trying to sell me tyres, and they are cheap. Not just a little cheap, we are talking around $80 – $100 per tyre.
For the driving that I do, until a large number of people can confirm they are reliable, perform well and wear well, I won’t touch them. For others though, maybe they are the perfect tyres for a weekend vehicle that only gets used in the bush.
I’ve got no problem with tyres that come from anywhere in the world; so long as they are decent quality. I’d hate to see a family stranded in the outback just because they bought a poor quality set of tyres.
Buy tyres to suit the terrain you are driving on
Most people will weigh up mud terrain tyres vs all terrain tyres, because they’re the most suitable options for real off road work. Road terrain tyres are not great for anything beyond beach driving, and should be used accordingly. If you never drive through mud, or you do for 3% of the year, is it really worth getting muddies?
Likewise, if you live in sloppy, muddy conditions, all terrain tyres are probably not going to cut the mustard! The tyres you purchase should suit the terrain you spend the most time on. They should also be up to the rigours of your harsh travels; the Pilbara roads chew tyres up and spit them out so fast its not funny. Make sure your tyres are up to the job!
If you rarely go off road, do you really need to go for an off-road tyre? It will be noisier, use more fuel, have less grip on the road and in general perform worse for your primary use case.
All terrain tyres tend to be the perfect compromise, and will generally perform well on most surfaces. Yes, highway terrains are better on the road, and mud terrains are better in the mud, but everything in life is a compromise, and you have to pick something that is going to suit your use the best.
Light truck tyres are the go
If you are heading off-road, you should try and get tyres that are stamped LT, for light truck. These are a stronger construction, and are less prone to getting tyre punctures.
Match your load rating and speed rating
By law, your vehicle will have to run tyres that are a certain load rating and speed rating. If you’ve gone for a GVM upgrade, you’ll potentially need an even higher load rating, so check them out and make sure your new tyre of choice meets, or exceeds these figures!
Don’t go too big on the tyre size
Its not uncommon to have people change tyre sizes when they get a new set. However, don’t go too big. Not only can it put you in hot water from a legal perspective, but there are a heap of downsides of running big tyres. Less torque, less power, worse fuel economy, higher centre of gravity, etc etc; its not all roses!
Get a common tyre size
Going on from tyre size, make sure you get something that is a normal tyre size. If you get something obscure, you’ll pay a fortune for it, and if you ever need to get one when its remote you could be out of luck, waiting a long time or in the best case scenario paying a fortune for it. The larger the wheel the more you will pay for the tyre, and there’s some weird and wonderful sizes out there, so get something that is easy to buy.
Watch the weight
4WD tyre weight varies considerably, and if you are running heavy mud terrain tyres with heavy steel wheels you’ll eat into your payload considerably, and make your suspension work incredibly hard. You have less choice when it comes to tyres (buy the tyres that suit your terrain), but seriously consider your choice of wheel, as you can save a huge chunk of weight by getting something aluminium, or lighter designed.
Shop around, lots
I’m a miser. I hate seeing people get ripped off, and would love it if you saved some money. Tyre shops are competitive. They might not always seem interested, but you need to push them a bit. Don’t accept the price they give you straight away; ring around to other tyre shops (including the same brand name) and push them for better pricing.
Tyres aren’t cheap; if you are buying a set of 5 tyres you can be looking at anywhere up to $2500. Even if you only save a few hundred dollars, that’s a couple of camping trips with the family!
Our last few sets of tyres have come from Tyrepower in Cannington, who always seemed to have the best pricing for us locally. We’re not affiliated with them, but they always do a good job, at a great price.
What tyres have we run?
We’ve been through quite a few tyres over the years. We started off with Maxxis Bighorns on our Hilux, and then moved to BFG KM2’s on our 80 Series build.
Our Dmax came with the factory Bridgestone 693’s, which were no good (like most factory tyre options), and then we moved to Toyo Open Country AT2’s, then Bridgestone Dueler 697′s, and have just recently swapped to Toyo Open Country RT’s.
Asides from the tyres that the Dmax came with the rest performed fairly well, with some better than others. I’m quietly hoping that the RT’s are going to be the perfect tyre for us going forward, as they are a bit of a hybrid but time will tell.
What else do you look for when buying 4WD Tyres?