Don’t let your 4WD tyres down; there’s no point

Pulling into Manning Gorge on the Gibb River Road late one afternoon, I spied two Toyota Prado’s with substantial damage done to them. We’d seen a bit of carnage on the road already, but this was turning out to take the cake. You’ll have to forgive me for not having any photos of the vehicles, as I didn’t want to make the situation worse for the owners!

Kimberley camping
Manning gorge is an incredible place

After taking a bit of time to find a camp site, we ended up right next to them, and got chatting to the owners about the damage.

The first Prado was missing the whole front bumper, and had it tied on the roof racks. The second Prado had the mounts broken for both spotlights, and the LED light bar on the factory aluminium bull bar, and the two outer loops of the bar smashed off. I stared at both vehicles, wondering what on earth could have happened to them, and found out a day later when speaking to the owners.

They’d come over to look at our off road boat trailer, and when I mentioned that we were only running 6 PSI of  air pressure in the boat trailer tyres I got a puzzled look.

4WD boat trailer
Our off road boat trailer often gets a lot of attention

‘We were told not to let our tyres down by someone who runs a fleet of 4WD’s in the Pilbara, as it increases the chance of a sidewall puncture’, one of them said. I pretty much froze, unsure of what to say. Suddenly, I understood why they’d done so much damage done to their vehicles!

Now, what they were told has some relevance; the lower you go on 4WD tyres, the more side wall of the tyre you expose, and this tends to be the weakest part of your tyre. This in turn means a greater chance of getting a sidewall puncture, but that risk is completely worth it, if you do it correctly!

There are far more benefits of letting your tyres down, some of which could clearly be seen in the vehicles condition. We wrote a post covering the 6 reasons tyre pressures are critical, which is worth a read.

In case you are wondering, yes, the title is tongue in cheek. You absolutely should let your tyres down when you are off road.

Tyre pressures when 4WDing
Tyre pressures are critical for many reasons

If you haven’t done it before, next time you are on a nasty gravel road, do it at the normal road pressures safely, and then drop them by 30%. The difference in ride quality is worlds apart; your vehicle bounces, rattles and gets smashed around substantially less.

I don’t think I could handle 800km of gravel roads at full highway pressures, purely because of the discomfort of being in the vehicle, and knowing what sort of damage it does to everything else on and in your 4WD.

You can let your tyres down a little without it making much of a difference to sidewall punctures, and the mines have all sorts of red tape and politics that make running lower pressures more challenging.

For me though, the proof is in the pudding; thousands of 4WD’s doing the Gibb River Road at the right pressures with no issues and two that didn’t drop them at all, with a fair chunk of damage.

Tyre puncture
Punctures aren’t much fun, but neither are 4WD’s that rattle to bits

That said, you can go too far, and if you let too much air out then you are likely to damage to the tyres if the air gets too hot, or you expose too much sidewall and clip a rock. In case you aren’t aware, your tyre pressure will go up and down depending on a heap of factors. To find out more, check this out – Do you check your tyre pressures hot or cold?

If you want to know what the correct tyre pressures are for the Gibb River Road, along with where to get fuel, water, food, where you can camp, what a trip costs and heaps more, check out the Ultimate Guide to the Kimberley.

Do you let your tyres down?

Emma Gorge swimming
Places like this make it all worth it, but not if your 4WD falls apart!

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  1. Hey Frank,

    Yep, speed and tyres pressures are certainly important. What tyres are you running, and what vehicle?

    All the best

  2. Frank Bullitt says:

    When I did around Australia in 2018, when off road I dropped pressure to 25psi and max speed to 80kmh,. Tyres now have 90000km on them, and whilst I was planning on going to to 100k km on them, recently looked at the fronts more closely, and the cuts are there to see. Might replace sooner rather than later

  3. Hey Tristan,

    Unbelievable, isn’t it? I guess overall its better for them, but you’d think the tyre pressures would make the vehicles work a lot harder, and not to mention the damage it does to all the tracks.

    All the best

  4. I’ve received similar advice from a 4wd rental in the Northern Territory. On Fraser, the rental company actually deflates the tyre a little bit from normal road pressure but still not enough for sand driving… I’ve ignored the advice each time and use my experience instead but I can’t explain why they do that.

    They must have had horrible stories with tyre damage with renters driving too fast with low pressure, so long term damage to the car is preferable to immediate tyre damage. And they don’t care about comfort, they are not in the car.

  5. Hey Terry,

    Yep, exactly right. Experience would tell us otherwise, and yet there are still people giving out rubbish information.

    All the best in your travels

  6. Terry Hunt says:

    Sure, reducing tyre pressures makes your tyres a bit more sacrificial but better that than damaging your suspension, fittings and load items as well as worsening driver fatigue. My 20+ years of often extreme rough road travel travel has caused only three incidents of side wall damage. Proof enough for me.

  7. Hey Max,

    I thought it would be clear enough that it was tongue in cheeck. Of course you should let your tyres down.

    I’ll edit it and make it clearer

    All the best

  8. So the driver was given wrong information by the Pilbra guy?
    But also your headline gives the same wrong advice…

    “Don’t let your 4WD tyres down”