If you’ve just bought a set of 4WD tyres and are wondering how long they might last for, we’re here to answer that very question. In this post, we look at what the typical range is, what influences tyre life on a 4WD and what experiences we’ve had in the past.
There’s a heap of different types of 4WD tyres, starting from the road terrain tyres that most 4WD’s come with from the factory when they are new through to all terrain tyres, and lastly mud terrain tyres. They will all wear differently, with a heap of different variables that we go into below.
However, know that for most vehicles, you should get between 40,000km and 80,000km from a set of 4 tyres, rotated and well cared for. Some people do get up to 100,000km from their tyres, but generally its rotating a 5th or 6th tyre into the mix.
What affects tyre wear?
Weight of your vehicle
In general, the heavier your 4WD, the faster you’ll wear your tyres out. This is pretty simple physics, and although it does relate to tyre size and pressure, more weight is generally bad (for almost everything!).
The larger the tyre, the longer it should last. This applies to both width and height, but the end result is the same. That’s not to say you should go out and fit huge tyres. Here’s 8 reasons why bigger tyres are not always better.
If there’s one thing that can hugely influence 4WD tyre life, its your driving style. If you accelerate hard, brake hard and corner hard, your tyres will wear out far faster than someone who drives smoothly and carefully.
What’s even harder on 4WD tyres is off road driving; if you are happy to spin your wheels considerably on rocky or rough terrain, you will get far more wear than someone who tries to limit wheel spin. I’ve seen people smoke their tyres up on rocks, and that’s your rubber literally burning away!
Tyre tread pattern and terrain driven on
Bitumen tends to be the most friendly terrain to drive on (except maybe sand) in terms of wear. A 4WD that does long road trips with minimal braking on bitumen will last far longer than someone who never leaves a gravel road, particularly one that is rocky and sharp.
The BFG KM2’s that we had on our 80 Series Land Cruiser were in great shape before we did the Gibb River Road, and we saw significant wear occur over about 2000km of gravel, particularly on the rear axle which was doing most of the work.
Tyre pressures and wheel alignments.
Tyre pressure is hugely critical when it comes to good tyre wear. Too low and you’ll end up with the edges of your tyres wearing out, and too high and the centres will wear out.
Likewise, if your wheel alignment goes bad and you do nothing about it, you can destroy a set of tyres in under 10,000km. As an extreme example, I saw a post recently from a bloke who ruined his new tyres on a trip from Brisbane to Sydney (900km). He’d installed a lift kit and not had the alignment done, and the front tyres were right down to the tyre wear indicators in one (not very long) trip!
I make a point of regularly inspecting the tyres (when you are airing up or down) and you’ll soon see if they are not wearing as they should be. Ideally you have even wear across the entire tread. If its wearing on one side of the tyre, its usually related to wheel alignment.
2WD or 4WD
The driven wheels will always wear far faster than the non driven. On majority of 4WD’s, that means the rear will wear faster.
You do get some full time 4WD vehicles that balance the wear a bit more, but most are driven from the rear.
On this very point, if you don’t bother to engage 4WD when you are driving on gravel, you’ll see far more wear again on the rear, as it has to work twice as hard as it could to move your vehicle, and you get lots of slippage on gravel roads.
The more often you rotate your tyres, the longer they will last. This is particularly the case with mud terrain tyres that have a habit of scalloping, and if you don’t get on top of it quickly by rotating the tyres then they’ll get to a stage where you can’t fix it, and you have to live with noise, fast wearing tyres until they are dead.
Somewhere between 5000 and 10,000km is the ideal tyre rotation timeframe, and most people can do it themselves. Obviously you can extend this time frame to what ever you want, as long as you monitor the tyre wear and jump on anything that is unusual.
If you have one or two spare tyres that are in good condition (which you should), then use it as part of the rotation. There’s nothing worse than wearing 4 tyres out and having one or two ‘brand new’ tyres that are now 5 years old, and really good for nothing.
Motor power and torque
Vehicles that are underpowered will generally get better tyre wear as you are physically unable to push the tyres to their limits. If you have a 4WD with plenty of power though, its much easier to slip or spin the tyres, and that increases wear.
Of course, driver ability and care factor is the main thing here, but if you can’t physically push your tyres to the maximum they’ll usually last longer.
Towing or not
You can’t beat physics. If you tow something, your vehicle is going to work harder to bring it along. Every time you accelerate your vehicle will be under more stress, and the same applies when you brake, unless your trailer is doing more than its fair share of braking.
It’s not the end of the world, but it certainly does increase your wear.
Tyre hardness and age
Rubber naturally deteriorates, and gets harder as it gets older. If you aren’t sure how to tell tyre age we have a post explaining it, but realistically you shouldn’t be running tyres that are any older than 5 – 7 years of age.
Tyres that are older will be harder, and will wear very differently to a new set of soft, grippy rubber straight from a tyre shop.
How low you let your tread get
People change their tyres at different stages. I know those who won’t run tyres that are more than 50% worn as the chances of a puncture go up and the grip goes down considerably. On the flip side, there are people who wear their tyres out until the wear indicators are showing (and beyond!).
Obviously the more you allow your tyres to wear, the longer they are going to last. It is however, a bit of a balance with traction, safety and puncture resistance as tyres that are almost dead are not very good in any of these factors.
I was reading a sign at the Isuzu dealership near us the other day that was suggesting the difference from 8mm tread to 3 – 5mm is about 35% extra stopping distance in the wet, and 1.6mm tread is about an extra 50% stopping distance. When you need to stop in a hurry, that’s a big difference, and as you’d imagine off road limited tread seriously hurts your ability to get traction too.
Whether you get any irreparable punctures
If you get a puncture or two in the sidewall of your tyres, there’s a good chance you’ll be up for a new set. That said, I’ve been told you can actually have sidewalls repaired and signed off by some truck tyre repairers, so its something worth looking into!
Alternatively, you can buy two new tyres and keep the old ones running, but it really depends on how much tread you have left, and how old the tyres are. Sometimes you can get a great deal on 4 new tyres and the hassle isn’t worth it.
Terrain you drive on
By far and away the biggest variable into tyre life is the terrain you drive on. Beach and dune driving is probably the most friendly terrain on your tyres and I reckon a set would almost never wear out if you never left the beach, but that’s unlikely to ever happen.
Bitumen is good for tyre life too, especially doing long distance travelling and less of the stop/start city driving.
Gravel and rocks are the worst for tyre life, and especially some roads in the Pilbara which have stones that are sharp and chip the living daylights out of your rubber. It’s impossible to compare tyre life between someone on opposite ends of the country, unless the terrain, weights and tyre size are similar.
Our tyre experiences
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever worn a set of 4WD tyres right out. Our Hilux had Maxxis Bighorns fitted to go up a tyre size and tread pattern, and they were still on the vehicle when I sold it.
Our 80 Series had BFG KM2’s fitted to also go up a tyre size and get more traction, and they were still on the vehicle when I sold it.
Our Dmax bounced between the OEM Bridgestone 693 tyres and the Toyo Open Country AT2 for the first part of its life, and then I was given a set of Bridgestone 697 tyres which have done about 40,000km and have maybe 50% life left (that’s 4 tyres, not using the spare)
I sold the Toyo AT2’s recently (no point having extra tyres!) and the original Bridgestones, and when these 697’s have done our next Pilbara trip they’ll be moved on too.
I don’t like to run them too low or your risk of punctures goes through the roof, but we’ll probably end up with a set of Toyo RT’s on our Dmax (we just fitted 2 to our camper trailer)
How to Extend the life of your 4WD tyres
Care factor is the term that probably covers how to get the longest life from your tyres. Drive gently, avoid wheel spin unless absolutely necessary.
Rotate the tyres regularly, and get wheel alignments done as needed. Ensure the tyre pressures you are running on the road, and off road is correct, and suitable for your vehicle.
If you care for your tyres, and look after them accordingly you’ll get maximum life, and can pour the money saved into fuel to explore more of this magic country!
How long have your 4WD tyres lasted?