It’s pretty common to see big 4WD’s driven daily on the road. Bigger tyres and lift kits will make a 4WD more capable off-road, but it also makes them illegal on the road, unless you have jumped through a number of hoops.
A vehicle that is illegal has a number of very serious risks attached to the driver (and potentially anyone else using the road), which I will go into below.
What is legal?
For starters, let’s consider what is legal, and then you will know where you stand right now. In Western Australia, VSB 14 has been adopted, which is a document that goes through the large majority of modifications done to vehicles, and what is legal or illegal.
If you live in different states, then you will have to do some digging. Many also refer to the National Code of Practice and VSB 14, but there are also some state regulations that can differ. For example, in some parts of Australia you can legally run 50mm bigger tyres with a 50mm lift, but not in WA.
If you have modified any of the following items on your 4WD it would be a very good idea to do some reading up:
- Tyre size
- Wheel track
- Added a substantial amount of weight
That said, there are 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal which are pretty straight forward. On top of this, if you do any towing, there are 7 weights that you need to comply with, which confuses everyone. I’ve written a very, very simple guide that explains it all: A simple towing guide to keep your 4WD and trailer legal.
Where can I find VSB 14?
If you want to read through the document, you can find it here.
For the purpose of this post, I will only touch on body/suspension lifts and tyre sizes.
Lifting your 4WD
If you are going to be lifting vehicles, you need to look at VSB 14. This states that your roof height may only be lifted by 2” (or 50mm) from the factory (or standard height) before it needs to go through a lane change test. This 50mm is the total combination of body lifts, suspension lifts and bigger tyres.
You are also not allowed to fit tyres that are more than 50mm bigger than the factory tyre diameter. For a lot of four wheel drives, 31’s are standard tyres, so 33’s are the biggest you can legally fit (or 285’s from 265’s).
In reality then, you are limited to:
1” lift and 2” bigger diameter tyres (together)
2” lift and the same size tyres. This is the maximum legal lift kit height in WA as long as you run the factory size tyre.
For those of you out there that are running bigger than a 2” lift, your vehicle is illegal. If you have bigger tyres than standard and a 2 inch lift (or bigger), your vehicle is also illegal. The only way this does not apply is if it has been signed off by an engineer.
If you want to know ‘What is the legal lift kit height’, make sure you also consider the tyre size change, as this is what usually catches people off guard.
Every 4WD should have a sticker which details the factory tyre size. This is not the only legal tyre size. Find the sticker (usually on your drivers door framework) and see what it says. If the tyres you are running are bigger than 50mm than the number stated, you have a problem. The biggest legal tyre size is literally dependent on the vehicle you drive.
That is of course, unless there are other models in your range with only cosmetic changes that run bigger tyres. Read this for more information – 50mm tyre size increase on models in your range.
What are the risks of driving an illegal 4WD?
A lot of people know their 4WD’s are illegal, and don’t seem to care. Just as many don’t know, but either way, you really, really need to care as the consequences of driving an illegal 4WD are extreme. It’s something that can change your life very badly for a long, long time, and if you accept this risk then I honestly think you are foolish.
So, how does an illegal 4WD add risk to the driver?
4WD owners across Australia use a variety of different 4WD insurance companies to make sure their pride and joy is covered should the unthinkable happen to it. The problem though, is that too many people are unaware of what the implications of having modifications to their vehicle can result in.
I hear people say all the time ‘My insurance company have insured my 4WD with a 3 inch lift and 35’s’, and they genuinely believe that their vehicle is insured. To be blunt, in the event of an accident, your insurance company can literally tear your policy up and walk away without paying a cent.
You see, you are required to tell your insurance company about any modifications done to the vehicle. More importantly, they all have fine print which specifically states that your 4WD must comply with the road regulations, and if it doesn’t, refusal of claims can occur.
I’ve spoken to insurance companies on the past, and told them of lift kits and bigger tyres on several vehicles, and they all say ‘Sure, no worries, I’ve added it to your list of modifications and you are covered’.
However, the poor sales bloke (or lady) has no idea what is legal or not, and in the event of an accident, if your vehicle is outside of the regulations, you may have a claim refused.
Any modification which directly contributes to an accident is extremely likely to result in a reduction or declining of your claim. Bigger tyres make your 4WD brake poorly, and suspension lifts add to the chance of a roll over, so its not all that difficult to prove they contributed to an accident.
The Police have a responsibility of pulling vehicles over that they deem to be un-roadworthy. They are inspected on the side of the road, and if the police believe the vehicle isn’t roadworthy, you may get a yellow sticker.
This is a compliance notice which can only be removed by a qualified vehicle examiner once the vehicle is brought back to roadworthy standards.
Yellow stickers can be issued for a huge range of things, from engine modifications that are not approved through to tyres sticking outside of the guards, oil leaks, cracked windscreens, perished seatbelts, big lift kits or bald tyres and the list goes on!
Getting a yellow sticker off your vehicle can be a pain, because even if the Police only pick one or two items that need attention, in order to pass the vehicle examination everything is scrutinized. It is better to play on the safe side and keep your vehicle looking good, to avoid the chance of getting pulled over and given a yellow sticker!
An unsafe vehicle
The entire point of having vehicle standards is to ensure that people drive safe vehicles on the road. At the end of the day, this is far more important than how far your 4WD goes off road.
By fitting larger tyres, your braking capacity is reduced. By fitting a lift kit, your center of gravity increases. By changing the wheel track of your vehicle the handling changes.
All of these things (and many more) can contribute to having an unsafe vehicle. In order to cover yourself, get any modifications that are outside of the regulations engineered.
If my vehicle is illegal, is it definitely unsafe?
This is where things get a little interesting – just because you are running a lift kit and bigger tyres does not necessarily mean your vehicle is unsafe, providing the work has been done correctly with quality components.
In many cases, a vehicle with 50mm tyres and a quality 2 inch lift kit will handle better on the road, but you still need to prove it is safe by having an engineer sign it off.
What can I do to make my 4WD legal?
If you know for sure that your vehicle is illegal (essentially if your roof height has gone up by more than 50mm from factory), you need to do a lane change test, and have an engineer to sign off on the modifications. You can find a list of engineers to speak to here.
The only other solution is you reduce the modifications done to the vehicle so it complies without the need of engineering.
Now, I understand this post may get your blood boiling a bit, and I totally understand. My intention is merely to make those with 4WD’s aware of what you can and can’t do, and how those decisions can affect you in terms of your insurance, the way the police deal with you and what modifications can do to a 4WD.
If you have a 4WD that has a lot of gear on it, take a look at this post – What does your 4WD weigh? If it is over the manufacturers capacity, your vehicle is not legal. However, I do believe there is an unhealthy obsession with fitting Bigger Tyres and lift kits, without proper consideration as to the benefits and risks associated with doing so.
Not every modification will make your 4WD more capable; there are a lot of Downsides to 4WD modifications that people don’t think about.
That said, I think the laws surrounding modifications of 4WD’s need to be seriously looked at, and I’m sure a number of you would agree. Let me know what you reckon below!