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Is your 4WD legal?

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.

Is your 4WD Legal?

Is your 4WD legal?

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
  • Suspension
  • Wheel track
  • Brakes
  • Body
  • Chassis
  • Lights
  • 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.

Towing can easily make you illegal

If you are towing its even easier to be illegal

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.

4WD engineering approval

If you want this, you need engineering approval

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.

Jeep 4WD big tyres

Big tyres will land you in trouble

Tyre sizes

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?

Insurance payouts

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.

4WD insurance issues

If you have an accident with illegal mods, you could be in trouble

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.

Yellow stickers

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.

4WD handling issues

How do you think this would handle?

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.

Illegal 4WD's are not always unsafe

There are plenty of big, engineered 4WD’s around so its not always unsafe

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.

4WD vehicles offroad

Have a chat to a vehicle engineer

My thoughts

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!

Legal 80 series lift

My legally modified 80

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42 comments… add one
  • Bigkev January 1, 2015, 11:45 AM

    Just to clarify tyre sizes, any car that is placarded with 265/70/16 tyres, most common size, cannot run a 33″ or 285/75/16 because this exceeds the 50mm difference. The 285 is actually 7mm too big. My request at DOTWA was rejected on this basis.

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia January 1, 2015, 4:57 PM

    Hey mate,

    Thanks for the information. You’d think they wouldn’t worry too much, given that most tyre manufacturers vary their sizes anyway. I thought 265/75/16 was more common than 70/16?

    Aaron

  • Jackson Redstar January 8, 2015, 4:23 AM

    In America, it is common for off road vehicles to see 4-6 inches of lift and 35-37 inch tires (usually on jeeps, not many twin solid axle vehicles left here) while saftey is important, the Aussie standards seem way over done

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia January 8, 2015, 4:51 PM

    I totally agree; there are plenty of modified 4WD’s that handle better than they did from the factory showroom, but unfortunately there are serious risks of driving a 4WD that isn’t legal over here. I don’t see it changing any time soon!

  • Mickey October 12, 2015, 10:06 PM

    An interesting write up. Luckily for us most of these very strict laws do not apply here in the nt, where we can go 100mm overall lift. But what I would like to know is if I have my 4wd set up within all nt laws and then travel interstate with 100mm over all lift, am I breaking the law. Would insurance still 100% no questions asked cover my nt regoed and compliant 4wd if I were in another state where VSB 14 has been adopted???

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia October 18, 2015, 9:05 AM

    Hey mate,

    You’ve brought up a very interesting question. There are a heap of grey area’s when it comes to 4WD insurance, and you’ve highlighted one of them! In many cases, unless the assessor is very knowledgeable, or your vehicle is obviously unroadworthy, your claim will slide by with no problem at all.

    However, there’s always the slim chance that it doesn’t go through and you could be in for a world of pain. It’s hard to get this sort of information from insurance companies too, but perhaps it would be worth a go.

    I’d love to know if you get an answer!

    Aaron

  • Kieran Campbell October 21, 2015, 1:13 PM

    I’m looking at lifting my Hilux and was just wondering if the roof height included any roof attachments, i.e awning, roof rack, gas bottle holder etc or i s it worked from the manufacturers standard roof height from their vehicle specifications?

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia October 22, 2015, 11:38 AM

    Hey Kieran,

    It’s not worded very clearly, is it? It doesn’t consider any roof attachments; its just the factory roof height. I think they do this as its the only measurement that goes up with increased tyre size, suspension and body lifts

    Aaron

  • Michael Atkinson March 1, 2016, 5:39 AM

    It’s not a huge difference between the two but the profile difference between 75% of the tread width and 70% can be enough of a difference to put your speedo out of whack too?

  • Chris BSomething April 19, 2016, 1:19 PM

    I think the tyre size thingy applies to the biggest tyres fitted to the model. So sometimes there’ll be another model that has a bigger tyre placard and you can use those numbers instead of the numbers on your placard. An example is 70 series Landcruiser. The skinny tyres fitted to the cheaper models are actually taller than the wider tyres fitted to the GXL. So you’re entitled to work your figures based on the taller tyres even if they weren’t original to your particular car.

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia April 19, 2016, 3:10 PM

    Hey Chris,

    I’ve heard this too. It possibly is correct, but it’d be good to know for sure

    Aaron

  • Chris BSomething April 19, 2016, 3:23 PM

    If you look at the modification rules on vicroads it talks about “specified by the vehicle manufacturer for that model or vehicle series”.

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia April 20, 2016, 9:02 PM

    Hi Chris,

    Good to know. This post is referring to WA though.

    Aaron

  • Ian Reichelt May 3, 2017, 1:26 PM

    Do you know of any engineers in SA that could sign off a 4 wheel drive?

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia May 3, 2017, 11:00 PM

    Hey Ian,

    I don’t mate, but I’m told the guys at Regency should be able to give you a list. In WA you can find it online, but I cant see that for SA.

    Take care
    Aaron

  • Jacob Savell July 3, 2017, 10:48 PM

    Hi guys i have a td42 gq coilcab with a 6” ligt and 35” tyres i keep getting yellowed and i keep spending $90 to get the sticker removed but is there a place in or around perth that dose engineering for that size lift and tyres ??? Cause theres no were in geraldton that is willing to do it cheers

  • Aaron at 4WDing Australia July 4, 2017, 7:10 PM

    Hey Jacob,

    I doubt you will get a vehicle with such a big lift engineered in WA, but you could try. Here’s the list of engineers, or try On Track Fabrication:

    http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_102.pdf

    Aaron

  • Justin w June 28, 2018, 12:17 PM

    Getting sick of seeing 4×4 lifted and tyres sticking out past guards . do it properly and get it engineered stop bring the heat on everyone that does it correctly I have a jeep wrangler that’s lifted 3 inches and with the correct guards all engineered didn’t cost much engineering was only 600 through double black off road melb

  • Aaron Schubert July 1, 2018, 10:26 AM

    Hey Justin,

    Good to hear its all done properly mate. I think there is going to be a lot of cracking down in the near future! Great to hear your engineering was so cheap

    Aaron

  • Peter C September 25, 2018, 8:18 PM

    Since the blitz in Qld, police in NSW have also started paying close attention to 4wdrivers that are lifted slightly over the limit. They have however started measuring the hight of the lift from the center of the rim to the underside of the wheel arch. So for someone like me even 31″ (stock) tires are over the limit because I have flat fender flares installed. I’m struggling to find an engineer that is sympathetic to my needs, and I have several mods that need engineering.

  • Aaron Schubert September 25, 2018, 8:48 PM

    Hey Peter,

    Sorry to hear mate. It sounds like you are legal, despite the police not being on the same page. What happens when they defect you? Surely the pits would just approve it all?

    They need to make things standardized across the country, and get the police on the same page. It’s a total joke, and is causing a lot of dramas

    Aaron

  • Benjamin October 6, 2018, 8:50 AM

    Does this law apply in vic as i see lots of 4wds over the size limit for lifts and tyres.

  • Aaron Schubert October 6, 2018, 12:32 PM

    Hey Ben,

    I believe Vic can go 50mm bigger diameter on tyres and a 50mm suspension lift, so a 75mm lift overall

    Aaron

  • Kyle November 4, 2018, 10:31 AM

    What about Tas? Many 4wds over here are modified, my 2012 hilux has 31’s and a 2” lift. Factory Tyre size is 30.6”

  • Aaron Schubert November 4, 2018, 12:20 PM

    Hey Kyle,

    I can’t speak for Tas mate. You’ll have to ring the department of transport over there and ask. Fact is though, lots of 4WD’s across Australia aren’t legal.

    Aaron

  • Kris December 19, 2018, 9:07 AM

    Nicely written article Aaron, cheers buddy.

    I currently have a 3″ lift with 35″ tyres on a dealership purchased 2013 XLT Ranger, I’ve been looking at the engineering list and sent out a few emails but noone has actually been able to put into steps just exactly needs to be done so I can avoid getting stickered…. any chance you could help me out mate? Would be much appreciated. Thanks

    Regards,
    Kris

  • Aaron Schubert December 19, 2018, 2:59 PM

    Hey Kris,

    Where are you located? First step is to find a quality engineer, although it sounds like you’ve already been trying that. I would contact the department of transport for your state and get a list of the engineers, and call them. If I’m honest, I reckon if you do find an engineer who will approve it you’ll be up for a lot of money.

    Do the exercise and see what it comes back at, but I reckon removing some of the lift and tyre size is going to be the way forward

    Aaron

  • Jason January 25, 2019, 11:44 AM

    Hey mate, i noticed you said we are allowed to raise the roof height by 2″, however you also said you can get a 2″ lift and the same tyres, or a 1″ lift and 2″ bigger diameter of tyres. However surely then if you have 1″ lift and 2″ bigger diameter tyres your car is now 3″ off the ground and illegal? Cheers mate.

  • Aaron Schubert January 25, 2019, 12:08 PM

    Hey Jason,

    When you fit larger tyres, the vehicle height only goes up by half of the tyre height difference. For example, if you go from 33″ tyres to 35″ tyres, although they are 2 inches bigger, you only raise the vehicle 1 inch – the radius change. In other words, 1 inch goes above the diff, and one inch below the diff. It’s only the inch below the diff that raises the vehicle.

    Common mistake, but it works in our favour. In this way, you can run 2 inch bigger tyres with a 1 inch lift, because it only raises the vehicle by 2 inches

    Best of luck
    Aaron

  • Cameron June 2, 2019, 11:46 PM

    Hey guys,
    I have a 2012 hilux sr, I wanted to get a 2inch lift with 32 inch tyres. But that’s illegal. So which websites do 1inch lifts… cant seem to find any. Are 1inch coil spacers any good.
    Cheers

  • Aaron Schubert June 3, 2019, 4:40 PM

    Hey Cameron,

    Not many companies will advertise 1 inch, and its all dependent on how much your springs have sagged. There are a lot of heavy duty springs that will lift the vehicle around 30mm. Coil spacers are not ideal, but they do work. Have a chat to ARB – they might have a spring setup that suits

    Aaron

  • Peter Gabrics February 27, 2020, 12:16 PM

    The police has no real job in this country.Therefore they giving #### to the motorists for no reason.Australia is the most over regulated country in the world.A nanny state.In America ,people can put all kinds of wheels on their car,how come we can’t?We don’t live in a free country unfortunately.Some stupid people trying to control everything we do,like in a police state.

  • Aaron Schubert February 27, 2020, 6:33 PM

    Hey Peter,

    It probably is over regulated, but it does stop a lot of people doing stupid things too. I’d like to know that I’m not sharing the road with people who are driving unsafe vehicles

    Aaron

  • Kristian Waller May 25, 2020, 1:30 PM

    Hi Aaron,

    I have a BT50 and am wanting to increase my tyre size (265/65/17 0r 776.3mm) whilst staying within the 50mm limit. I want to increase to either a 265/75/16 (803.9mm) or a bigger 275/70/17 (816.8mm). Taking into consideration looks and performance (reduced power, speedo, fuel economy) which size would you recommend? I am unsure if there is much of a difference or not between the sizes and would like the look of the bigger tyre but dont want to significantly impede performance of the car.

    Any help would be great.

    Cheers,

    Kristian

  • Aaron Schubert May 25, 2020, 4:32 PM

    Hey Kristian,

    Unless you planning on doing serious off road work, I’d get the 16’s. They will have less of an effect on your performance including braking, are more common and will be cheaper/easier to get in the scrub

    All the best
    Aaron

  • Steve June 2, 2020, 11:42 AM

    Hi All,
    I have been looking into this for my SUV 4×4 x-trail.
    I know, fake 4×4, but I’m on a budget!
    I have Fitted king lifting springs and raised 30mmAnd now looking at Tyre options.
    I will probably go 225/65 r17 as the 235 Tyre takes me 1mm over the max 75mm in Victoria.
    Here’s the thing, Raising 4×4 cars can be compromised if your AU compliance plate category says MA and not MC!
    MC is 4×4 for off road use.

    MA is classed as a passenger car and can only have 15mm Total diameter Tyre increase, 7.5mm Tyre lift!

    You might think this doesn’t apply because your car looks like a 4×4 is 4×4 but apparently Ford Everest is category MA ! So it’s a fake 4×4!
    Car manufacturers are lowering the category for the mainstream and to cover 2×4 versions.
    The X-trail T31 2007 4×4 is rated MC.
    But do your own checks first because there is a 2×4 xtrail version.
    Cheers

  • Aaron Schubert June 4, 2020, 8:25 PM

    Hi Steve,

    An Xtrail will go to a lot of places. At the end of the day the driver makes most of the difference.

    You will find that the Everest had its compliance rating changed to MC, so its not actually a passenger car.

    All the best
    Aaron

  • Peter Williams June 24, 2020, 4:52 PM

    I have a 4×4 that runs 255/60/18 I won’t to fit 265/60/18 because there is a greater choice of tyres .ls this legal . I live in Victoria

  • Aaron Schubert June 24, 2020, 6:29 PM

    Hi Peter,

    You’ll need to go to the local road authority website and see what they use. Alternatively ring them. I’m not sure what the regulations are over there

    All the best
    Aaron

  • Peter Williams June 25, 2020, 5:25 PM

    Thanks for that.I will give them a phone call

  • JOHN MAYNES June 26, 2020, 5:32 PM

    I’m perplexed by all detail or lack of detail, I find that there is no information on roof height and certainly nothing on hub to guard measurement that authorities use as the basis of prosecution.
    Ok so for the practicalities, if it rides like a boat then it is illegal, if in the braking arena you bend the pedal, foot well or your leg or presents anxioty than its possible illegal or brakes are not up to spec.
    Consider the following, at highway tire pressures you have maximum clearance under the diffs, but drop the pressures from 40 psi to say 20 psi than your diffs are earthward bound, bigger tyres allow more air under the diffs, bigger suspension lift puts the driver into rarified air but does nothing for diff clearance its only the tyres that does this.
    if suspension flex is your cup of tea, you have either the wrong vehicle or as a weekend warrior either way you are close to home.
    Ok now add the revenue earners into the fray and you are behind the black ball, without any sense of engineering principals of strength and capability they are totally reliant on the lowest common denominator, the specs. you guest it its all about the weakest vehicle manufacturer in the group.
    Suck it guys.

  • Aaron Schubert July 4, 2020, 7:13 PM

    Hi John,

    There is a government website that most workshops have access to, which gives you all the detail you want about roof height. I know this, as I’ve been on it (can’t remember the address) and I have spoken to engineers who have looked this information up in a matter of minutes.

    There’s certainly some interesting areas to delve into that you’ve mentioned though.

    All the best
    Aaron

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