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.
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:
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: Towing capacity; a simple guide to keep you 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 inch (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 inch are standard tyres, so 33 inch tyres are the biggest you can legally fit (or 285’s from 265’s). The only exception is if there are larger tyres in your model range; see this for more information – 50mm tyre size increase.
In reality then, you are limited to:
1 inch lift and 2 inch bigger diameter tyres (together)
2 inch 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 inch 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 inch tyres’, 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. If you want more information, check out our page covering 4WD Legalities.
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!
This works – https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/licensing/LBU_VS_IB_102.pdf
All the best
hi, I can’t open the link with the list of engineers. could you please provide a list? I’ve looked previously for someone in WA with no luck. cheers
I think you are misreading it. I don’t see anywhere that it speaks about a 50mm increase being signed off by the vehicle manufacturer.
My Dmax was signed off by ARB in Canning Vale (actually their engineer) with a 30mm lift, and 54mm bigger tyres. We are limited to 50mm roof height increase in WA, but it certainly can be done, and I discussed the tyre sizes with the engineer.
My advice would be to find an engineer in Victoria who signs 4WD modifications off, and have a chat to them. I’ve done this in WA in the past and they’ve been able to clarify any nuances at the drop of a hat.
My reading so far is that Victoria has adopted VSB-14 along with a number of other states. VSI is also a document that summarises VSB-14. There is a section that allows 4WDs to have a 50mm suspension lift in combination with a 50mm tyre increase in diameter bringing the total to 75mm total increase. This is called “Raising of four wheel drive vehicles – alternative to VSB 14 Modification Code LS, Option 1” it reads as follows:
Raising of four wheel drive vehicles – alternative to VSB 14 Modification Code LS
In the case of raising the height of an off road type 4WD of ADR Category NA, NB1, MC or MD, and only in this case, the following applies as an alternative to meeting the suspension lift requirements of Section LS of VSB 14:
∞ A combination of suspension lift and the fitting of larger diameter tyres that results in a total lift of up to 75mm without the need for the testing and certification normally required by VSB 14 for lifts above 50mm
∞ The vehicle’s suspension may be raised by up to 50mm, provided that sufficient suspension travel in either direction is retained.
∞ Only commercially available suspension kits may be used.
∞ Such kits must be:
– manufactured and supplied by a Corporation;
– specifically designed and tested by the suspension lift kit manufacturer for the make/model/variant of the vehicle being modified to ensure no adverse effect on the modified vehicle’s propensity for rollover, handling characteristics, braking performance and structural integrity when assessed at the combined suspension lift (up to 50mm) and tyre radius increase (up to 25mm), i.e. a total increase in ride height of up to 75mm; and
– fitted in accordance with the kit manufacturer’s instructions, abiding by any conditions or limitations advised by the suspension kit manufacturer and include a written statement (to be retained by the vehicle owner) of the suitability of the suspension lift kit for the make/model/variant of the vehicle being modified whether or not installed in combination with the permissible tyre diameter increase.
∞ Tyres up to 50mm larger in diameter than that specified by the vehicle manufacturer may be fitted to an off-road type 4WD provided:
– When in the straight ahead position, the wheels and tyres do not project beyond the extreme width of the mudguards when viewed from above
– The tyres do not foul the bodywork, braking system or any suspension or steering component under any combination of suspension and steering movement.
The way i read this is that unless the manufacturer has signed off its safety specs on your exact car fitted with the 50mm lift during its safety inspection, then you can’t get that extra 50mm tyre diameter increase. So, in effect, the limit in Victoria is still only 50mm. I am struggling to find any lift kit manufacturer that even knows about VSB-14 for a start let alone one that has done any extra testing above OEM tyre sizes for any car. Does anyone know any different?
I would speak to some tyre shops, and see what they recommend. In regards to breaking the law, I don’t think so, but confirmation from your local road authority would put your mind at rest.
That model may have larger brakes; the only way you’d know is to ask on a Suzuki Vitara Facebook group.
Those Suzuki’s go really well off road; I would give it a whirl on a beach under some controlled circumstances, and see how it is. I’d also probably avoid going for steel wheels unless you want to increase your fuel consumption.
Maybe the ultimate compromise is to find some alloy wheels second hand off a 17 or 16″ Vitara (after finding out that they fit) and going with them?
All the best
I’m in WA and have a Suzuki Grand Vitara Prestige. The Prestige being the top-of-the-pops 4×4 model with various extras including low range. The thing is it came stock with alloy wheels and 225/60/R18 road tyres. I dunno why they’d issue these on something with so much 4×4 going on. I don’t intend to do serious off-roading in it, but I might take it on the beach, and would much prefer standard 225/70/R16s, with the higher sidewall, that come stock on the lower-spec Grand Vitaras. The owner manual lists within the vehicle specs the various 16″-18″ wheels and tyres that come stock on the different-spec Grand Vitaras. But the placard on the door frame states ‘Recommended’ tyre size 225/60/R18 100H (no mention of other sizes). If I go to tyre sales websites and enter the vehicle details, they only give 17″ and 18″ options. So, if I were to put e.g steel rims from a lower-spec model, with 225/70/R16 tyres on, am I breaking the law, or voiding insurance? Perhaps there’s some other reason, like the Prestige is a V6 and may have bigger brakes that won’t fit in a 16″ rim. Any thoughts?
The most likely place tyres will rub is near where your accelerator is, when you are full locked one way and the tyres flex up. You can measure this, but yes, 50mm maximum in diameter increase, and width you can go as wide as you want, as long as its covered by flares. You will find that there’s no benefit going too wide though, and it will increase the chance of it scrubbing.
I would find a common tyre size that is around 25 – 40mm increase and stick with that
All the best
Can anyone with experience or knowledge about a 99 Hilux tell the max size tyres i can go without any dramas?
I think ive understood that the diameter cannot exceed 50mm, what about width?
Ignore the physical dimensions. Look at the tyre size on your placard and you can go 50mm above that in WA.
All the best
I have just bought a toyota 80.
Base on the information you gave me 1 year ago: “they go off the size listed, not its actual measurement.”
The factory size of toyota 80 is 7.5-16 or 275/70/16.
The overall diameter of 8.25-16 is 32.5″, which is only 1.5″ larger than the factory tyre. Is the 8.25-16 on toyota 80 legal regardless the actual diameter? In fact, the actual diameter of 8.25-16 is 865mm”. It is similar to 315/75/16.
Thank you very much.
Perhaps you should re-read, before you leave comments that make you look rather silly. If you search, you’ll find that the term DPF is not mentioned anywhere in this article, so not sure what you are complaining about.
All the best
DPF is not in every diesel..they were trialed in automatic Nissan D40 for example in 2009/10…then removed..my 2011 auto does not have a dpf…please get your facts right before you publish…
No, I would say you cannot. Speak to an engineer, but you’ll find the process of engineering is to make the vehicle safe in its condition. The moment you change that, the engineering goes out the window
All the best
If the 4wd has 35s and its engineered for 35s. Are we allowed to run 37s as its with in the 7% guideline? If so where can find this information?
I’m going to assume you don’t have a 4WD?
I can’t answer your question about whether they factor actual size, or theoretical size. I would assume they go off the size listed, not its actual measurement.
If you have an accident and they trace it back to the fact that the tyres you’ve fitted contributed or caused it, you will be in trouble regardless of what insurance you have.
All the best
South Australia has a regulation: The overall diameter of a wheel and tyre fitted to a vehicle must not be more than 50mm (4WDs) or 15 mm (other vehicles) larger than the largest tyre size listed on the tyre placard.
My tyre placard lists three sizes: 205/55/16, 225/45/17, 225/40/18.
I’ve just bought a set of used tires(205/60/16). The diameter of 205/60/16 is 652.4mm.
It is 15.2mm larger than that of 225/40/18(637.2mm).
15.2mm do exceed the legal range(15mm), but because it is used tires, the tyre’s tread has been worn out more than 1mm when I put it on my rim.
In fact, the actual diameter of the tyre is not larger than 15mm of the size of 225/40/18.
Do I need engineering approval? If I do not have engineering approval, will the police give me a yellow sticker?
And I just have the third party insurance, My car is not covered by the policy.
Do I need to notify the insurance company about this modification?
If I do not notify the insurance company, will they decline my claim?
Thank you very much, Aaron, any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.
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
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.