Four-wheel drive (4WD), 4×4, or ute, whatever you want to call them, are part of the Australian automotive lore since Toyota imported Landcruisers in 1958 and Ford produced Falcon XYs in 1971. Further interest in 4WD-ing grew after Sunraysia 250 Desert Race in Mildura in ‘71. And now, more and more Aussies get their best weekend thrills driving their utes on sand, mud, or rocks. However, the wear and tear on these vehicles are real, especially on their tyres. That’s why 4WD tyre care takes the forefront in this article.
General 4WD Tyre Care
Here are some tips on how you can take care of your tyres, whether you own a 4WD or any other vehicle:
- Visual Check
Doing a tyre eye check is the most effortless 4WD tyre care activity you could do. Inspect your tyre threads’ depth, any debris stuck in these threads, and for other signs of damage or wear. Ideally, you do this before every drive to avoid sudden tyre failure in the middle of the road.
- Tyre Cleaning
Cleaning your tyres can be as simple as removing stones stuck on the threads to full-on washing and brushing the tyres.
If you’re doing the latter, we suggest using soft brushes instead of those with metal bristles. Brush gently, especially around the edges. The car shampoo or detergent you use to clean your car will also do just fine for your tyres. And ensure you dry your tyres and use tyre dressing to add protection.
- Regular Tyre Rotation
Ideally, you need to do tyre rotation every 5,000 km. By doing so, you prevent the uneven wearing of your tyres.
- Tyre Balancing
A symptom of unbalanced tyres is when your steering wheel vibrates or wobble while driving at high speeds. The balancing weights attached to the wheel assembly may have come loose or wasn’t secured properly.
Checking the tyre balance prevents uneven tyre wear and damage to your steering system, so this is something you should consider doing periodically.
- Wheel Alignment
The recommended wheel alignment schedule should be every 10,000 km or every six months. By building this tyre care habit, you again prevent uneven tyre wear and improve the vehicle’s handling and braking.
- Tyre Change
A tyre can last for about ten years before the rubber ages into an unsafe condition. However, exposure to the elements and build-up of damage and wear (which 4WDs always are) should further reduce the tyre age.
Change your tyres as soon as their condition seriously deteriorates even before reaching that ten-year “maturity”.
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring
An excellent investment to make for your 4WD tyre care is a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). And the technology today allows you to easily install a TPMS and monitor your real-time tyre pressure from your dash or mobile device.
OBD2 Australia offers the complete TPMS solution for cars, caravans, trucks, and 4WDs. These devices are made with Australian conditions in mind so that you can be sure of their durability and reliability.
Types of 4WD Tyres
Given the varying Australian terrain, it is crucial to be familiar with how to take care of tyres and know what kind of tyre to use for the trail you’re traversing. Here are the common 4WD tyres available:
- Highway Tread
If you’re spending more time on the road than off-road, this is the tyre for you. With shallower tread depth, it offers better on-road and high-speed handling. Still, you can use these tyres on sand or mud, but the drive won’t be as comfortable.
- All-Terrain (AT)
ATs are the most common and most popular tyres for 4WDs. These tyre offers decent driving comfort on highways while being more robust for off-road tracks.
There are different types of ATs, by the way, ranging from more road-oriented to more aggressive tyres. And your choice depends on where you will spend more time driving your ute.
These tyres’ deeper, more open treads allow you to manage better the muddy or sandy tracks. It also helps in traversing steep terrains at the expense of smooth on-road driving.
4WD Tyre Care while Driving Off-Road
No matter how serious you take four-wheel driving, there are different challenges each terrain presents on your driving, your vehicle, and your 4WD tyre care. And you should take note of this.
The bulldust that fills the outback may seem like ordinary sand. However, this just covers the surface and underneath the bulldust is a rocky base. Therefore, never deflate your tyres as you would in the sand here. Just maintain a speed of about 70 kph and apply more throttle during your drive.
Torque is the name of the game here, so stick to a low gear range (1st and 2nd gear only) as you climb or go through rocks. Slowly go through obstacles and control your throttle.
Standard tyre pressure should be used here and only deflate if you get stuck on a crevice (or something similar). It could be tempting to reduce the tyres to gain more control. However, you risk damaging them if you hit sharp edges or pointed rocks.
If you get stuck in a mud hole, keep your free tyres on drier ground. Move the tyres from side to side and apply minimal acceleration to get more traction. Then use a higher range and controlled throttle to build momentum. Clear out mud stuck on the treads after you get out.
Driving on packed sand is similar to cruising on a regular road. However, traversing softer sand like beaches requires a full-throttle, consistent acceleration, and a partially deflated tyre (about 14-15 psi).
Our Final Word
Maintaining tyres can be challenging work, especially if you drive outdoors with your 4WD. Being exposed to the elements contribute to faster wearing and damage build up.
But taking time to do 4WD tyre care offers more positives than you could think of. When the tyres are spinning smoothly, it puts less stress on the engine and thus providing better fuel economy. You also save on fuel and repair expenses, as engine parts get to function normally. Most importantly, having well-taken care of tyres makes your drive much safer.
With this new appreciation of 4WD tyre care, I hope you can enjoy your favourite pastime more. See you in the outback soon!