Four-wheel drive tyres are expensive, really expensive! As an example, you could spend more on your tyres than the purchase price of the fridge or washing machine you have at home. And to make matters worse, you also need to replace these tyres every few years thanks to the constant beating they are forced to endure. The good news however is there are ways to protect your investment. By following these six proven tips, you are doing your very best to extract the maximum lifespan from your tyres. Not only will these tips save you money, but your vehicle will be safer to drive in all conditions as well.
1 TYRE PRESSURES
Running your tyres too low will not only exacerbate tread wear in an ugly way, it can also cause your tyres to self-destruct from the inside out. This phenomenon is known as Run-Flat Damage, and it’s obvious to pick once you strip the tyre off the rim: It will be filled with black powder. And while under-inflation is the devil, over-inflation isn’t the answer either. Over-inflating tyres will reduce grip on-road and off-road and cause the tyres to ride on their centres (or crowns). Determining the correct tyre pressures for your vehicle and load situation will take some experimentation. This applies off-road as well as on the bitumen! And not dropping pressures while four-wheel driving greatly increases the risk of cuts, chips and punctures.
2 REGULAR ROTATION
There is a reason why your local tyre shop will recommend rotating your tyres regularly. It is simply because your tyres wear at different rates due to the varying weights or loads found on each corner of the vehicle. This is why a rear-wheel drive vehicle (for example) with a decent load on the back will wear the rear tyres out first – as the rear tyres are driving the vehicle, as well as supporting the lion’s share of load. Rotating your tyres regularly (at least every 10,000km) introduces uniform wear rates which tend to even-out any imperfections in the tread. As a reward, you will experience longer tyre life, better handling, more balanced steering and enhanced braking ability. As a rule of thumb, I’ll rotate my tyres every oil change – which in my case is every 5,000km. Observing how your tyres are wearing from new gives a great deal of insight into how the rest of the vehicle is behaving, and could alert you to a potential mechanical issue before the chance of serious damage occurs.
3 DRIVING STYLE
Race cars require regular rebuilds because of the loads placed on them during meets. You kind of don’t potter about in a Porsche (just saying). So if you drive your four-wheel drive like it is a race car, you will wear components out prematurely. This is a fact, and one that is most noticeable with tyres… as they try their best to maintain composure through unduly demanding circumstances. So what should you do? Well… avoiding potholes, curbs and rough sections of the road is a good place to start. Pay attention to your own driving style, too. Try turning smoothly through roundabouts, engaging the throttle in a progressive manner and using relaxed steering input. These are proven methods of extending tyre life dramatically – which results in more money in your back pocket. Winning!
4 MECHANICAL COMPONENTS
Did you know that if the shock absorbers or struts fitted to your four-wheel drive are worn, your tyres will suffer? As the worn shock is unable to keep the tyre planted on the ground during its rotation and over undulations, it will bounce. This typically results in a ‘cupped’ wear pattern of the tread area, which will become rather noticeable very quickly. You may experience more road noise or shuddering as well, due to the uneven tread wear. If your shocks are a few years old, and your tyres are wearing poorly, a trip to a suspension expert rather than a tyre store would be my first priority. Poor alignment, worn ball joints or bent steering components can also play a part in poor tyre wear – so before you blame your tyre manufacturer take a good detailed look at what could be the real cause of the issue.
5 STARTING WITH THE RIGHT TYRES
Chunky mud tyres might make your 4X4 look more rugged than Rambo on a protein powder binge; but do you really drive on that much mud- or clay-based terrain? If you live at the foothills of the Victorian High Country or perhaps your off-roader isn’t a daily driver, disregard this point. However, for the vast majority of four-wheel drivers a less aggressive all-terrain tyre is more than enough. Mud tyres traditionally wear quicker, they’re louder on-road and they will not offer the same levels of grip or handling on fast sections of dirt or tarmac conditions. I still drive on muddies personally, but in reality I know a set of all-terrains would be the smarter option. This is especially true when you consider how effective modern traction control systems are these days; and the distances we drive on-road or on faster dirt road sections.
6 COVER YOUR SPARE
Ultraviolet rays will cause tyres to crack, which is why you should always rotate your spare into the mix, and have your spare covered if it resides on your back door. As the sun warms the tyre, both oxygen and ozone in the atmosphere harden the rubber while reducing the tyre’s elasticity (introduced during the vulcanising process). This leads to cracking… however if the tyre has been on the back door for a few years you might also notice how hard the rubber is compared to the tyres fitted to your four-wheel drive’s rims. Tyres have a shelf life, don’t forget; and each manufacturer will quote a different figure here. Rubber will perish as time goes on, but there is no reason why you can’t stall the onset of damage by taking care of your spare.