A guide to 4WD tyres

Hitting the road and getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life is a dream for many Australians. You’ve just driven that shiny new SUV off the showroom floor and can’t wait to start pitching tents at campsites across the country. First though, you need to start thinking about tyres – because they’ll be costing you more than you’re used to.

We get it – you want a tyre that can do everything when it comes to your 4WD. You don’t want some extreme off road tyre that has poor manners on normal city roads, because you’ll still want to drop your kids off at school. The problem is, the stock tyres you have on your new SUV might not be up to both jobs as well as you would have hoped.

They are likely designed to be comfortable, so you think you have a premium tyre, but in many cases these tyres are made in the cheapest way possible and could have you sliding around a roundabout when it’s raining. That’s why it’s important to find a tyre that’s well-mannered in the city, but also capable when getting away from it all. In this review we guide you on what to look for when deciding on your next SUV tyre purchase. Spoiler alert: they’re not cheap!

What are 4WD tyres?

Four wheel drive tyres are quite simply tyres designed for your SUV that has four-wheel drive. Many SUVs these days send power to only two wheels, so it’s important to know if your car is 4WD or 2WD. If you have a 4WD, the tyres for these cars will often have features such as an increased treadwear rating – meaning you can expect more life out of your tyres. Other features include deeper tread, increased puncture resistance and grip that is superior in unsealed road surfaces.

Questions you need to ask yourself before buying 4WD tyres include:

  • How much are you able to spend? Generally, the higher the price, the better quality you will get.
  • How much off-road driving will you do? Inadequate tyres can be a safety issue.
  • What type of off-road driving will you do? (E.g. sand, creeks, trails, mud, rocky etc).

What different types of 4WD tyres are there?

Different 4WD tyres cater towards different off-road driving situations, however you can also find tyres that can do a bit of everything. This includes being an adequate city tyre. Luckily these days, tyre manufacturers have realised that more and more Australians are driving SUVs for everyday use, so there is the need to have an ‘all-round’ 4WD tyre.

All good information on off-road tyres can be found on their sidewall. Things to look for on the sidewall include:

  • Treadwear rating: The higher the number, the longer your tyres should last.
  • Traction rating: AA is best. Anything less is unlikely to be adequate.
  • Temperature rating: A is the best and can withstand more heat than C, for example.

In rugged conditions that Australia is known for, it’s important to select a hardy tyre that can withstand all conditions.

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How much do 4WD tyres cost?

The major drawback to off-roading is that 4WD tyres can be incredibly expensive! Entry level tyres for a Toyota Landcruiser Sahara, for example, start at around $200 per tyre, and keep climbing accordingly. The main drawback with these entry tyres is that they are basically glorified city-slicker tyres. These are all well and good if you’re spending 90 per cent of your time in the city, but they are likely to be rubbish in a more serious off-road capacity.

A good immediate physical indicator of tyre quality is the depth of the tread. Serious off-road tyres can have a 13mm-deep tread or more! Tyres like these can easily cost $350-$400 each. Our advice is to strike a balance and go for the middle road to find a tyre that can be well-mannered in the city and handle itself in moderate off-road conditions. We recommend sticking to reputable brands, and also paying attention to established off-roading brands such as Cooper and Mickey Thompson.

Are quality 4WD tyres worth the money?

You’ll have to assess on your own if 4WD tyres are worth it or not. They represent a significant investment, easily reaching into the $1,000 bracket for a full set. The trade-off with this is increased safety and performance in off-road conditions, which you cannot put a price on. What’s more, a set of inadequate tyres could significantly hamper your off-road experience. If you buy a set of tyres and they perform shockingly, you’re less likely to want to hit the countryside again! This is essentially a waste of a good SUV. Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying expensive 4WD tyres:

Pros Cons
Superior off-road performance Can be very expensive
Hardy, better puncture resistance Entry level tyres can be inadequate
Lots of range depending on off-road application Some have poor on-road handling characteristics

You will also need to assess how much off-road driving you want to do, realistically. The more time you spend on suburban streets and paved roads, the cheaper your tyres can be. If you spend 90 per cent of your time on sealed roads, you can get away with a $200 tyre. This will also leave you happier and more comfortable as serious off-road tyres can be uncomfortable on road.

If that ratio is more 50:50, then you may want to invest $300 or more for a decent off-road tyre with serious tread depth, treadwear ratings and puncture resistance. It’s all about knowing your own circumstances to determine whether expensive 4WD tyres are worth it or not.

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