Are you looking to get your new 4x4 a bit dirty and think that a new set of dancing shoes might help it to look the part?
The options for wheels and tyres seem endless. But the first thing to look at is what sort of driving you plan on doing the most. There are 3 broad categories to look at. These are:
- Highway Terrain
- All Terrain and,
- Mud Terrain
Luckily, for us 4x4 enthusiasts, for the most part, these tyres each do what they say on the box. But to really help pick the right type of tyre, below are some of the factors worth looking at when you start researching the right tyre for your unique needs.
Highway Terrain tyres are for the 4x4 driver that is looking to spend a lot of time on the tarmac and needs plenty of traction when they are there. Nowadays, 4x4s are coming out with smarter traction control, power and braking systems than ever before. But if the few square inches of rubber that apply these to the road aren't right, they're as useless as a glass hammer. The tread patterns on Highway Terrains provide a quiet, smooth ride while offering traction on hard surfaces. If you're thinking about travelling Australia with a heavy boat or caravan behind you, Highway Terrains should be a serious consideration. Also, if you're looking for a quiet, smooth daily drive, Highway Terrains might be the perfect fit. This, however, doesn't mean that you have to change your tyres every time you want to go off-road. Dirt tracks and sand are still suitable, as it is generally momentum that will keep you moving, rather than chunky grip at slow speeds.
All Terrains are the most common choice for people looking to get out and explore. They generally have a chunkier tread pattern than Highway Terrains, but not quite as aggressive as Mud Terrains. It is the best way to be able to have your cake and eat it too. Although All Terrains will generally be a bit noisier than Highway Terrains, the gentle hum of a good set of ATs shouldn't be anything that a radio won't drown out. It is worth noting, however, that emergency braking and driving in the wet won't be quite as nimble. It is worth finding a quiet street and jumping on the anchors hard, to get a feel for just how your car has changed, from the stock tyres. With good quality ATs, it shouldn't be too much of a difference. But in emergencies, inches matter. The real benefit of All Terrains, of course, comes in when the going gets tough. They generally have a stronger side-wall for protection from punctures. They also have a more aggressive tread pattern that spreads to the side of the tyre. This will help to get your car up and out of tricky spots, even when the situation calls for slow, precise movement.
Mud Terrains are the big, bold member of the off-road tyre family. They are generally the ones that you hear before you see. Then, when you see them, they look like they're ready for battle! The aggressive tread pattern on Mud Terrains, unfortunately, takes all of the negatives of road driving on All Terrains but takes it to a new level. In wet conditions, they can be particularly slippery on the road and will hum to you as you drive. But where they really shine is... *drum roll*... Mud! The aggressive pattern on Mud Terrains is designed to dig into slippery mud and keep you moving forward, while self-cleaning and throwing the mud out from the tread. This could easily mean the difference of having to get out the winch, or getting to stomp the right pedal and enjoying yourself like a pig in mud.
The way muddies work, is by digging. Generally, under even the slipperiest mud, there is a bit of firm ground for traction. So a good set of muddies will keep digging until they find it. Because of this, it is a common misconception that muddies are great for beach work. Although the large side-wall of a mud tyre can be great for letting down your tyre pressure and going onto the beach, they will often dig themselves into trouble, more than a good set of All Terrains. But if you're looking to go out and play in the mud, a set of Mud Terrains could be a great investment!
With big wheels and low-profile tyres so popular on road cars, many people chase this look for their new 4x4s. It is worth noting, however, that in off-road situations, a large side-wall is your friend!
The side-wall of your tyre is the part of rubber that goes from the edge of the tread, into the outside of your rims. As such, when you lower the pressure in your tyres, it is the sidewall that has to spread out to give you a larger footprint. So choosing a wheel and tyre combination that gives you plenty of side-wall can mean that you spend less time on the shovel and more time driving.
So next time you're buying new rubber for your 4x4, take the time to think about exactly what sort of driving you will be doing. Wheels and tyres can be a big investment. So any good car yard, mechanic or tyre retailer should be happy to take the 5 minutes to help you find the right tyre for your needs.