View Comments
4WD: Wet conditions need good grip
West Wheels Off-Roading, Sat June 30th 2012. With a more aggressive tread design than the standard road tyre the AT works well in easy to moderately challenging conditions. Picture: Copyright GBTW

The recent rains have a few people thinking about whether it's worth splashing out on upgraded tyres.

I remember a being on a track in the Gembrook State Forest east of Melbourne when I first started off-road adventuring. My new dual-cab was more work truck and dog transport than fully kitted-out off-road wrangler, and I hadn't yet switched out the road-biased factory rubber.

It was getting late and I knew a short cut which was easy driving - when it was dry. The skies darkened dramatically and our well-lit path turned into a dim maze through thick green dripping foliage.

Rain pelted down, firm clay tracks dissolved to slush, the tyres turned to slicks of gooey red slime and we headed downhill with as much traction and control as a dog on lino. We survived unscathed but just one trip like that will convince the financial controller of the importance of investing in the right rubber.

The tyres on almost any new 4x4 are biased for their most frequent operation - on-road use. While chunkier than those on a family sedan and with better traction on gravel than an outright road tyre, the tread design focuses on optimal grip on the bitumen and a smooth quiet test drive from the dealer's car yard.

If you're planning an adventure beyond suburbia, then you'll need to consider one of three main tyre styles for your 4WD. There's no such thing as the perfect do-it-all off-road tyre; it depends on the terrain you'll be driving through and the vehicle itself.

All Terrain (A/T) tyres provide a balance between highway driving and traction for moderate general off-road usage.

Mud Terrain (M/T) tyres have a more aggressive tread that works well in sand, dirt and rock, with improved performance in muddy or slippery conditions, but they are noisier than the A/Ts.

Or you can choose a specialist tyre, with a very aggressive tread design for maximum traction in extreme conditions.

Choosing the right tyre is not as easy as you might think, especially when considering tyre size, load-carrying capacity, construction and tread design.

Look for a tyre store with a wide range of 4x4 options and they'll help you choose a design most appropriate for your needs.

We'll look at how to avoid getting stuck or what to do if you sink in the goo another time.