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Essential Tyre Pressure Tips for 4WDs

by Morgan Wright on 20th January 2012 in 4WD | 3 comments
When preparing for a 4WD trip, one of the first things I do is check my tyre pressure. Not having the right pressure in your tyres for the type of terrain that you are driving through can be difficult and dangerous. I’m going to share some tyre tips that will help you drive easily and safely on your next four wheel driving adventure.


One of the most obvious safety focal points of four wheel driving and any kind of driving for that matter, is the relationship between your car and the road. The dominant link here, and the only physical contact, is your tyres.

Why do I need to check the pressure of my tyres?

There is a lot of confusion around what pressures should be run in tyres and a lot of people seem to opt for too much pressure, when in reality this is just as dangerous as having low pressure.

The affect of having too much pressure in your tyres:

  • The tyre is over-inflated and consequently only a narrow width of the tyre is making contact with the road.
  • In larger four wheel drives, too much pressure in your tyres can make the car feel like it is skating across the road surface.
  • To much pressure in your tyres will also wear your tyres unevenly.

The affect of having too little pressure in your tyres:

  • The level of control decreases, and more importantly you increase the risk of a blow out.
  • Driving long distances at speed with under inflated tyres causes the sidewalls to heat up, which can lead to a blowout.

What is the right pressure for my vehicle?

  • All cars have a tyre placard on them somewhere, which is basically a little metal plate detailing the pressures which should be observed in your car. Of course this changes when you fit different rims and tyres on your vehicle.
  • As a general rule I would run 36-40psi in a Landcruiser or Patrol. Some would argue that this is too low, traditionalists might argue that it’s far too low! Now this is highway pressure mind you, so of course driving on dirt roads or sandy/muddy/snowy conditions will call for a decrease in pressure.
  • The affect of decreasing the pressure in sandy conditions acts to extend the ‘footprint’ of your tyre, in other words you have a greater contact point with the road, and you are less likely to get bogged.
  • In really difficult sandy country I have had to drop down to 5psi.
  • However, lowering the pressure is not ideal as you greatly increase the risk of a blowout or rolling the tyre off the rim. If you are forced to significantly drop your tyre pressure it would be best to have a compressor with you, or allow for a very slow drive back to the nearest servo!

How can I drive safely with the pressure I’ve set?

There is a simple relationship to observe when altering your tyre pressures. The three key elements are Pressure / Speed / Load.

  • If you decrease your pressure something else must also change, ie. drop your speed or decrease your load.
  • If you increase your load (ie. for utes), then you should also increase your tyre pressure to accommodate this.
  • As you can now understand tyre pressures are really important, and every four wheel drive should have a pressure gauge in the glove box. If you find yourself without one, or you’re in a work vehicle and inevitably someone has pinched the gauge, you can still reduce pressure evenly around the car by timing how much air you let out of each tyre.

I hope that helps clear up the the importance of tyre pressures, after all tyres are a huge cost especially for four wheel drives so we should all try to preserve the integrity of our tyres for as long as possible.

For further information on tyre pressure maintenance and preparing for your next 4wd trip, feel free to drop Snowys a line by either emailing [email protected] or calling our toll free number 1300 914 007.

Safe travels!

Morgan Wright

Morgan Wright

After getting well off the beaten track with work, I'm now looking forward to some more relaxed touring with my wife. We'll keep you posted from the road!

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  • Mike Woud says:

    Good reading on the tyre subject but the(offroading) comment about putting your palm on the tyre for checking its temp sounds a bit prehistoric. Taking in the time, cost,remoteness etc I think it is almost absolutely essential to have a TPMS! Tyre Pressure Monitor System. These will give you your tyres pressures and temperatures on the dash while your driving giving a audible and visual alert whenever your tyres operating outside set parameters. This saves fuel time and costs not to mention safety (Think roll overs as result of a slow leak unnoticed) .I purchased mine of ebay (maximum_solar) TPMS wireless EXTERNAL tire tyre pressure monitoring system
    maximum_solar | 723 |AU $159.60
    When on the Simpson its important to have your tire as soft ad possible to enable traction and eliminate track damage. a tpms will let you do this safely.

  • David Leslie David Leslie says:

    A Great product to have in your 4wd kit is a Speed Deflator. This little unit will not only let your tyres down much faster than using your key, but it has a gauge attached so you don’t have to guess, or constantly use a seperate gauge to know what pressure you are running.
    You can pick up the Speedy Deflator from Ironman 4X4 Accessories at Snowys along with a huge range of handy 4wd accessories and recovery gear!

  • offroading says:

    Could not agree more Morgan. Like many things in life it is all a balance of trading off in some areas to gain performance in the area you need for the obstacle you are about to attack.

    Always check the maximum pressure on the side wall of the tyre and never exceed this pressure, in fact the only time you should come close to this pressure is if you are highway driving with a big load on.

    When running low pressures (eg below 18psi) there is a risk of overheating the rubber, this changes the compound (evident by a blue tinge on the surface) making it harder and more brittle, decreasing chip resistance and increasing cracking of the rubber throughout the remainder of the tyres shortened life, If left unchecked it will result in a blowout. Either way it results in wrecking a good set of tyres and could even result in panel damage if you are unlucky enough to have a strip of tyre start flicking around during a high speed blowout. So after dropping tyre pressure, check your tyre temperature on all four corners after 5 minutes and again at 15 minutes of driving to make sure it is not getting too hot. The best way is to do this is to put your palm on the side wall for 5 seconds, it should feel warm but comfortable. If you feel that you want to pull your hand away, then you’re entering the danger zone, if it is physically too hot to hold your hand on the tyre then you have probably already started damaging the rubber and urgent action is required, try to do as many of the following as practical.
    1. Increasing the pressure – put the pressure up 5-10psi
    2. Taking a break to let the rubber cool down – shade or wet down your tyres. It could be a great opportunity to explore the surroundings on foot or grab a bite to eat.
    3. Decrease your load – if possible leave unrequired items at camp or spread the heavier items like recovery gear and water across other vehicles.
    4. Travel during the cooler parts of the day (don’t plan sand trips during hot weather – your tyres will get hot quicker and the sand will be softer)
    5. Slow down – this allows the tyres to dissipate the heat. The hotter the day or the lower the pressure, the slower you should be driving.

    Don’t be surprised if you need to run higher pressures on the back then the front as when you are loaded up with all your camping gear there will be more weight on the back axle. It goes without saying that if you are planning to run low pressures to improve traction and flotation on mud/snow/sand/rock you should carry a good quality tyre gauge and air compressor (both of which I have seen in Snowys newly expanded 4×4 range last time I was in the shop) When you compare the cost of a tyre gauge to the cost of a tyre it’s a no brainer. By decreasing your pressure correctly you can gain traction, reduce wear and tear on your 4b’s suspension and drive train, reduce impact fractures, improve ride and improve puncture resistance resulting in a more comfortable trip and improved 4×4 capability. The best way to get your head around it is to get out there and try some different pressures on your next trip.


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