Four-wheel drives are known to traverse tough road and weather conditions. From large SUVs to pick-up trucks, the defining attribute of any 4WD vehicle is its tyres. They are the primary contact to those rugged roads, after all.
Most drivers realise this and take good care of their 4wd tyres. During maintenance bouts, the most common inquiry is, “Do I replace all four at once?” First, let us review the basic drive system of a 4WD so we can answer this question.
How the Four-Wheel Drive System Works?
A Four-wheel drive is a vehicle that has what manufacturers call a part-time system. This system allows front wheels and rear wheels to turn at different speeds as needed. It means that the vehicle’s engine allocates power to each of the individual tyres, providing the right amount of torque for maximum traction. A set of gears referred to as central differential makes this all work.
Unlike AWD, 4WD is not turned on all the time. When in normal road conditions, the front wheels spin freely while the rear wheels drive the vehicle forward. The driver needs to pull a button or lever to activate the system.
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An advantage of this system is allowing more traction and fine control by the driver in challenging terrains. That’s why 4WDs are specifically suited for off-road travel and conditions like slippery roads, loose gravel, etc. They are usually utility vehicles like jeeps and pick-up trucks.
Why Matching Tyres are Needed
The differential systems mentioned above allow only short-term differences in wheel speeds. It means that tyres with varying sizes, tread design or depth may force the differential system to always turn. It may heat up, wear out more easily, and lead to malfunction.
Let’s suppose you replace only two 4wd tyres. The new tyres will have a larger diameter than the old ones whose treads have worn out to some degree. The axles turn at different speeds as you drive because the tyres have different revolution capacities. This is not how the vehicle is designed; therefore, it will cause strain. So, use tyres that match to avoid this situation. Ensure they have the same tread depth, pattern, and manufacturer.
Moreover, review your vehicle’s manual for proper guidelines. It may include the minimum difference in the diameter of your tyres.
Routine Maintenance is a Must
Tyre maintenance is essential to a good-performing vehicle. The tyres in your car need regular rotation, so they maintain almost the same tread wear. Manufacturers have a recommendation for rotation of a particular vehicle. But if not specified, the average recommended rotation is every six months or about 5000 miles more or less.
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Tyre rotation helps maintain tread depth, but you should check for signs of deterioration on your tyre. Tyres with tread depths below 1.6 mm are considered un-roadworthy. Look out for wear markers on the grooves of your tyre. These are small rubber blocks that surface as the rubber wears out. Irregular wear results from certain road conditions or driving styles. So shallow grooves in various parts of a tyre are indications that they need to be replaced soon.
Any tyre, including ones for 4WD, need to be replaced every five or six years whether they appear worn out or not. Rubber undergoes a chemical transformation with time, and this may result in poor performance.