Will our car (tyres esp.) be ok for Palm Valley and Mereenie Loop?

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 16:46
ThreadID: 108052 Views:3112 Replies:15 FollowUps:4
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I'm finalising plans for a trip from Brisbane to West McDonnell Range and Uluru. I'm wondering what the roads are like on a few of the proposed legs, and whether my car is up to it - in particular the tyres.

I have recently bought a 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara, and have fitted a 40mm spring lift kit, so now it has ok ground clearance. However at this stage I still have road tyres. The tyres are new, so plenty of tread depth. If I need to I'll buy new rims and all terrain tyres, but it would help to get advice on whether the roads we are travelling warrant that extra (significant) cost.

Most of the trip will be on bitumen. The off road sections that I'm most unsure of are:
* Plenty highway
* Palm Valley at Finke Gorge NP
* Mereenie loop

I appreciate that the obvious answer is to get new tyres for the trip, just in case. But it would help to know whether all terrain tyres are overkill given that we are going to be on bitumen for so much of the trip. Good quality tyres and new rims will, I imagine, be somewhere around the $1500 to $2000 mark.

My question is, what sorts of roads are we likely to encounter?

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Reply By: Danna - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 17:17

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 17:17
Wouldn't drive Plenty Hwy on street tyres. We drowned over Plenty many, many times. The Hwy may change overnight, a specially with rain or flood. If the road is not freshly graded, on some parts you may have to drive in loose sand on lower tyre pressure, which means you need good strong tyres sidewalls and solid rims.
Good luck anyway Dana
AnswerID: 533558

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 17:56

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 17:56
I can't comment on Palm Valley and have only driven the Meerenie Loop and Plenty Highway once and that was with good Light Truck Tyres.

Based on that experience and plenty of previous gravel road driving in NSW in cars with "street" tyres, assuming your vehicle is not heavily laden and your HT tyres are near new as stated above, I wouldn't buy new AT tyres for JUST this trip.

IF in doubt, carry a spare tyre on the roof. On the Meerienie Loop and the Plenty, I really can't see you needing low pressure in your tyres which require sidewalls bagging out if the base is solid, but there may be many with significantly more experience on these roads than I.
Remember to drop air pressures approx 25% from what you would run on bitumen.

The residents in the communities off the Meerenie Loop use HT tyres.
AnswerID: 533561

Reply By: Les PK Ranger - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 18:31

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 18:31
As mentioned good AT LT grade tyres would be very handy for the Mereenie Loop and certainly Palm Valley to the very end carpark.

LT grade will allow you to deflate to a good lower pressure and ride to the corros much better, and of course give better traction on the uneven ground / rock from the campgrounds at Palm to the main carpark of the walks etc.

I'd mainly just get them because they will be far better all round anywhere off the blacktop.

Just swap em out when back in town.

A good AT LT like the Dunlop AT22's would be fine, even though nearly a road tyre tread . . . but might as well get something a little better, maybe one the Maxxis AT treads would be good value for your future touring.
AnswerID: 533568

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 19:46

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 19:46
Hi P Young

At a minimum, I would personally like the security of AT/LT tyres.............

but my sister lives in Alice Springs and drives a stock standard RAV 4 with normal street tyres and heads out to Palm Valley quite often and she has never had any issues, just be careful and drive to the conditions.


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AnswerID: 533574

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 20:42

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 20:42
Rain aside, on that trip you WILL encounter smooth gravel, stony sections, corrugations and sand (possibly deep and soft).
In my view, the tyres come first and the lift for clearance would be a close second. You won't regret the $ on tyres - there's heaps of little sharp stones out there just waiting to attack the thin shoulders on your passenger class tyres. When choosing all terrain / LT tyres, there are just two more things necessary for enhancing their lifespan .... change the pressures when necessary and TAKE IT EASY over the stones ! :-o).
AnswerID: 533577

Reply By: gbc - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 21:05

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 21:05
I have followed bash cars over the plenty highway and those on highway tyres don't tend to go too well. The plenty is littered with tyre carcasses. If you blow one, you'll probably blow most of them and that's where the problems start.
Palm valley isn't too far out if town, and the hire rav4's are out that way daily on highway tyres. The whole loop is a bit bigger though, and varies.
That an at is better than a ht is undeniable. That you need to knee jerk to an lt is arguable, especially on the vehicle you are taking. I would probably try to stay with a p rated at on that car rather than an lt, as pound for pound a p rated tyre needs less air to carry the same load as an lt which is good for off-roading.

AnswerID: 533578

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 21:41

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 21:41
In my opinion I would prefer to go for LT (Light Truck) construction and not P (Passenger) construction if changing tyre types.

The tyre carcass construction is what determines the tyres strength. LT's have much thicker sidewalls and overall are a much stronger construction than a P tyre.

P tyres usually have a much high speed rating and this is achieved by having a THINNER sidewalll and thus allowing better heat dissipation (heat is a big killer of tyres). But the thinner sidewall and tread area makes them more vulnerable to staking and sharp stones.

However, I would go for HT (Highway Tread) rather than AT (All Terrain) in LT construction (you can get both types of tread patterns in both carcass types).

The tread type is more about traction and given the OP's requirements, much more time is spent on the blacktop and the proposed "off-road" driving is only formed gravel roads ie. no need for a high traction tyre. While AT's are all-rounders, HT's are better on bitumen and also throw up less stones on gravel.


FollowupID: 816967

Follow Up By: gbc - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:13

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:13
I concur, mostly. Yes, Lt's are much more strongly built and are heavier, and accordingly require much more air pressure to hold up the same weight as the equivalent sized p rated tyre. When running high speed corrugations such as the above, the P's will happily run less pressure more comfortably and with less stress on the car and less heat buildup in the tyres. Yes, they are more susceptible to stakes, but at the correct pressures will roll over the rocks as well as anything else, and in a car that will never approach the loading requirements of an Lt I think there is an argument that should be made to not necessarily go for an Lt unless doing some gnarly offroading or very heavy loading (4+ t gvm?).
I know they aren't for most of us, but they do have their place and in this situation the need for ultimate strength might be outweighed by the positives of a mid spec offroad tyre?
FollowupID: 816985

Follow Up By: Robert H2 - Thursday, Jun 05, 2014 at 21:29

Thursday, Jun 05, 2014 at 21:29
I drove into Palm Valley on Tuesday, stayed overnight in the camp ground and spent most of the next day exploring.

The sign at the start of the road states

"Palm Valley
Camp Ground 18
Cycad Gorge 22
Severe 4WD Route"

Believe me they mean it.

I would not entertain tackling this track with passenger tyres.

This is a place not to be missed, absolutely spectacular.

I would suggest you fit some Light Truck (LT) construction tyres and enjoy your trip.
FollowupID: 817279

Reply By: 671 - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 22:09

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 22:09
Whether your street tyres will be ok or not is entirely up to you. Street tyres will drive over dirt and rocks but the real killer in those conditions is too much speed.

My first experience on those type of roads was in 1967 when I drove over the unsealed road from Mt Isa through Boulia to Winton on 5.20 x 10 street tyres. It was a bit hard back then finding an LT for a Mini and still is. The road from Boulia to Winton was good but down from Isa was all wheel tracks and dry creek beds. I just drove to the conditions and the thought of not getting through never even occurred to me.

A few years later I did five trips over the then unsealed Nullarbor on 6.40 x 13 street tyres without any problems. The whole road was littered with shredded tyres and buckled wheels from people going like a bat out of hell in overloaded cars.

I have driven over the Oodnadatta Track on street tyres.

Last year I was in Palm Valley and in came a 60 series Cruiser on street tyres.

Street tyres are not ideal in those conditions but if you take it easy, don't set a time limit and watch where you are putting the wheels, you should be ok and you definitely won't be the first or the last to do it.

Your car with that lift should be ok in Palm Valley. The only problem is a few rock ledges in the last few ks. I noticed they had many deep gouges in them, possibly from soft roaders. The sign at the start of the track said 'Serious 4wds only". I have seen plenty of 4wd only signs in the bush but never any with the word "serious " in them. Maybe the locals are getting sick of having to rescue people.
AnswerID: 533581

Reply By: Turbo 1 - Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 22:16

Sunday, Jun 01, 2014 at 22:16
LT are better but having said that we completed a 3,000 km trip through the SA outback and a crossing of the Simpson Desert last year in our less than 12 month old car and standard highway tyres without a problem. These tyres will stay on until they need replacing and will be replaced with an LT/AT.
On another trip on another car we had a flat very early on in the trip on a very new LT/AT. I put the spare HT on and this tyre lasted for several thousand k's.

AnswerID: 533582

Reply By: P_Young - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 05:20

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 05:20
Thanks everyone for your help. I posted earlier about communication equipment, and as with that experience I'm grateful for all the generous advice and help. It's a great example of "I don't know what I don't know". Thank goodness for this community of people, and the opportunity to ask questions!

I'm off tyre shopping.

AnswerID: 533583

Reply By: mikehzz - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 07:52

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 07:52
I did the Plenty and a few of the other major "tracks" a few years ago on street tyres. I'm glad I took an extra spare because I needed it. I got to have a chat with tyre repair guys in Birdsville, Mt Dare and Oodnadatta while they were patching my tyres. :-) My advice is to do the trip on your current tyres but be very mindfull to keep your speed way down on the roads that might eat your tyres. My extra spare was a tyre only, no rim, to keep the weight down, pick one up from a wrecker. You really are on the edge of your seat after you get a flat and you are a few hundred kilometres from a garage without a spare. All the rocks on the road start to look like they have teeth. I finished the trip with 3 repaired tyres, one of which was sidewall damage to be used only in an emergency. Having said all that, I know another guy who has done a lot of the tracks out there on lower profile HT's without incident.
AnswerID: 533587

Reply By: Neil & Pauline - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:08

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:08
I have done the Palm Valley with a Grand Vitara with road tyres. Was dry weather and had to be very careful because of clearance issues. plenty of rocks so just a matter of getting the wheels onto rock instead of straddling. I just have standard suspension.

AnswerID: 533595

Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:22

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 12:22
Your tyres aren't ideal and off road tyres would obviously be better, but personally I wouldn't change them just for that trip.
The first time I went to Palm Valley was in a Bedford van with low profile tyres and the track was a lot worse back then........not the ideal vehicle but we made it and had just as much fun as everyone else.....probably more. LOL
AnswerID: 533596

Reply By: P_Young - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 15:45

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 15:45
More food for thought. Thank you. I'm taking a roof top camper (hard shell style) so can't easily take a second spare.

I found a compromise of sorts - Bob Jane sell a cheap all terrain tyre - a General Grabber AT for $200 each (much cheaper than buying 16" rims and then Coopers for $320 a pop).

I guess it's a new thread (asking about these tyres), but these look like a step up from my road tyres (although not as good as light truck BFGs for example)
AnswerID: 533608

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Thursday, Jun 05, 2014 at 22:37

Thursday, Jun 05, 2014 at 22:37
I've got General Grabber AT2's on the Jeep since last December. Been through the Vic High Country on some rough tracks and done some hard tracks out of Sydney and not a mark on them. They aren't LT but pretty good for the price.
FollowupID: 817290

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 18:57

Monday, Jun 02, 2014 at 18:57
Our OKA is fitted with highway tyres and we spend most of our time on the gravel.
These tyres are superb in the sand and on the dirt and run well at sustained reduced pressures. They have a thin sidewall with a single ply of steel and run cool which is a great plus.

I suggest that the biggest and most important difference between highway tyres and off road tyres is the tread compound. Harder compounds will chip on some gravel roads if higher speeds are maintained and this is an issue with the tyres on the OKA, but only on a few roads.

To the OP, I would suggest that using your highway tyres will be fine PROVIDED you take it slowly and reduce your pressures.

OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 533618

Reply By: Sigmund - Tuesday, Jun 03, 2014 at 08:28

Tuesday, Jun 03, 2014 at 08:28
I wonder how many people actually adjust their tyre pressure to accommodate a load of stuff in the back and/or weight on the tow ball.
AnswerID: 533641

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