In this blog I will be discussing the pros and cons of having matching you camper/ caravan wheels to your tow vehicle and talking about what I have experienced in the past.
When I started out in the touring and camping scene and whilst in the design stage of our first soft floor camper trailer, I opted to fit 6 stud 80 series Landcruiser rims/ hubs and axle. At that stage I designed the camper to have Vehicle Components Cruisemaster independent swingarm suspension with Airbags for variable load adjustment and having the ability to level camper at a campsite.
The reason I went with the six stud Landcruiser wheel/ hub combination was due to price and popularity as the 139.6 PCD X 6 stud pattern was a very common and also suited other manufacturers such as Mitsubishi. At the time of building the camper trailer I had purchased a D40 Nissan Navara which had a smaller Pitch circle diameter (PCD) and 6 studs.
After a trip to Cape York, I wasn’t happy with the Navara’s off road performance and small engine capacity mated to the manual transmission, I found myself the owner of a very nice 105 series Landcruiser. The Landcruiser was fitted with the factory zero offset alloy wheels with decent mud tyres. After purchasing the 105 series I made the decision to change out the 80 series wheels and hubs to 105 series so I had matching wheels on my camper to the tow vehicle. I purchased new hubs from Vehicle Components and sub axles as I also wanted to upgrade from VC’s ford bearing combination to their parallel bearing set as it can handle a higher load
After cutting off old stub axles and lots of measuring to get correct camber in swingarms the new stub axles were welded to the swingarms. After a quick trip to the Electro plate finishers to have the SA5 electro plating touched up after welding, the swingarms fitted and with 105 series cruiser wheels I had matching wheels to my tow vehicle.
In 2012 we took 3 months off with Long Service Leave from our respective jobs and we hit the road from Mackay up through the Gulf country, through the Northern Territory to Darwin and surrounds. We covered a lot of the Territory and down through South Australia along the Oodnadatta track which also follows the Old Ghan railway line.
We had a few tyre issues along the way including picking up an old iron railway spike which was about on tenth of its original size, and tyre delamination. The delamination issue was due to the age of the tyres even though they had a decent amount of tread, they were about 6 years old. As one tyre delaminated and another spiked from the railway spike, we were in Lyndhurst with no available spares (still had option of using camper wheels), I wasn’t concerned as we were back on the bitumen heading for Adelaide.
New Mickey Thompson 4 rib tyres purchased and fitted to the Landcruiser and explored more of South Australia. Heading back to Queensland we visited Broken Hill and headed north through Packsaddle, Tibooburra, Milparinka, Innamincka and Cooper Creek. We headed out through Cameron Corner, through the desert up to the Birdsville to Windorah Road and onto Longreach and finally home to Mackay. No more tyre issues were experienced on the return leg from Adelaide after purchasing new tyres.
Fast forward 3 years and a different tow vehicle again being a 200 series Landcruiser and a Kimberly Karavan with matching wheels we set off again for the full lap of the country. New tyres were fitted to both the Karavan and Landcruiser, we pointed the Cruiser down every major dirt road that we could find whilst doing the big lap.
After 25,000kms of being on the road we didn’t experience any tyres issues. We were very diligent with tyre pressures and whenever we were on the bitumen it was the normal 42-44 PSI, but when we were on the dirt roads we were dropping tyre pressures down to 28-30PSI and limiting our speeds to 80km/hr. Running the tyres at a lower pressure allows the tyres to conform to rocks etc and gives you a smoother ride on corrugations. Lower tyre pressures also increase your footprint to spread the load over a bigger surface area, but you must keep your speed down to prevent the tyres getting too hot as the sidewalls flex more than if tyres were at full highway pressure.
When we ordered the Karavan we ticked the option for matching wheels and track (distance between the wheels), if we hadn’t purchased new and bought a second-hand camper with a different wheel combination, would I have gone to the effort to change to suit the tow vehicle, probably not. If the camper had a solid beam axle, maybe as it’s a lot easier to change than independent swingarm suspension as what’s fitted to the Kimberly range. I would 100% definitely be running new/ near new LT tyres within the last 12 months of manufacture. New tyres contain natural oils which keep them pliable and have a lot more give in them compered to older tyres. All tyres have a manufacturing date stamped on them, usually a month and year for example 0523 would be May 2023.
If you were planning on going very remote like the Canning Stock Route, I would take a second spare to suit your tow vehicle and always a quality tyre repair kit with extra tyre repair cords, air compressor and a suitable jack for your setup. Most vehicle factory jacks show their short comings when they are required to lift a heavily laden 4WD or Camper.
Yes, you do have the option utilising your camper wheels on your tow vehicle if you destroy all of your available spares but if you start off with quality Light truck construction (LT) tyres with a decent load rating and sidewall ply construction, and follow correct procedures regarding tyre pressures and vehicle speed, you should have a trouble-free trip.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision of yours whether funds are spent on matching your Camper wheels to your tow vehicle as it can be an expensive exercise for no advantage for a low-risk trip. As with any trip you will have to assess your travel plans and where you plan to travel to manage your risk and ensure you have enough spares to get back to civilisation safely.
*Disclaimer* – Any information given above I based on my personal view and experience in travelling and what issues I have had to deal with in the past. Either myself Angus Grieve or Xpedition Concepts Pty Ltd cannot be held liable for any issues that may arise from the above information.