Its been a long time coming, but I have finally managed to get enough cash together to fit BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres to my campervan.
It's always been a plan of mine to do this to the Movano, but the tyres I have chosen are not cheap! Therefore I had to spend some time saving up to get them.
I've spent many years playing with Land Rover's and have had many all terrain and mud terrain tyres on various Landys in the past. So having fitted the tyres to my campervan, I thought I would impart my knowledge and write this in depth guide to fitting all terrain tyres on a van.
All Terrain Tyres on a van?
Yes. There is a growing number of people who are fitting all terrain tyres to their vans. Apart from looking good, they provide extra traction in slippery conditions. This is especially great if you are camping or parking up on grassy fields, or driving muddy lanes regularly. Which is what I do.
With the state of some of the roads in the UK, a lot of van drivers are opting for an all terrain tyre. The increased side wall helps absorb some of the shock of pot holes and bumps in the road. In addition, an all terrain tyre is usually built stronger (for example the BF Goodrich KO2 has a 10ply side wall), so will take more abuse if you are regularly driving on poor road conditions - which is usually the case in the lanes where I spend a lot of time.
But before we start looking at the all terrain tyres in detail, lets first go through how the tyre sizing, load index and speed ratings work and what they mean.
Tyre Sizing explained
You will often see tyre sizes written something like this: 215/65/R16 109/107 T.
Lets split it down and take each part and explain what it means.
This is the width of the tyre tread expressed in millimetres. So for this example, the tyre tread is 215mm in width (or 21.5cm)
This refers to the height of the sidewall. It is expressed as a percentage of the tread width. So in this example it is 65% of 215mm. The larger the number the higher the side wall. Off road vehicles will generally have a large sidewall (so 75 or 80). Whereas, a performance car will have a lower sidewall (40 or 45 for example)
This is the diameter of the wheel expressed in inches. So in this example the tyre is designed to fit on a 16 inch wheel. The "R" just means radial.
This is the tyre load rating. See below for further explanation.
This is the speed rating of the tyre. See below for further information
The load index of the tyre tells you how much weight the tyre can safely carry. On the example above it is 109/107. For normal cars, its common just to have a single number, for example 97 or 103.
The 109/107 is pretty simple to understand. The first number is the rating of the tyre for single wheel rear axle vehicles (like my Vauxhall Movano). The second number is the load rating for use on vans with twin wheels on the rear axle. For example, heavy duty Mercedes Sprinters and Iveco vans that have twin rear wheels.
But what do the numbers actually mean?
Well below is the load index chart, which tells you how much weight each tyre can take.
I can't stress enough how important the load rating is. If you buy a tyre with a lower load rating than what the van manufacturer states, then you risk the chance of a blow out as the tyre becomes overloaded. The resulting crash, and investigation could end up with your insurance company not paying out, or prosecution.
Every tyre will have a speed rating (or maximum speed it is rated to). Using the chart below you can find out the speed rating of the tyre. So in our example above, the "T" rating means the tyre is good for up to 118mph
Choosing all terrain tyres
There are so many different all terrain tyres available these days, its difficult to choose. Some are more focussed towards the road, than off road, and you might see this expressed as 70/30. This means the tyre is biased 70% towards the road, and 30% off road.
On the other end of the scale are the mud terrain tyres which are usually 70% off road, and 30% on road. They are usually reserved for Land Rover's and other 4x4's that spend a lot of time off road. They also make a lot of noise on the road, so its not something I advise to fit to your campervan.
Many of the all terrain tyres are classed as 50/50 - so are equally happy on the road or off road situation.
Choosing the right size
There are many aspects involved in choosing the right tyres for your van. The first thing you will need to find out is what size all terrain tyre is going to fit, and have the correct load index to take the fully laden weight of your van.
Taking my Vauxhall Movano as an example, in the Vauxhall handbook it states three sizes of tyres that can be fitted:
- 205/80/R16 - load rating 109
- 215/65/R16 - load rating 109
- 225/65/R16 - load rating 109
My van had 215/65/R16 tyres fitted. I knew I wanted to increase the width of the tread to 225. So thats not a problem as the handbook states this as an option. But where it does differ, is in the height of the sidewall.
The BF Goodrich all terrain tyres I want to fit have a 75% tyre wall - so I am increasing the size of the side wall, and in turn the tyre will be much bigger. So I needed to find out if it will fit.
Tyre Size Calculator
Firstly, I headed to an online tyre comparison calculator. I inputted my existing tyre size, and the new size, and it told me the difference between the two. I then went out and measured the van to get an idea if the new tyre size will fit in the wheel space and under wheel arch.
Secondly, i spent some time researching online to see if anybody has fitted all terrain tyres to my type of van. And the answer in this case turned out to be, yes!
I found a couple of people on the campervan groups on Facebook that had fitted all terrain tyres to their Vauxhall Movano and Renault Master vans. They had fitted the large 225/75/R16 tyres to their vans and had no clearance problems with bodywork or plastic bumpers. So I had found the maximum size I can go to.
Selecting all terrain tyres for my van
So I knew I had to find an all terrain tyre with a load rating of at least 109 (or 1030Kg) in a maximum size of 225/75/R16. This immediately ruled out a lot of tyres. I could find plenty of tyres in the different sizes I could use, but many of them were not load rated for a van. This left me with very few options.
As I wanted to fit all terrain tyres to my Vauxhall Movano van, I had to make sure the load index of any tyre I bought was correct. All four tyres had to be able to take the weight of my van when it was fully laden at 3300Kg.
The Michelin Aglis Cross Climate was an option. It looked good, and was rated for use in snow. But ultimately I wanted the BF Goodrich KO2 all terrain tyres, and the only size that had the load rating I needed was the 225/75/R16.
The load rating of the BF Goodrich all terrain tyres in this size was 115 (or 1215Kg), so I knew it could take a lot more weight than I was ever going to put on them.
3 Peak Snowflake Symbol
As an added bonus, the BF Goodrich all terrain tyres were rated for snow and ice, as it had the 3 peak snowflake symbol on the side wall. You can see the symbol on the right.
This designation means the tyre can be used as a winter tyre in country's that specify winter tyres at certain times of the year. For example, Norway or Sweden. It also means I stand some chance of keeping the van on the road if we get any snowy weather in Devon!
All terrain tyre buying options
- BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A KO2
- General Grabber AT3
- Cooper Discoverer AT3
- Kumho Road Venture AT51
- Falken Wildpeak AT
With the all terrain tyres now on the van, I could inspect the bodywork clearances a little better, and it was tight! The clearance was only 2cm on the front and back tyres. The following four photos show the clearance to the bodywork and bumpers.
If I needed to, I was quite willing to cut a little off the front and rear bumpers to give more clearance. Even though the clearance is small, this wasn't necessary. However, just keep it in mind if you fit your own all terrain tyres to your van and find you need some more clearance.
I know what some of you are going to say! What about fuel economy? Well, yes, putting these all terrain tyres on the van will affect fuel consumption. Having spent many years with Land Rover's I know to expect around 1-2mpg difference. At the end of the day, its a van. Its not the most fuel efficient vehicle out there, so a 1-2mpg difference doesn't worry me too much.
The larger open spaced tread pattern of the all terrain tyres is going to generate more road noise. This is to be expected. In the few weeks that I have had the tyres on the van I can report an increase in tyre noise. Again, it doesn't bother me as the van is hardly quiet inside with all the camper equipment rattling around. You can always turn the radio up a little louder 😉
As the all terrain tyres are much larger, the rolling circumference is much greater. This means my speedo on the dashboard may not be reading correctly now. The easiest way to check this is to compare the speedometer against the sat nav. Generally the speed will "under read" with the correct size tyres fitted. So 65mph on the speedo would be around 70mph on the sat nav.
With these larger tyres I have found that there isn't much difference at all now. There is no under reading any more. So 65mph on the speedo, is 65mph on the sat nav. Its worth bearing this in mind when speed cameras are around haha. I don't travel fast in the van anyway, its not designed to be a racing car, so I tend to stick around 60mph when I'm driving on motorways anyway.
Testing the tyres
As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to get out and test the all terrain tyres in some muddy conditions. So I drove down to some private woodland that I am allowed to use to give them a test.
As it happened, the land owner had been doing a lot of work in the woodland, so it was a lot muddier than usual. Lets be honest here, I wasn't expecting the van to perform like a Land Rover. However, I was expecting a lot less wheel spin than my old road tyres used to produce at the woodland.
And I wasn't disappointed. The van drove up the muddy tracks with only the smallest hint of wheelspin. I know for a fact that I wouldn't have even been able to drive up this track with my old road tyres. They used to spin up in the wet on this track, let alone this amount of mud.
I'm happy! That's pretty much all there is to it. The van looks a lot more rugged with the aggressive tread. Not to mention the larger side walls fill the wheel arch better. The all terrain tyres have also raised the van slightly, and you can feel this when driving. Along with this, I also have better ground clearance under the van too! I have also adjusted my driving style to accommodate for the higher centre of gravity.
It remains to be seen if the addition of all terrain tyres on the van has compromised my "stealth" ability when parking up in towns! Im sure I will keep you updated on this 😉
Van/Tyre size reference
I thought I would start collating some information on which all terrain tyre sizes fit which vans. So I am going to start with the 2 vans that I have owned and fitted with all terrain tyres.
Add your own experiences in the comments below and I will add them to this list.
- Vauxhall Movano/Renault Master/Nissan Interstar (Pre 2010) - 225/75/R16
- Volkswagen Transporter T4 - 215/75/R15