A wheel wobble on my Defender TDCi needed investigation. The likely cause was obvious and gleefully accepted: the 265/75 R16 BF Goodrich All-Terrains were cracked and bulging, thus finally done for.
Why would anyone be pleased that £700 worth of tyres were now defunct? Well, the fat ATs that I initially fitted to my 300Tdi Defender, Naomi, in 1997 were a mistake. The steering was like the Titanic’s and the tread instantly filled up with mud off-tarmac.
But I felt obliged to get my money’s worth out of them. They were soon demoted to summer footwear for 30,000 miles. In 2007 I bought Denzel, the TDCi, as a tow vehicle and fitted the ATs to refurbished wheels where they survived 55,000 miles.
On discovering their demise my plan was to fit a more practical 235 replacement, but I slapped on a set of 205/80 R16 Michelin 4x4s as a temporary measure to get straight back on the road.
Well, not quite ‘straight back’.
On removing the rear wheels it was clear the brake pads were also past their sell-by-date. New ones arrived the next day, but the wrinkly metal spring clips weren’t included – a must-have as the old ones had disintegrated.
Two days later I got Denzel back to work on the 205s – it drove so much better. Doing the maths, I had lowered the overall gearing by about nine per cent. First gear is redundant except for hill starts and pulling off with a big trailer. Second-to-sixth feels closer to first-to-fifth on my 300Tdi, and acceleration is vastly improved.
Clearly these would not be the best option off-tarmac as I’ve lost 37mm of ground clearance, but for towing and road use they’re perfect, with the bonus of much less drivetrain wear due to the reduced unsprung mass. But I have to give full credit to the ATs; 85,000 miles over 18 years with 5mm of tread left is amazing!