Airing down, a chore?
Air pressures can be a hot topic and the debate over correct pressures for varied conditions will likely continue fireside for decades to come. It’s the reasons why airing down can sometimes be such a chore that we’d like to explore.
Let me first recap. The number one reason I aim to drop air, and this may sound selfish, is for comfort. I can drive thousands of kilometres on softer tyres no problems, but on hard ones my back will likely be sore after a hundred.
The impact on the landscape is important for me too. Australia has some pristine landscapes, and it feels a privilege that we can all explore so many of them so freely. It only feels right to travel a little lighter, and perhaps to pass on the experience of arriving someplace with little evidence of other travellers to the next explorer.
Finally – vehicles. Of course, improving off-road performance is paramount, but there is much written on that subject. I’m talking damage, or preferably the avoidance of it. Tyres, bushings, the chassis – and every other component of the vehicle and your load can take a beating. Everything rattles, you can feel it in your teeth. These are the roads that dropping some pounds from your tyres will make as much difference as your Old Man Emus.
These in between roads are often the most tempting to press on. The steep, soft and slippery terrains will likely demand that you air down. The long-corrugated tracks however, will lure you in. Before you know it you're committed and it’s strange how hard it can be just to pull over even when the rattling begins.
We often talk about it “We’ll just pull over, have a cup of coffee and air up, it's a good break”. But the reality is usually quite different – blazing sun – driving rain – long, dusty convoys speeding by – tired with a long way to go…
Last month we towed a camper trailer to Dirk Hartog Island. We don’t often tow, and it was surprising how much longer 6 tyres took to adjust. I also forgot to buy a longer inflation hose, so we had to disconnect to spin the 4WD around to air up each time. It was a hassle and it got me thinking.
Perhaps one day Central Tire Inflation Systems like in the Hummer will be standard, and everybody will simply dial in the tyre pressures from the cabin with ease. But until then I think the next best thing is to make changing pressure easy, and to make it fast.
I’ve got an ARB Compressor under bonnet. It’s been there for years, it’s reliable and I never thought I would want anything more, but now I’m not so sure. Those twin compressor units are starting to look enticing.
But it’s also as much about the little things. A longer air hose or a hose extension would have made life much easier with the trailer. We use an ARB E-Z Tyre Deflator which removes the valve core for quick deflation. We wouldn’t use anything else, and while it’s quick we currently only have one. When there’s 6 tyres to get through with a trailer, or we’re just keen to get on to the fun stuff after too long on the tarmac, hopefully getting a second deflator and a second person on the tools will speed things up.
In the future we’ll be keeping the coffee for a better spot, and be better prepared to get our tyres up and down faster – no excuses now.