When to put your vehicle in 4-Wheel Drive

When do you put your vehicle in 4-Wheel Drive? Often there will be times when you and your 4×4 offroad vehicle will be put in a situation where you will need to engage 4-wheel drive. Living in a place like Colorado where the weather can change without notice, it’s always a good idea to know how to operate your vehicle and choose the appropriate setting for the drive train when the weather takes a turn for the worse. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to engage 4-wheel drive, and what setting is best?

Elephant HillThe main purpose of 4-wheel drive is to help your vehicle get more grip to the surface in a low-traction condition. A good time to put your vehicle in 4-wheel drive would be when the roads are slippery from ice, you’re driving in mud, climbing a steep hill, there’s no paved road, driving offroad, or there are uneven surfaces. If you vehicle is sliding, slipping, or failing to get decent traction, it’s probably time to engage 4-wheel drive. Doing so however may result in lower gas mileage, so only use it when appropriate and necessary. Some vehicles with All-Wheel Drive systems or Full-Time 4WD don’t require any input from the driver, so if you’re car has either of these systems you’re already good to go!

Now that we’ve established when it’s appropriate to engage 4-wheel drive, it’s time to decide whether to use 4-High or 4-Low. It’s very important to know the difference between the two and when to use one or the other, otherwise you could cause damage to your vehicle’s transfer case. Before putting your vehicle in any gear, make sure it’s in neutral first.

The facts about 4-High: 4-High allows your vehicle to drive at fast speeds (manufacturers often recommend no faster than 55mph) while power is sent to all four wheels providing your car with better traction than 2-wheel drive. Depending on the application, most drivers will use 4-High more regularly than 4-Low. This setting is used when additional traction is needed due to snow, ice, muddy roads, rocky roads and other slippery conditions.

The facts about 4-Low: 4-Low provides your vehicle with significantly more torque, allowing your vehicle to get out of tricky situations. When using 4-Low, it’s important to keep your vehicle at slow speeds. If you’re in 4-Low and feel the urge to drive over 10mph, chances are your vehicle can handle the road conditions in 4-High without any issue. Use 4-Low on extremely slippery surfaces, very steep inclines, heavy snow, climbing or descending boulders, powering through thick mud or sand or driving through deep water.

If you haven’t used your 4-wheel drive in some time, make sure to take your vehicle to your nearest 4×4 service center for a full inspection.

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