Answers To Common 4 Wheel Drive Questions (FAQ)


The first time you buy a 4×4 vehicle is a thrilling experience. 

But this will usually lead to more questions raised than answers. 

If you have a lot of unanswered questions about your 4-wheel drive, you are not alone. 

It is essential to find all the possible answers to all the questions you may have about your four-wheeler. 

This will help you to manage the vehicle better and understand how others have dealt with similar circumstances that you may be facing. 

The questions addressed here will apply to almost all trim levels and model years of the popular 4 wheel drive vehicles available in the market today. 

This will give you a clear picture of the maintenance, handling, and operations of your 4-wheel-drive. 

The 4WD drivetrain is the most sought after when it comes to driving the vehicle in challenging terrains. 

While there are other superior 4-wheelers like the Jeeps that are built to handle even more complicated off-road conditions, moderate 4WD vehicles will fit both on- and off-road conditions. 

A 4WD gives you the confidence that you can go almost anywhere without fear of being stuck. 

You will also have peace of mind when you know you don’t have unanswered questions about your ride. 

Because of that, we have compiled a list of all the common answers to common 4-wheel drive vehicles. 

Whether you are driving a Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Volkswagen, Jeep, Chevrolet, or any 4WD, these answers will apply to most. 

Answers To Common 4 Wheel Drive Questions (FAQ) 

Below are some of the Frequently asked questions (FAQ) to common 4WD concerns.

Is it bad to drive in 4H all the time? 

You can use 4H when driving on and off-road conditions because it will give you more traction for a safe drive both in rough terrain and on the highway at moderate speeds. 

But you should avoid using 4H on the highway when driving at high speeds. 

What is 2H, 4H, and 4L on 4×4? 

Both full-time and part-time four-wheel drive will come with a dual-range transfer, which allows you even more versatility when handling challenging terrains. When your car is in 2H or two-wheel-drive mode, the rear wheels are usually the ones driving the vehicle. 

This is good for driving on an ordinary road that has no complicated terrain. 

As the name implies, the vehicle is driven in all four wheels in the 4H mode (Four-wheel-drive – high range). 

This is ideal for driving on terrains that are characterized by dirt, gravel, and sand that requires more traction.

Lastly, the 4L (also called four-wheel-drive /Low Range) engages all four wheels with a low gear ratio. 

When in low range, your vehicle tires will turn considerably slower; therefore, you will engage this at lower speeds, but with a greater torque. 

This is ideal for soft sand, steep climbs, and drops, thick muck, or snow. 

If you wanted to go off-road, you would have to get out of the 4WD and lock the hubs on the front wheels and then unlock them when you wish to go back to 2H. 

This can be done using the shifter beside the manual or automatic shifter stick inside the vehicle. 

Most vehicles have a dial /knob in the cabin that allows you to adjust between high- and low-range configurations. 

Note that the most recent 4WD vehicles allow you to easily switch from 2H to 4H and vice versa without stopping the vehicle. 

But to switch from 4L to 4H, you must stop the vehicle completely. 

How fast can you drive in 4H? 

When you are driving at 4H, you can go as fast as you wish; there is no maximum speed for 4HI. 

But when driving in 4L, you should maintain a speed of roughly 55 miles per hour; any faster than that will damage your drivetrain and transmission. 

How fast can you drive in 4H? 

But this may differ from one model to the other. 

Therefore, you should be guided by the manufacturer’s manual concerning the speeds to use at different driving ranges. 

Does 4H use more gas? 

Yes. This is because the 4H has more drivetrain components and weight compared to driving in the 2-wheel-drive mode for the same vehicle. 

In addition to the differential and transfer case, 4WD features an additional driveshaft. 

These components add weight, friction, and rotational mass to the vehicle, resulting in a decreased fuel efficiency and increased emission. 

A 4-wheel drive is more fuel-efficient when driven in 2H than when driven in 4H. 

With the 4H engaged, the power is delivered to two additional wheels and differential on the front. 

It is estimated that a 4WD vehicle might weigh anywhere from 350 to 500 pounds, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. 

That’s a lot of weight to move, and it takes a lot of fuel to do so. 

This means all the four-wheel-drive components will utilize the fuel due to their internal resistance. 

Is 4H or 4L better for rain? 

Yes. Generally, driving in the 4WD mode will offer more traction and is better on the slippery road. 

The 4H driving range will offer a tad more traction compared to the 4L range. 

The 4H mode is ideal for driving in both extremely wet conditions and slightly wet roads. 

But the 4L will only be engaged when the road surface is wet and completely muddy. 

Driving at low speed and low gear will allow the tires to have a better grip and handle the terrain better. 

Having the ability to engage the H in the rain is a good idea, but if you are driving a full-time 4WD vehicle, you will need to decide if the additional traction is worth risking the damage on your drivetrain. 

Driving on 4H improves safety by offering additional traction, but this comes with changing the overall driving techniques when driving in the rain. 

Can you go in reverse in 4 wheel drive low? 

Yes. When driving in 4L, you can go in reverse. 

If the driving surface has low traction, for example, when you have ice, mud, or dunes, you will need to move both front and reverse. 

You can easily do this while on four wheels low without the risk of damaging your drive train. 

Avoid engaging the 4WD on high traction surfaces like the cement pavements, tarmac roads, and concrete surfaces. 

Do I use 4H or 4L to drive in snow

Do I use 4H or 4L to drive in snow?

When driving in snow, you should use 4L to give you more traction and a good grip on the road surface. 

Also, when driving at 4L, you should ensure that you drive at a very slow speed. 4H is suitable for normal road surfaces or those with relative traction. 

When driving at 4H, you can move relatively faster than when driving at 4L. At 4H, you can go to speeds of 30 -50 mph. 

While driving in 4H allows you to move faster, it is recommended to go slow to prevent damaging your drivetrain and transmission. 

Does 4 wheel drive help on black ice

Yes. A four-wheel drive is a good option for driving on black ice as it will give you more traction and grip on the road. 

But for maximum efficiency, this should be coupled with an all-wheel-drive configuration to drive on black ice safely. 

The four-wheel-drive configuration will not help when it comes to safe starts and stops. 

In those areas that have harsh winters and black ice, you will need a 4WD vehicle. 

Even better is having a vehicle with an optional AWD. 

When the condition gets worse, the all-wheel-drive will help you handle the black ice better. 

Why is it hard to turn in 4 wheel drive?

When driving in 4-wheel drive mode, the front and rear axles are locked in place; this will cause difficulty in turning the steering wheel at low speeds. 

While at the same time, when driving at high speeds when the 4WD is engaged, you will experience the vehicle sliding around.

Why is it hard to turn in 4 wheel drive?

In summary, since torque will follow the path of low resistance, this will cause the wheels to spin because of reduced traction. 

Locking the speed of all the wheels will maximize traction. 

Turning is characterized by a difference in speed between the inside and the outside of wheels. 

If you lock their speeds together, you’re going to lose traction as you turn. 

As a result, turning the steering wheel at low speed becomes exceedingly difficult. 

On the other hand, doing the same at a very high speed may cause the vehicle to slide. 

This is why you should use the 4 wheel drive sparingly. 

Activate one set of locks, for example, the rear locks. 

But if you meet an obstacle that demands maximum grip, like deep and or mud, you can turn them off once you have passed the barrier and then turn them back on again. 

Determining where you are going before you get there and turning on your lockers is recommended because it will be easier to prevent getting stuck. 

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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