You are driving home in your Jeep on the freeway and there was a snowstorm the night before, and you realize that you left your 4-wheel drive on. Panic sets in as you slow down to turn it back off, and you wonder if you can leave your jeep in 4-wheel drive. Here, we are going to go over that answer for you!

Leaving a Jeep in 4-wheel drive is not recommended. 4-wheel drive is meant to only be used for rugged terrain and slow driving, however, if used on the highway, keep it under 60 miles per hour. Fast speeds can cause serious damage to a vehicle’s drivetrain components or transmission.

To learn more about your Jeep’s 4-wheel drive capabilities, when you should turn it off, and the difference between all-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, and 2-wheel drive, continue reading below!

How Fast Can You Drive In 4x4 High? Are there any concerns about shifting into 4x4 High Mode?
(Photo: Transfer case – 4×4 shifter from a Jeep Wrangler YJ)

Can I Leave My Jeep in 4-Wheel Drive at all Times?

The quick answer is you can not leave your Jeep in 4-wheel drive. Leaving your 4-wheel drive on can cause a lot of unneeded damage to your vehicle, such as transmission torque build-up, yoke failure, or driveshaft twisting. If you leave it on by accident, know that it happens to the best of us. Just turn it off and keep an eye on your Jeep, but everything should be fine!

Make sure to always be safe, of course, when driving in a 4-wheel drive, especially in your jeep. This is essential not only for you but for your car’s health as well. Be safe and good luck!

What is the Difference Between 4-Wheel Drive, 2-Wheel Drive, and All-Wheel Drive?

Cars can be confusing when it comes to how the wheel drives work. For a beginner’s guide, here are the differences between 4-Wheel Drive, 2-Wheel Drive, and All-Wheel Drive. This terminology can help us better understand why it is highly discouraged to leave your Jeep in a 4-wheel drive all the time.

4-Wheel Drive

4-wheel drive, also known as 4×4 or 4WD respectively, means that power from the vehicle is going to all four wheels at the same time. This means that the car has as much moving power as possible and this method is best for offroading, snow, and other poor weather or driving conditions. When the driver shifts into 4-wheel drive, all of the car’s axles lock together and receive equal power and rotating speed.

The 4-wheel drive has better towing capacity and performance off of the pavement. Additionally, the 4-wheel drive does not rely on a computer to sense wheel slip or any other dangers ā€“ it’s all on the driver.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive depends on a computer more than traditional four-wheel drive. Most all-wheel drive systems have a center differential in the center of the vehicle or between the front and rear axles, and that’s where the computer work comes in.

If the computer or sensors find wheel slippage or other safety precautions, the system gives power to the corresponding axel from the center differential. A differential refers to the part that allows the wheels to turn at different speeds.

2-Wheel Drive

2-wheel drive, otherwise known as front-wheel drive, FWD, or 2WD, means that there is power going directly to the front or rear wheels. These cars tend to be lighter, burn less fuel, and have better gas mileage. This post does not touch too much on 2-wheel drive, but knowing its context will help us understand why 4-wheel drive can be damaging if left long-term.

What Happens if I Leave My Jeep in 4-Wheel Drive?

As mentioned before, 4-wheel drive is meant to be used in difficult terrains such as icy or wet roads, sand, mud, or snow. The extra power to the wheels helps you get through these conditions efficiently, but when used on smooth pavement or daily driving, the 4-wheel drive does not allow the wheels to move at different speeds. When this occurs, there is a high possibility of premature wear and pressure on your vehicle.

This is because 4-wheel drive requires the wheels to slip at a small degree in order to work efficiently and take pressure off of the differentials and have optimal grip and traction in difficult weather. 4-wheel drive does great on steep inclines and declines, wet roads, and windy bends. Traditional dry pavement is smooth and does not have that needed grip for the 4-wheel drive to work efficiently.

Unlike traditional all-wheel drive cars, the 4-wheel drive locks all the differentials together, putting great pressure when left for long periods of time. If you had your 4-wheel drive on consistently for a day or two by mistake, that’s completely okay.

If you have your 4-wheel drive on for rugged terrain for a few days, it is no problem. Mistakes happen, and if your vehicle is driving normally, you should be okay. If your Jeep starts driving oddly or making strange noises, then you will know something is wrong.

However, if you have your 4-wheel drive on for months for daily driving, there is a high chance of upcoming or current damage to your Jeep’s transmission. There are sayings that driving in 4-wheel drive all the time is okay, but cases show that this is false. If damage has not happened yet, it is likely to be happening soon.

How Expensive is it to Fix Damage From Leaving My Vehicle in 4-Wheel Drive?

If your 4-wheel drive is completely shot and you need a remanufactured transmission, the cost will run between $400 and $800. When fixing your transmission, there is a disassembly process, cleaning, inspection, replacing parts that can no longer be used, reassembly, and finally, testing. All these steps go towards the fee of fixing your transmission.

The drivetrain, or the components of a vehicle that gets it into motion, can be severely damaged from prolonged or unnecessary use of 4-wheel drive, specifically on dry pavements or highways. Some damages can occur such as u joints, yoke failure, driveshaft twisting, transmission torque build-up, or internal gear damage.

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