A 4WD gives you more power than a 2WD. It offers better off-road driving capabilities, drives better on slippery grounds, and gives a peppier acceleration. Further, a car feels more stable and its dynamics improve while the car is on the road.
But if you have a 2WD, can you convert it into a 4WD? Is the conversion process worth the time and the money?
Can You Convert A 2WD To A 4WD?
Yes. You can strip down your 2WD and install 4WD parts and components. To do that, you need a host of parts from a 4×4, including the 4WD shifter, front driveshaft, and front axle and springs. You also need to change the transmission of the car, truck, suv.
The manual and automatic transmission systems of 2WD and 4WD are not so different, but changing this alone will not make the 4WD complete. Other parts that need to change include the master cylinder and the steering box.
All the parts you install need to be in good condition lest they fail a few months after installation. For starters, you need to mount the axle upfront. In a 4WD, front axle alignment is important, and there are no adjustments you can do to the position of the axle.
Granted, you will require an experienced welder who can help you get the axle in position for optimal performance. The process is also not a drop-and-go task, it is trial and error.
Because you will change so many components to make a functional 4WD, it helps to have a 4WD as a sample where you check the alignment and positioning of different parts.
Is Converting a 2WD to a 4WD Worth the Work, Cost, and the Time?
It is not worth the time and the work. Again, it is very expensive unless you have a donor car where you source all the parts. However, if you need more power from your car to drive off the road, haul, and tow, and experience quick starts, you might feel that the project is worth the money you spend.
The real pain with the process is that you may need a complete reassembly of the 4WD frame, especially the transmission system. There are so many parts to change, and this might result in additional vehicle weight, which might lead to power losses.
Your vehicle brakes and tires wear out faster in a 4WD. To deal with the additional weight in the chassis, you will need to modify or replace some parts in your 2WD.
Further, replacing all these parts from a 2WD will necessitate an engine repositioning. The repositioning needs to be accurate, or you will miss on balancing the vehicle, and this will affect the performance.
Some conversion kits necessitate the replacement of the entire suspension system, including the suspension lower arm. For cars with modern electric transmission system, the conversion to 4WD might affect the performance of the transmission software and its sensors. This means that the computers and its components also need to go for the car to function efficiently.
Instead of changing all these parts and still not be sure that the 4WD will perform as you intend, you may need to save up and buy a new or used 4WD. Some automakers design their cars in a way that you can convert a 2WD to 4WD without structural changes.
If you drive such a car, it is easier for you to swap the components of the car. You, however, need technical knowledge or work with a professional to help you through the process.
What is the Easiest Way to Convert a 2WD to a 4WD?
The easiest way to convert a 2WD to a 4WD is to either add a front axle to the 2WD or to place the body of the 2WD onto a 4WD frame. If your 2WD is in good shape and all you need is to make it better, add the front axle, and it will improve its performance. To do that, you might need a 4WD car in good condition.
From the 4WD car, you need the trans tunnel in its cab. 4WD models have the tunnel bolted into place, but 2WD models have the unit spot-welded into place. Depending on the structural design of your 2WD, you might have to cut your trans tunnel out so that you have room to bolt the 4WD into place.
You also need to do some modifications so that you have enough room for the transfer case. Cutting a hole to pass the shifter would be a good modification.
A body swap is much easier when you need a 4WD in your 2WD body. Here, all you need to do is unbolt the cab and the bed of your 2WD and place it on a frame with 4WD components. You will need to replace most components on the frame, so why not get a ready frame anyway?
The number and position of the bolts will depend on the structural design of your car. Once you locate all the bolts and undo them, you will need to remove the ground wires, brake lines, and fuel tank filler neck.
A body swap is a great option if you come across a 4WD chassis in good condition, but the body is all rusted out.
If the chassis has all the 4WD parts, it is easier for you to place a 2WD body onto the chassis. You do not need a motor, all you need is the trans and the T-case.
The process is also not a take-and-drop task, but it is easier and the results are more predictable than changing all the components of a 2WD. During the swap, you might need to consider rebuilding or getting new parts.
Parts such as the engine, transfer case, transmission, driveshafts, brake lines, brake rotors, calipers, drums, and wheel cylinder might need to be rebuilt.
Is It Easy to Convert a 2WD Transmission to a 4WD Transmission?
Yes, it is easy to swap a 2WD transmission to a 4WD transmission, seeing that the two systems have design similarities. The housing unit and gear ratios sport the same spline connection on their output shaft. However, the 2WD shaft is longer than that of a 4WD vehicle. Again, the 4WD unit has a transfer case.
The 2WD transmission has an extended tail shaft while the 4WD has the same kind of a unit, but with a transfer case. The transfer case sends power to both axles. The gear-shifting units in a 2WD do not need a transfer case. In some car models, you might find dummy transfer cases that will help you fit a 4WD transmission system.
The transfer case in a 4WD car is in the rear end of the gearbox. For 2WD cars, check whether there is a dummy transfer case. The transfer case helps in the distribution of torque from the gearbox between two axles aided by two shafts.
It also balances any discrepancy between the RPM rates of the front and back wheel. This case may also feature a set of low range gears to help when you drive off the highway.
Without the transfer case, the gearbox needs to have a special design. There are car models designed for 4WD applications, and they have no 2WD analog parts. These models include Jaguar X Models and Subaru.
When converting a standard 2WD transmission to a 4WD transmission, you need to ensure you get the following parts:
• A transfer case
• Manual or automatic gearbox
• Center differential
• Rear and front differential
• Cardan drive
What Will it Cost to Convert a 2WD to 4WD?
It will cost between $2,500 and $15,000 to convert a 2WD to 4X4. There are so many factors that determine how much you spend to get the conversion done. First off, the make and model of your vehicle will determine the availability and cost of the parts.
Toyota, for instance, has more affordable parts than Mercedes-Benz. Again, it will depend on whether you buy all new parts or you source parts from a donor 4WD. The latter will see you save a lot of money.
Even after swapping the parts, the wiring and the electrical systems will still challenge you. As such, you need time, patience, and a professional to help you. If you have the skills to weld and the mechanical skills to do the parts swap and the wiring, you will save money.
Mechanics can charge you as high as $5,000 before you even buy the parts. That is, if you find a mechanic willing to gamble with the conversion.
It is often cheaper and easier to sell the 2WD and buy a 4WD truck or suv.
According to people who have done it on car forums, the cost of the conversion added to the value of your current 2WD car might surpass the cost of a 4WD car. Again, the process is not simple, and you are not guaranteed of efficient performance.