Can you switch to 4WD while driving?


The big question is whether you can switch to 4WD while driving. Whether you are experiencing icey weather, or an unforeseen snow storm, can you switch to 4WD while in those conditions? Is it dangerous?

Older 4WD systems tend to require the vehicle to be either stopped or in park in order to switch from High to Low. Newer model vehicles tend to have automatic 4WD systems that tend to come with a button. It tends to be less stressful on the vehicle itself when its in park to switch into 4WD.

4WD is really great to have when it comes to either really bad weather, or if you’re looking to go on some rather interesting trailblazing adventures. So, this article is perfect for you! Keep reading to learn more about 4WD and what it means.

When to Use 4WD

Your car’s ability to change into 4WD without being parked or at least stopped depends entirely on whether your vehicle is old or new. As we’ve already covered, newer model vehicles tend to have a button you can press or a switch you can move to go into 4WD. Most vehicles that have 4WD come with High rather than Low, but we’ve compiled a list down below that shows which vehicles have which.

If you have an older vehicle, make sure to be in park, as it will prove to be a lot safer for your vehicle in the long run. Depending on where you’re at is whether you’ll move into 4WD. Going through sand and traveling in the rain are two different reasons for using 4WD High and Low. Both will definitely help to keep you safe as well as prevent any slippage when climbing through trails or going through dangerous road conditions.

It’s generally safe to switch from Low to High without stopping, however you shouold NEVER switch from High to Low while your car is moving.

When to NOT Switch to 4WD High or Low

4WD is designed specifically for difficult situations. A big no-no is using 4WD High when on cement or even ground. You use High when you need more traction, using it when you already have enough traction can cause drivetrain binding. Using 4WD High when its unnecessary will ruin your vehicle, and the same goes for 4WD Low. 4WD is only to be used when it means your vehicle needs more traction to either stay stable or go up and down big rocks.

It’s better to mindful of your situation and when it’s best to turn on 4WD. High is for extreme weather conditions, Low is for when you’re going through difficult trails or trying to climb mountains. We’ll get more in-depth with that as well.

What’s the Difference Between 4WD High and Low

There is a vast difference between 4WD High and Low, and what purposes they serve. They can’t just be used interchangeably, and it’s important to make sure to only switch to them when it matters, so as not to damage the drivetrain of your vehicle.

Think of it just like that, 4WD Low means the car will be slower and need to move at a slower speed in order to be effective and not cause damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle, which can essentially make a vehicle useless. So, try only using 4WD Low when going around 15 MPH.

4WD Low should be used in instances where the vehicle is having extreme difficulty getting through tough terrain, such as sand, creeks, over boulders, and so forth. The lower speed helps the tires to gain traction and be able to grip whatever is slippery or uphill.

Now, for 4WD High, means the vehicle can be going around 55 MPH to be used because the tires don’t have to grip the ground as much as 4WD Low. It should be used in situations such as through winter storms on highways, or when the vehicle has the possibility of hydroplaning in the rain.

4WD High means that the vehicle can be in a higher gear to be used, and can prove to be extremely useful when in situations when all four tires need to be utilized to keep the vehicle stable and on the ground, but not driving too horribly fast where the tires can’t stabilize themselves on the ground.

What’s the Difference Between 4WD, AWD, and 2WD

Okay, we know that 4WD comes in both Low and High gears, which serve different purposes for different reasons. However, another element, known as All Wheel Drive (AWD) is something else entirely different.

So, what is AWD? This might sound completely stupid, but AWD means that all four tires are turning at the same time. When purchasing a car, one of the things that you can choose from, or what the dealer will point out, is that cars come with options. AWD is popular because it tends to be safer, having all four wheels working at the same time.

So, that means that there are cars that come with 2WD, and this comes with either the front-wheel or rear-wheel drive. 2WD doesn’t allow for a lot of control, as it means that only two wheels are moving the car at all times rather than all four. They’re not very popular choices when it comes to states that have lots of snow. 2WD cars don’t come with 4WD, and vice versa; they’re usually just cars rather than a truck or Jeep.

Most people who purchase a car either want to have AWD or 4WD because there is more control and it means the car is more stable when all four wheels are moving in a synchronized way. Especially if you happen to live in an area where there are more winter storms or long monsoon seasons. Basically, this just means it’s easier to control the car when in harsh weather or going through difficult terrain.

Which Vehicles are Great for 4WD High Traction

4WD High vehicles are a bit more plentiful than 4WD Low, because 4WD High is used more frequently when there are more winter storms. There are quite a few different price points to choose from as well, so you can find the perfect vehicle not only for your budget but also for your safety needs.

  • Jeep Wrangler
  • 2020 Land Rover Defender
  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2021 Lexus GX

There are many options of course, but these are some great options to choose from. They are available in new models or older, used options that can be found in local listings or posted online. It’s obvious that what you’ll be looking for is something that provides you not only with comfort, but all the physical capabilities that you should expect in a reliable vehicle.

Which Vehicles are Great for 4WD Low Traction

Car companies are always trying to develop the latest and greatest every year, so, here is a shortlist of some of the great 4WD Low vehicles available:

  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Ford F-150
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Jeep Wrangler (of course)
  • Ford Ranger

You don’t want to try taking out your own little car through the mountains because you will either bottom out or completely ruin the undercarriage of your car and the drivetrain, all in one. 4WD Low vehicles allow for the perfect amount of traction for both fun and keeping you safe. So don’t worry about trying to choose something wisely while compromising in other areas, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Some Great Trails for 4WD Low

Moab, Utah

A rather classic option is going to Moab. The beautiful, rust-colored arches are enough to attract anyone wanting not only a thrill but a beautiful place to roam for hours and hours and hours. Most of the trails are in Southern Utah, which means there is some much-needed warmer weather in order to have long days spent in the sun roaming through the rocky terrain of Utah. Utah has limitless trails and provide everyone with beautiful trails to scale and check off.

Windrock Park, Tennessee

This is one of the largest, privately-owned trailblazing areas in the U.S., with over 300 miles of trails and over 73,000 acres of absolute beauty to discover. Because of the different routes and the sheer expanse of existing paths, you can take all kinds of different ATV’s through these trails. It also comes accommodated with a campground, a general store, and other amenities found on-site.

Death Valley, California

Whether you’re looking for a vast desert to travel through, or a deep canyon to get lost in, Death Valley is a treasure trove of beautiful places to travel through in 4WD. You’ll want to make preparations, as there won’t be a gas station or help for many, many miles, but there are a few cute, tiny towns that provide some semblance of humanity amidst the desolation of the Valley of Death.

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