If you need to go into 4WD due to rough, snowy, or slippery roads, it’s good to have an idea of the max speeds you can go—and the speeds you should go as you drive.
Vehicles can go up to highway speeds in 4WD lock, but this may be unnecessary or dangerous given the road conditions. Due to the unfavorable terrain and conditions, it is better to go in between 25 to 40 mph in 4WD to arrive safely at the desired destination.
Let’s go into more detail about when you should go in 4WD lock, what it means for your vehicle, and what to expect when you do.
4WD Lock Expectations
If you shift your vehicle into 4WD to help you drive more effectively and securely, then you should do so by keeping certain factors in mind. These will help you determine whether or not 4WD lock is the best method for you and your vehicle.
We’ll go over what to expect in certain terrains, what the deal is with turning in 4WD lock, gas mileage and how it’s related to 4WD, and the usual wear of putting your vehicle into 4WD at higher speeds for longer periods of time.
Safe to say, you won’t decide to shift into 4WD on a sunny day with clear, dry roads. When the time comes for 4WD, you have a good reason for it.
Mud, heavy rain, snow, or some sort of combination calls for 4WD so you can drive safely through the rough conditions. In 4WD lock, however, it’s not just about how fast you can drive on slick and slushy surfaces. Sure, you can probably go faster, but most often, you still need to adhere to the driving limitations that come with unideal terrain.
If you need to accelerate to get up a snowy hill or through a rough patch of mud, you shouldn’t have much problem. But other times, going slow in 4WD lock is less about the gear’s ability to drive at higher speeds and more about your own safety. Sure, 4WD can get you through that foot of snow with no problem, but no matter how fast you go, you have to ask yourself if you can brake just as easily as you can accelerate.
When you use 4WD, locked in tough terrain, be sure to keep yourself in check. Are you going faster because it is safe? Or because you simply can? 4WD is a great feature for your vehicle, but it cannot replace additional driving precautions that all drivers need to implement when the roads are rough.
It’s a common belief that 4WD lock keeps you from turning your vehicle when you need to. That is partially true. You can turn your wheel in 4WD as much as you need to if you’re driving in bad road conditions. When it comes to driving on dry roads in 4WD, however, your vehicle won’t have as much of an easy time.
Axle-binding occurs when you drive in 4WD on a high-traction surface. Because the gear is meant to be used when you drive through tough terrain, your vehicle is overcompensating for the little traction. But when there is enough traction on the road, you may experience locking up or jerking when you attempt to turn.
If you experience this even when you’re driving in rain or snow, then it means that there is enough traction on the road to not need 4WD. Should you hit a drier patch amid low-traction surfaces but still need 4WD, then anticipate the upcoming turns to take them slowly. When you do this, you don’t put as much strain on your vehicle, and you can avoid any potential accidents or breakage.
Reaching higher speeds in 4WD lock can impact how much fuel you burn through. In regular 2WD on a high-traction surface, your vehicle doesn’t need to compensate for anything that 4WD would.
If you have good reason to be driving at high speeds in 4WD, then expect that gas tank gauge to sink to the E mark more quickly. That’s not to say that planning to drive fast and often in 4WD is bad, but you should be prepared for the excursion ahead of time. When you go off-roading, camping, hunting, or mudding for long periods and don’t have close access to a gas station, then you might also want to consider how much gas you can stow away for future use.
Because fuel can be eaten up so quickly in 4WD, it’s another good reason to slow down when you’re in this specific gear. The more careful you are as you drive, the more money you’ll save in the long run. And since going slower in 4WD is safer overall, your wallet will thank you for not being excessive with your driving speeds when you don’t need to be.
Wear and Tear
The more you use 4WD, the more likely it is that you’ll hit patches in your driving where the high-traction surface makes 4WD unnecessary. And if you’re going over those patches at faster speeds, then you close the gap between now and a trip to the mechanic.
4WD lock wears down your vehicle’s system, especially when it’s in high use and meets all the conditions listed above.
But you probably bought a vehicle with 4WD for a reason, so you’re going to use it when you need to, whether it’s for work, recreation, or anything in between. You don’t have to be so careful that you never use 4WD on the road and wind up off the road and in a ditch or stuck somewhere. Then you will have to use 4WD to get yourself out or wait until somebody else comes along with their own 4WD to help haul you out.
Be sure that your vehicle has regular maintenance work done on it to help prolong its lifespan and prevent any serious problems. The better you are at this, the fewer issues you will have down the road that may ultimately cost you more money than you wanted to spend.
Along with maintenance, simply be reasonable when you go into 4WD and refrain from driving in the gear when you don’t truly need to.
High Speeds and Common Sense in 4WD Lock
Let’s imagine a scenario where you need to go into 4WD, but you have to drive in the gear at higher speeds. The interstate can have a good, healthy combination of snow, slush, and ice during the prime winter months. You have places to go, other people have places to go, and the road conditions can’t stop you from driving.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you decide to pick up the speed in your vehicle once it’s in 4WD, all of which have been mentioned in the sections above.
First, consider how fast you actually need to go to be comfortable and safe. It’s tempting to go faster than others because you’re in 4WD (and even more tempting to match the speeds of drivers who pass you up), but we all know that in the end, you want to be on the road rather than be on the side of it, especially when the interstate is concerned.
But I’ll repeat myself: you can go fast in 4WD, but can you brake? That’s the important question and one that not enough drivers think of when they plow through the road like it’s seventy degrees and sunny. Particularly when the weather and road are bad, you are more likely to have to brake suddenly due to accidents and slower cars that you may not have seen earlier.
4WD helps you drive, but you still need to be able to slow down and control the vehicle’s movement on your own. Because of this, you’ll want to think before you speed up on bad roads.
Second, you want to be able to properly turn at the right time in 4WD. It’s likely that the road won’t be evenly coated in slush and sludge the entire drive, and you’ll come across spots that have been driven over enough or recently plowed. These high-traction areas can cause, at the least, inconveniences, and at the worst, serious problems and potential accidents.
Think about how badly you need to go into 4WD on bad roads at high speeds. You may not even need to worry when there is only an inch or two of snow, depending on your vehicle and its tires. The most important thing isn’t being able to drive quickly but to navigate safely through the conditions.
To sum up, use common sense whenever you decide to shift into 4WD at high speeds.
Once you do, don’t panic if there is ever a tense moment during driving. Otherwise, you may only worsen your situation by not properly handling your vehicle while it’s in 4WD. Think of everything else you have to take into account that does or does not involve 4WD and act accordingly in order to keep yourself, your loved ones, and other drivers safe on the road.