Should You Use 4×4 on the Highway? (Explained!)


Four-wheel drive is an incredibly powerful feature on a lot of cars and trucks today. While it is becoming more and more common for a vehicle to have this feature, it can still be confusing or difficult to understand when you are supposed to use it or not. One big question is whether you should use 4×4 on the highway.

You should not use 4×4 on the highway in most situations. In the case of slow traffic or severe weather conditions, it is safe to use four-wheel-drive on the highway. It can be dangerous to drive too fast with 4WD engaged, so only use it on the highway when conditions allow you to drive slowly.

While it is generally not safe to use 4×4 on the highway, there are some situations where it is okay and even recommended! It is important to understand when to use the four-wheel-drive on your vehicle, so keep reading to learn more about it.

What is 4×4?

4×4 is another name for four-wheel-drive. Another common abbreviation is 4WD. It is basically one of many terms that describe a vehicle that is able to change from using rear-wheel-drive to using all four wheels to move the vehicle.

This is a great feature to have on your car because it gives you more options and better overall mobility during rough conditions.

Four-wheel drive works when the engine transfers power to the transmission which then transfers torque (the power that the wheels use to turn) to all four wheels. This makes it so that all four wheels spin independent of the motion of the vehicle, giving it better overall traction.

This drive mode makes it easier to get the car moving and control it under difficult circumstances. 4×4 is meant to help cars get out of ditches, mud, sand, and snow by giving more of the wheels the capability to find traction and pull the car out of these spots.

There are a lot of great benefits to four-wheel drive, but there are also some drawbacks. Unfortunately, 4WD vehicles do not get very good fuel economy when the 4WD is activated, so when you use it often, you will find yourself using up more gas than you might prefer.

It can also damage your vehicle if you do not use it in the correct situations.

How Fast can you go when using 4WD

A common question that’s asked about four-wheel-drive is “How fast can you go when in 4WD?”.

While four-wheel drive gives you a lot more power than using rear-wheel/two-wheel drive, you should not go very fast because it can be dangerous for you and your vehicle. Generally, you shouldn’t drive faster than 55mph in 4WD high, and no faster than 10mph in 4WD low.

The problem with trying to go too fast while in four-wheel drive is that it will use up a ton of fuel, and your vehicle will have a very high RPM without moving very fast or far. Using up a ton of fuel is not great for any vehicle owner because it can get expensive really quickly.

When your vehicle is putting in a lot of fuel and has a high RPM but it isn’t going hardly anywhere, that can damage your vehicle. The gears are spinning too fast and that can be really bad for your car’s interior mechanisms.

4WD is not meant for building speed or maintaining it, even if it does have more power than two-wheel drive does. Instead, it is meant for tricky terrains where the vehicle has a hard time gripping the road.

In these situations, the car is meant to go slowly anyway to preserve gas and keep your vehicle in good shape.

When to Use 4WD

As a rule of thumb, you should not use the four-wheel drive feature on your vehicle all the time. Not only do you not need it, but using it all the time puts a lot of strain on the inner workings of your vehicle. This can be very detrimental over time.

You should only use 4WD when you are driving in muddy, snow, sandy, or icy conditions. Basically, any time when the road might be difficult for your tires to grip, you should use four-wheel drive.

You can, and should, use 4WD on the highway if the roads have a lot of snow on them. It’s also a good idea to use it when it is rainy and slippery.

Only do this when traffic is moving slowly though! You should always watch your speed when in four-wheel drive, especially when the terrain is slippery for any reason.

If traffic is slow and the road is slippery, then you should engage 4WD so that your vehicle does not slide around.

When to Not Use 4WD

There are a lot of great times to use four-wheel drive and it can really be a handy addition to your vehicle when you run into a traction problem.

However, there are definitely times when you should not use the four-wheel-drive feature on your vehicle. Generally, if the roads are clear and paved, you do not need to use four-wheel drive.

By not using it when driving on residential streets or service streets, you will save a lot of gas (and money) as well.

You should not use four-wheel drive when driving on the highway most of the time. We talked about the situations where it would be appropriate to engage four-wheel drive while on the highway, and those are really the only situations when it’s smart to use it.

Generally, highway speeds are too fast for it to be safe to use four-wheel drive. You should not be driving slower than the other vehicles on the highway and driving with four-wheel drive requires slower speeds.

It can be dangerous to drive slower than everyone else because other drivers might not notice that you are not driving at the correct speed and that can cause accidents.

Your car, your wallet, and other drivers will thank you for not using four-wheel drive when you are on the highway. You will preserve the functionality of your vehicle, you will use less fuel, and you won’t be a hazard to your fellow drivers.

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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