When Should You Use Low Range 4WD?


Four-wheel drive (4WD) sends torque to all four tires in order to increase the traction and stability of the vehicle. There’s 4WD in both high and low. So, when do you use low 4WD?

Low range 4WD should be used when driving at speeds of 40 MPH or less and driving in offroad or difficult conditions. Low range 4WD is used to increase torque when getting over rocks, getting through muddy or sandy terrain and other similar conditions.

It’s simple to state what places to use 4WD, but knowing when the best time to put your vehicle into low 4WD is a different story. We are here to give you the best knowledge so you can use low range 4WD with confidence.

When to Use 4WD in Low

The purpose of using a vehicle in 4WD low is to move the tires more slowly to gain traction in more tough and difficult situations.

The power of torque that is produced and distributed helps to move the vehicle slowly but with enough force to pull the vehicle through anything. It’ll be a slow and tedious process because, in order to use 4WD in Low, the vehicle needs to be going 40 MPH or less.

Otherwise, if the vehicle is going over 40MPH, it will significantly damage the drivetrain and can cause permanent damage to the engine and undercarriage of the vehicle.

So, let’s say that you’re going through the woods in order to get to a specific trail. Whether it be in the mountains or on flat ground, you may encounter certain obstacles that require your vehicle to be in a lower gear. It’ll be easy to notice that your vehicle is having trouble climbing uphill, getting over rocks, or getting easily stuck in pockets of mud.

Most vehicles come with a button that you can push or a dial that you move in order to switch your vehicle into 4WD. Most older vehicles require that the vehicle is in park in order to switch into 4WD, while others can easily be switched into 4WD with the dial. There are even a few systems that automatically transfer the vehicle into 4WD. It just depends on the make, model, and year of your vehicle.

However, you can also use 4WD Low when going downhill.

The thing about vehicles is that going downhill while pushing on the brake the entire time will cause friction, which will heat up not only the tires but also the brake fluid. This can cause brake failure, and can also be extremely deadly.

Using 4WD low will prevent brake failure, and will keep the vehicle in a lower gear so that the break doesn’t have to be used the whole time. You can shift gears while in 4WD Low, in fact, it is encouraged. It helps to preserve the longevity of your vehicle.

The Difference Between 4WD High and Low

As we’ve already discussed, the purpose of low gears is to help a vehicle get through difficult situations. Think of it just like that, 4WD low means the car will be slower and need to move at a lower speed in order to be effective and not cause damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

4WD Low should be used in instances where the vehicle is having extreme difficulty getting through tough situations, such as sand, creeks, over boulders, and so forth.

Now, for 4WD High, means the vehicle can be going around 55 MPH to be used. It should be used in situations such as through winter storms on highways, or when the vehicle has the possibility of hydroplaning.

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. The winter is usually the best time to use 4WD High, it really helps in keeping the car stable and moving at a quicker pace than without using 4WD.

The major difference is that both are used for different purposes.

4WD Low is for big trails, going over rocks, all of the fun stuff. You’re meant to take the process slowly, so as not to overpower the engine and kill your vehicle. It’s just like seeing those giant, jacked-up Jeeps going over boulders the size of the Jeep itself. 4WD High serves a less-fun purpose but is still far more effective when driving in dangerous weather conditions.

What’s the Difference Between 4WD and AWD

Okay, we know that 4WD comes in both Low and High gears, which serve different purposes.

But now, we have something called AWD. So, what is AWD? This might sound completely stupid, but AWD means that all four tires are turning 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 at all times rather than all four.

2WD cars don’t come with 4WD, and 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. It means it’s easier to control the car when in harsh weather or going through difficult terrain.

Whether it’s AWD or 4WD, both work great when you want to get through tough terrain.

Which Trails or Adventures are Perfect for 4WD Low?

If you’re looking for a fun trail for your 4WD truck or Jeep, then here is a small list of amazing and beautiful places that you can go to challenge both your vehicle and your nerves.

Breckenridge, Colorado

The mountains of Colorado are going to be both a beautiful and challenging adventure for you. The nice thing about searching for trails is that they come with a difficulty rating, just like trails for hikers. There are quite a few options for both beginners and experienced climbers.

On a website for trails for Jeeps, there are some excellent pictures and topography maps that show the trails and levels of difficulty. They’re not just for Jeeps, but if you have a Jeep, here are some perfect options for you.

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. 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.

There are even a few rivers and creeks to plow through and muddy up that beautiful car or truck in the name of adventure.

Mesquite, Nevada

The best part about the desert is that it’s vast, which means that there is a lot of rocky terrain and trails to cross for hours and hours and hours. In fact, there are even a few caves that can be explored while out doing some trail-blazing. Of course, it’ll be extremely hot, it is Nevada, but also beautiful and has lots of fun for those looking for a weekend trip spent driving over large rocks and through deep sand.

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. There are a few cute, tiny towns that provide some semblance of humanity amongst the desolateness of the Valley of Death.

Other than that, it’s gorgeous and will be able to satiate your appetite for the thrill of getting lost.

Which Vehicles are Perfect for 4WD Low Travels

There are quite a few options available on the market that come equipped with 4WD, but you don’t necessarily want to take your little Subaru out on a trail, considering it’s far too low to the ground. You’ll want to purchase, or rent, a vehicle that has the proper build and 4WD that enables it to get through and over anything in its path.

A 4WD car or SUV isn’t a bad thing at all, but it depends entirely on what type of adventure you’re looking for.

It’s also good to note that it’s imperative that you pick the perfect vehicle for when you go adventuring, as you don’t want to bottom out or damage your drivetrain. 4WD vehicles are plentiful, so picking the best one for your needs and trailblazing desires is what will not only prove the longevity of your car but also keep you safe.

Now that you know how to use your low range, your rough roads should be smooth sailing.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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