My experience in converting a standard 4×2 to a 4×4 has taught me that it has its share of pros and cons. On various popular 4×4 discussion forums, I found numerous intriguing threads packed with inquiries about 4×2 to 4×4 conversion kits. However, the responses often conflict, leaving me with a mix of opinions and experiences regarding this conversion.
Table of Contents
2WD to 4WD Conversion Kits
My research revealed that the most popular upgrade 4WD kits available are for the most popular American makes and models, especially for those with Dana axles. Below I compiled a basic list of components you’ll need.
4×2 to 4×4 essential components include but are not limited to:
- Transfer case
- Steering linkage
- Front axle
- OEM Rear block
If I were to undertake a project like this I would first, source the aforementioned components/parts, the next step is to buy the ready-made kit or consider obtaining these suspension items from the donor vehicle to save some money. I found the basic ready-assembled suspension kit typically costs around $1400.00 or more. Meanwhile, the more advanced kits are priced starting at around $6900.00 and can go even higher.
The basic suspension components needed for 4×2 to 4×4 conversions include but are not limited to:
|2″ Shackle Reversal Kit
|Kit for reversing shackles for increased clearance
|2wd to 4wd Frame Boxing Brackets
|Brackets for reinforcing frame during conversion
|Suspension component for lateral axle support
|Front Axle Shackle Hangers
|Hangers for mounting front axle shackles
|Stock Panhard Drop Bracket
|Bracket for stock panhard bar placement
|4×4 Brake Lines
|Brake lines compatible with 4×4 system
|Front Axle U-bolts
|U-shaped bolts for securing front axle
|Upgraded 4×4 Shocks
|Improved shocks for 4×4 systems (e.g., Fox, Bilstein, OME)
|Dual Shock Brackets
|Brackets allowing installation of two shocks
|U-shaped bolts for securing the front axle
Next, let’s look into the upgrade procedures per vehicle. I cannot cover every make and model, however, I’ve listed the most popular (online demand) requests below.
Chevy/GM 2WD to 4WD Conversion Kit
Good news for the Chevy boys, since this can and has been done before. I found a lot of info on the conversion available online and a few Chevy forum members have appeared to successfully pull this off. Many of the donor parts can be sourced off Craigslist or eBay from somebody parting a truck. Unfortunately, no part numbers are listed. You can check out this 2WD to 4WD conversion kit for GM/Chevy Squarebody to give you an idea.
The good news is that parts from Chevy Trucks between 01-07c all use the same parts. Bonus! Your parts availability should be easier. All the front suspension, transmission cross-member, and torsion bar cross-member parts are similar. You will need some Differential mounts to accommodate the new drivetrain components.
As for converting a 2500HD Chevy to a 4×4, a few things stood out for me. The easiest thing to do would be to put a solid front axle under the 2WD truck after the IFS is all stripped out. Then either get a different tail housing/shaft for the ally and source a transfer case OR run a divorced transfer case. Phew! Sounds like loads of work!!!
87-98 GM/Chevy 2WD to 4WD Conversion
Almost every single online 2WD to 4WD conversion inquiry I found starts like this: “Hey guys I have a 1998 Chevy c1500 sidestep w/2WD and I don’t like it that way. How hard is it to convert to 4WD? How much would it cost? Thanks in advance guys!” This is followed by a hundred responses like this:
“sell the truck and buy a used 4×4. It’s a ton of work and money and even more downtime. But if you really must, go to the junkyard and source a SAS for the conversion”
Ending with the OP saying “Thanks everyone, I’ve decided to lift my truck 2” and keep it”
If, however, you are adamant about converting your 2WD to 4WD Chevvy you are going to need the following as a bare minimum:
- Front SAS (Solid Axle Swap)
- Transfer case
- Front Driveshaft
- Swap kit
These are just the basic components. There’s a lot more mechanical and engineering know-how required to successfully do it. A good start to doing a 4wd conversion on the 1981-1987(91) Chevy/GM Squarebody 2wd Trucks/SUVs
Silverado 2WD to 4WD Conversion Kit
Below is a walk-through of what is required to get you started on converting your 4×2 Silverado to a 4×4. Big thank you to some really smart people online who were so kind as to share this valuable information with us.
- 1. Remove your Silverado 4×2 transmission for modification/swap. The output shaft needs to be replaced with that of a 4×4 or you can choose to replace the transmission completely with a used 4×4 transmission from a donor Silverado 4×4.
- 2. Replace the extension housing with that from a 4×4.
- 3. Remove and Replace control arms, springs, and cross members from a 4×4
- 4. Transfer Case – Recommended to source the one from lower-end models with the floor shifter.
- 5. Source used A-Arms/Spindles
- 6. Source cross member for the transfer case – no welding required as pre-existing holes line up
- 7. Source a front diff including brackets
- 8. Source front driveshafts
- 9. Source a Transfer Case shifter, with linkage
- 10. Source 4WD Tail shaft with housing
When I investigated this project, I visited a local wrecking/scrap yard with a list of all the items I needed. They offered me a package deal at a significantly reduced price. For someone mechanically inclined, there’s the opportunity to handle much of the aforementioned work independently. This would save you loads!
I would recommend taking the transfer case to a professional garage to have it wired up correctly since there are all sorts of speed sensors and electric wiring that require a professional touch. If you shop around wisely you could source all your parts for under $2000.
2WD to 4WD Conversion Kits Ford f150
So the trick to adding 4WD to a 2WD truck is actually in the year model. The 4×2 to 4×4 conversion can be done relatively “easily” if you go for the much earlier models that have little to no electronics and very basic structures and frameworks.
If you opt for the pre-92 version trucks, you make your life a whole lot easier since the same chassis frame was used throughout the production of 4×4 and 4×2 models. This was intentionally done to save both production time and building costs.
Here are a few things you’ll require when opting to convert a Ford 2WD to 4WD.
- Source the 4×4 extension housing for the M5R2 transmission
- Source your transfer case
- Source the 4×4 front driveshaft
- Source the front 4×4 mono-beam
- All 4×4 suspension parts
A used transfer case with a new rebuild kit will be a solid option to keep the operation simple and costs low. Junk/scrapyard shopping is always your best option in these kinds of projects. Suspension parts on the old Fords are all compatible right as far back as 84 models so that makes sourcing parts a whole lot simpler. Tie rods I believe are the same but the pitman arm is different.
An important point to remember: You will need a 4×4 ECU for a 96 model F150, which means any electronic additions will need to be compatible with a 96 and OBD2. This is not a necessity but only important if you want the 4WD light on the dash to be activated when you engage in 4WD mode.
At this point, I want to briefly emphasize how important it is to own a decent ODBII Scanner. Diagnosing issues on any modern, 4WD can be nearly impossible with all their sophisticated sensors and electronic components. If you do not already own one I would highly recommend this OBD2 Scanner & Engine Fault Code Reader on Amazon. It’s the #1 bestseller with almost 30,000 good reviews, so check it out! It will save you heaps of money in the long run and unnecessary time at the dealerships.
Convert 4×2 to 4×4 Ford Ranger Conversion Kit
There are 2 main options: IFS 4×4, SFA 4×4. In both cases, you’ll require the suspension, front axle, transfer case, chassis components, 4×4 transmission, and both front and rear drive shafts. For IFS (Independent front suspension) 4×4 you will need to own a 2006 Ford Ranger Sport which means it has the torsion bar front suspension. In this scenario, you can mount an IFS front axle and swap it to a 4×4.
If however, you own an XL or XLT with the coil spring suspension that has IFS 4×4, you would have to swap to a 4×4 frame that has the torsion bar suspension. For SFA (solid front axle) 4×4 you can have any Ranger and you cut off the whole front suspension and mount a solid axle from a solid axle vehicle like a Jeep or an old F-150 from the 70s.
The 4×4 Ford Rangers use a different chassis design to the 4×2 derivatives, meaning production starts differently from the outset than that of the 2WD models. I now know that 4WD is not a simple bolt-on option that was simply added later when a customer ordered a new Ranger.
Also, I quickly realized that the process of adding 4WD to a 2WD truck requires lots of cash and serious engineering and welding experience and skills. Not to mention the metal-cutting and fabrication skills required.
In this article, I delved into two main options for getting a 4×4 vehicle:
- #1 selling my 4×2 and buying a used 4×4, or
- #2 upgrading my 2WD truck by adding 4WD using parts from a scrapped 4×4.
The second choice involves a lengthy project that requires a lot of my time, and engineering skills, and at a significant cost. It suggests that by piecing together the 4×4 system from my two-wheel-drive vehicle, I could offset some expenses by selling the modified vehicle and using the leftover money to get the necessary 4WD accessories. However, it highlights the substantial commitment of time, expertise, and expenses necessary for this undertaking.
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