The next part of this article discusses when to engage 4×4 low, how fast we should drive in 4×4 high, and what happens to the driving dynamics of the 4×4 when we engage low range.
Table of Contents
How Fast Can You Drive in 4×4-Lo
Knowing when to select 4×4 low is very important for the safeguarding of your 4×4 as well as the safety of you and any occupants in your vehicle.
4×4 low should be selected when driving on very low traction surfaces such as:
|Snow-covered areas with significant depth
|Uneven ground with rocky terrain
|Sandy areas with loose, thick sand
|Areas with deep, muddy conditions
|Sloping terrain with steep uphill inclines
|Sloping terrain with steep downhill declines
The above-mentioned surfaces are all low-traction environments that require absolute vehicle control. How fast you can drive is not always important under these conditions, except maybe in deep dunes where momentum is required.
As mentioned before, it’s not the speed that’s important in any of the above driving surfaces but rather achieving and maintaining traction combined with maximum power availability.
When off-roading, assess terrain by walking obstacles beforehand. If walkable, it’s likely drivable in 4×4 low. Choose your own driving line based on your vehicle’s capabilities.
- Engaging 4×4 low uses low-ratio gears, allowing higher engine power without stalling.
- It limits speed to around 10mph for safety.
- If the terrain allows a faster, more comfortable drive without risking vehicle damage, switch to 4×4 high, which doesn’t limit speed or harm drivetrain components off-road.
What Happens When We Drive Fast In 4×4 Low
Engaging 4×4 low at high speeds isn’t advisable. It keeps the engine revving too high, potentially harming the engine and turbo. Limited speed prevents adequate cooling, risking engine overheating.
The high engine noise also makes the driving experience unpleasant. If safe to do so, engage 4×4 4H and reduce speed for better results.
Driving in 4×4 Low
The driving dynamics of your 4WD are transformed drastically when you are driving in 4-Lo mode. When you drive in 4-Lo, all four wheels are being powered by the engine simultaneously and the low ration gearing through the transfer case is being used.
- Wheel turning speed will be drastically reduced when 4×4 low is engaged
- Engine power and torque are more readily available.
- The engine revs higher but the wheels turn a lot slower when driving in 4×4 low than when in 4H and 2H mode.
- Older, more traditional 4x4s use a short gear lever positioned next to the main manual or automatic gear shifter to engage 4×4 Low.
- Much older 4×4 year models require you to physically exit the vehicle to manually lock the front hubs by hand before driving off-road.
- This process needs to be reversed and manually unlocked before switching back to 2H.
Modern 4WDs allow you to switch between 4Lo to 4H and 2H on the fly with a flick of a button. This is usually achieved by simply turning a dial or knob or by pressing a few fancy buttons from inside the cabin – yay for technology!!!
In many modern 4x4s, you can switch from 2H to 4H without stopping, but still, have to come to a complete stop to switch from 4H to 4L.
When To Use Low-Range
We engage 4×4 Low when we require optimal traction and absolute maximum power, available at all times. As mentioned before, in 4×4 Low (four-wheel drive, low range), all four wheels are propelling the vehicle while driving when a low gear ratio gear is being used.
- Low-range functionality is one of the tools that allows us to explore unchartered beaches, mountains, and bush.
- Engage low range to get you through soft sand, over soft-sand dunes, up steep hills and declines, and through deep mud or snow
- 4Lo Comes in handy when you drive over large unevan obstacles.
The lower gearing also improves your 4×4 engine braking, which helps to control your progress on downhill sections.
Driving 4×4 in Sand
Most light sand conditions can be successfully driven in 4H. Once the terrain and sand become very thick and deep it places a lot of strain on your clutch system. This is when you want to engage 4×4 low range and select a lower gear such as 2nd gear.
- You want to maintain a steady speed and keep the momentum but only drive as fast as necessary.
- When you need to climb out of high dunes you’ll need to engage 4WD high and use a lower gear such as 2nd or 3rd depending on the size of the dune and the looseness of the sand.
- You will need a higher speed and good momentum on your side to successfully climb out of the dune.
Sand driving is a bit of an art and the correct gear ratio will largely depend on the sand conditions as well as your vehicle’s gear ratios. Also, what plays a large role ie. petrol vs diesel since they behave differently? Tire size and pressure are also vital considerations when driving on the sand with your 4×4.
Selecting 4-Lo on Loose Rocks
Rock crawling is a very technical aspect of 4×4 driving and requires a lot of patience and skill. Speed is not your friend when driving in 4×4 lo on rocks.
More important than speed is vehicle control, maintaining traction, driving line, and ground clearance. All these factors will collectively contribute to an enjoyable rock-crawling experience.
- Excessive momentum while rock crawling in 4×4 low will only cause damage to your drivetrain, body panels, and undercarriage components.
- Again, in this situation, you want to maintain a slow but steady pace and allow the tires to grip at the correct places by always keeping the tires on the high side to avoid bashing drivetrain components or getting hung up on a rock.
Driving 4×4 Low Up Steep Hills
When driving up a steep uneven hill with low traction you will need a combination of momentum, speed, and good traction at all times. You again, want to make sure you walk the track or hill first and choose the correct driving line based on your vehicle’s dimensions and ground clearance.
You will need to use a bit of speed but not too much since the danger of vehicle damage and roll-overs is always present.
- Engage your 4×4 low and drive at a speed that suits the surface.
- Slippery surfaces will require more momentum so in the event, that traction is lost, the momentum can carry you a bit.
- Choosing the correct driveline is probably the single most important aspect of climbing out a steep slippery uneven hill in 4×4 low.
In conclusion, certain off-road situations require you to use momentum and a bit of speed when you are driving 4-Lo. This is entirely up to the discretion of the driver and the dimensions of his 4×4. When you engage 4-Lo your main purpose should not be speed but rather control, and driving line. 10mph is the recommended maximum speed to drive when 4×4 lo is engaged.
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