Is it possible to reverse in 4WD? This might sound like a strange question, however, it is quite a relevant one. The fact is, when consulting your owner’s manual there are seldom any guidelines regarding reversing safely while 4WD is engaged.
There are certain situations where you should never reverse in 4-wheel drive mode. We will discuss this in more detail as well as how 4-wheel-drive systems function.
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Reverse In 4-Wheel Drive
Splitting the question, let’s address if reversing in 4-wheel drive is possible. Yes, 4WD trucks can reverse while in 4WD; the functionality remains consistent in both forward and reverse motions.
Regarding safety concerns, reversing in 4WD can cause drivetrain components, like the drive shaft, to experience binding, similar to when moving forward. Apply the same driving rules for 4WD in both forward and reverse to ensure safe conditions.
How The 4WD System Works
A traditional Four-wheel drive system works by all four wheels receiving engine power equally. The power is transferred to each axle by a center differential that has front and rear driveshafts connected. The front and rear differentials further send 25% of the available power to each wheel. The differentials equally divide and manage the transfer of power to each wheel.
When four-wheel drive is engaged, both the front and rear axles receive the vehicle’s available torque and power which is split 50/50. This allows all four wheels to propel the vehicle forward. This is achieved by the rear wheels pushing and the front wheels pulling simultaneously.
Four-wheel drives come in two main types: permanent and part-time. Permanent 4WD provides constant power to all wheels via a viscous coupling, allowing varied surface driving without damage risk.
Part-time 4WD operates in 2H on high-traction surfaces, sending power to the rear axle. Engaging 4H locks front and rear driveshafts for low-traction terrains, and unsuitable for pavement or freeway use.
When To Avoid Reversing In 4WD
As previously stated, four-wheel-drive functions the same in reverse as it does going forward. The rules of 4WD driving still apply the same. Armed with this knowledge, what are some of the driving surfaces you would typically avoid when reversing while still in 4WD mode?
You want to avoid engaging 4WD in any high traction surface.
Prime examples of this are:
|Hard surface made of a mixture of cement, sand, and gravel commonly used in construction
|Road surface consisting of a mix of bitumen and crushed stone or gravel
|Solid surfaces composed of cement, sand, water, and aggregates, often used in construction and infrastructure
Reversing while still engaged in 4WD on a high traction surface will cause drivetrain “binding” so exercise extreme caution before doing so. A four-wheel driver should learn to read driving surfaces well if he has a part-time four-wheel drive.
When Should You Engage 4H (4WD)
The following road surfaces are completely safe to reverse while still engaged in Four-Wheel-Drive mode.
- Low traction wet surfaces
- Snowy and icy roads
- Loos sandy tracks
- Beach sand dunes
- Thick muddy trails
When driving on a wet, slippery road, consider engaging four-wheel drive only if traction is significantly low, like on icy or water-covered surfaces to minimize the risk of hydroplaning. Yet, this decision can be risky if the road is a mix of low and moderate traction. If you have 4A, engage it!
Full-time 4WD and AWD systems excel here, unlike semi-permanent 4WD. In light rain, reconsider using 4WD, as there might be enough traction, risking drivetrain issues.
The driver must assess road conditions to decide on 4H engagement, switching between modes for changing road surfaces. With 4A or a super-select box like in the Mitsubishi Pajero, 4H engagement is safer.
Low-traction snow and icy roads are the perfect time to engage your 4H. Engaging 4H will lock your front and rear driveshafts for improved handling and better traction in snow. Snowy and icy road surfaces offer enough slippage, unlike a wet road that might only be slippery in specific areas, but not consistently slippery.
Sandy surfaces and dunes offer plenty of slippages and it’s 100% safe to engage your 4WD in this environment. Remember, sand is a high-resistance surface, and using momentum is key to successful sand driving. Turning and reversing are all perfectly fine for sand driving.
When four-wheeling on soft thick sand or attempting to climb out a steep sand dune, you want to make sure your tire pressures are deflated to 1.6 bar. You could go even lower but that is a good starting point. This is one of the first things you should do before you even engage 4WD.
There is nothing more fun to do than drive off-road in the mud. All rules go out the window and it’s free for all where I’m concerned. You engage your four-wheel drive and you have a blast. Keep the momentum up, similar to when driving in sandy conditions, and increase your revs. Correct AT (All-Terrain) or MT (Mud Terrain) tires are essential to enjoying a successful mudding experience.
So to recap on the original question, yes you can engage 4H and safely reverse in four-wheel-drive if the driving surface is low-traction enough like snow, icy roads, muddy roads, and dunes. The four-wheel-drive drivetrain system works the same in reverse as it does going forward.
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