4WD Vs. Low: Difference and When To Use

There are many settings you should consider when driving a 4WD vehicle. For example, what’s the difference between 4WD high vs. low and when should each be used?

4WD High is a great way to get all four wheels moving, particularly when the road becomes slippery or traction drops. It’s perfect for use on the highways. 4WD Low, on the other hand, uses low-range gears in order to give traction when there is rough terrain and at lower speeds (e.g., off-road).

This guide will cover every option. This guide also explains the differences among these vehicles and AWD and 4WD Auto.

Índice de Contenido
  1. The 4WD Differences: High and Low
    1. 1. 4WD high
    2. 2. 4WD Lower
  2. 4WD: What's the difference?
  3. Comparison of 4WD and All-wheel Drive
  4. Is Four-Wheel Drive (Four-Wheel Drive) a term?
  5. 4WD: Is it worth the cost?

The 4WD Differences: High and Low

1. 4WD high

4WD High (4H), also known as 4WD Highway, is a setting that allows for faster speeds than the highway. When snow begins to accumulate, 4WD High will be used if you travel down the highway, suburban road or rural road. 

However, it’s not meant to be used in normal driving conditions. You don’t really want to exceed 55 mph because this setting puts the transmission in a mid-range gear in most car models. If the RPMs are too high, they could cause engine damage. You should only use this mode when conditions are very slippery. The 2WD mode is what should be used for normal driving conditions when the road isn’t slippery and you want to go at higher speeds.

It’s the perfect option if the roads are getting slippery from snow or ice. This can also be used to escape stuck situations from snow and sand. However, don’t go over 55 mph or it could cause damage to the transfer case. 

2. 4WD Lower

Knowing that 4WD Low (or Normal) was intended for roads with regular speeds and normal road conditions, it is possible to get an idea of how 4WD low (4L), could work. This provides low speed traction assistance, regardless of whether you're traveling in deeper sands or snow. It’s also helpful if you are trying to pull your boat out of the water or need to ford through some streams. It’s also the chosen option for rock crawling since you will be traveling at low speeds. 

Use this four-wheel drive setting to keep speeds under 25 mph. That’s why it’s not the best option for regular roads, but it will provide some crazy amount of torque to the wheels, just when you need it the most. 

4WD: What's the difference?

4WD Auto is an innovative feature that can be found on some new vehicles. Advanced technology uses sensors and the advanced traction control system for this purpose. 

Two-wheel drive means that the vehicle only transfers power to the wheels it drives. Although two-wheel drive saves money on fuel, it is useless in slippery and stuck situations. Two-wheel drive is used for commutes on roads in good weather and normal road conditions.

4WD Auto is more helpful when there's rain coming down or when driving on slippery roads. It is possible to keep 4WD Auto on, and the car will determine when it should be turned on. Most of the time, it’s going to keep the vehicle in a 2WD mode, only switching over when the conditions on the road warrant more support. 

Because this setting adjusts itself, it’s a great option for those that don’t fully understand the four-wheel-drive system. It works in the background, so it is easy to use. If a wheel begins to slip or road conditions change, you won’t need to worry about adjusting anything to gain more traction. With the same confidence you can travel down the wet highway as on the slippery back roads. 

RELATED: AWD, FWD, or RWD: Which is Better (& What to Buy?)

Comparison of 4WD and All-wheel Drive

It is common to confuse four-wheel drive with all-wheel driving. This makes perfect sense. All-wheel drive is four-wheel drive. All-wheel drive works in a different way. The full-time setup has this system on all times. However, you don’t need to make any selections or decide what type of support to use. Wheel speed sensors inform the system when one or more tires lose grip. To help improve traction, the clutch and drivetrain transmit more torque to the wheels. 

Subarus are a popular choice for full-time AWD. The power is sent to each of the four wheels and adjustments are made as needed. There are also part-time all-wheel-drive models, such as what’s offered with the Toyota RAV4. For better traction and efficiency, half the power goes to the rear wheels. However, the engine can be automatically disconnected through the driveline so that it runs only on the front wheels when conditions permit. 

READ MORE: AWD vs 4WD: What’s the Difference & Which to Choose?

Is Four-Wheel Drive (Four-Wheel Drive) a term?

A term used to describe the drivetrain system of vehicles is 4WD. A four-wheel drive configuration transfers power to the four wheels. The transfer of power is double that which is possible with rear- or front wheel-drive two-wheelers. This 4WD vehicle splits the power in order to provide better traction especially on slippery roads like sand, snow, or wet roads. The 4WD vehicle is able to move despite losing traction, as the other wheels receive power. This arrangement is common in SUVs and trucks that are intended to go off-road. 

The transmission and four-wheel drive cars have mechanical linkage between their axles. The engine's power is transferred to the transmission by the transmission. There are many gear ratios that can reduce rotation speeds and multiply torque when necessary. It is responsible for turning two driveshafts: one in front, and one in rear. It’s also responsible for sending power to the differentials, causing the spinning of the axles in the front and rear of the vehicle.

Open differentials only send power to one wheel. That’s why a compact, economy vehicle doesn’t do well on ice, as the tire spins as you try to accelerate. This is how the vehicle is accelerated in straight lines by the limited-slip diff. It also allows for the wheels to rotate at different speeds, like what’s needed when you take a turn. For this reason, it’s called a limited-slip differential because it changes the speeds between the right and left tires. 

If a car has a locking differential both of its wheels must rotate at the exact same speed. This sends a nice amount of torque to tires with more grip, but it can also lead to premature wear when it’s temporarily locked. All of these are important points to remember as we examine the four-wheel drive settings.

READ MORE: Open vs. Limited Slip Differentials (What’s the Difference?)

4WD: Is it worth the cost?

A vehicle that has four-wheel drive will cost you more, but is it worthwhile? The conditions in which you are driving and the purpose of the vehicle will determine the price. 4WD will improve your vehicle's traction if you frequently travel over snow and rocks. So both wheels can be driven, increasing traction as well as control.

For those who need more control on the roads or want to explore the trails, 4WD can be a great option. This setup has its downsides. You will spend more on fuel as the vehicles aren’t as economical. The added equipment makes the vehicle heavier, which means that there is more tire wear. The added weight can also affect how long it takes for the brake to work, so this could be a challenge to master. You may also feel more secure with an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive system. This can make it easier to make poor decisions. Your vehicle may be able to handle it, but you could get trapped thinking otherwise.

4WD is unnecessary for the average driver. 4WD is not necessary. It will use more fuel, and you'll spend more upfront. It’s going to provide no real benefit to your daily commute down the dry highway. You might consider a four-wheel-drive vehicle if your plans include going off-road and/or you reside in an area that is subject to severe weather.

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