Using 4WD While Offroading

4x4 driving down a dirt ridge.

Heinrich van den Berg / Getty Images

There are different gearing options found in 4WD vehicles that will help a vehicle traverse a variety of unique situations you might encounter while offroading. If you're driving a Jeep Wrangler, 4Runner or ​another 4x4 offroading vehicle, you'll want to know when to use 4WD.

Hi-Range 4WD

In hi-range 4 wheel drive you can go much faster than you can in lo-range. It is usually geared close to or the same as 2WD.

Use hi-Range 4WD on somewhat level ground when you're stuck in deep sand, in highly slippery situations, in mud, ice, snow, rocky/gravel roads, ridges, and ditches.

Lo-Range 4WD

You should only use Lo-Range 4WD in your Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner when you have to move at very slow speeds. The gearing is much tighter than hi-range and the max speed is significantly lower. It's best if you never exceed 25 mph while using lo-range 4WD. Lo-Range 4WD provides better torque than hi-range.

Use Lo-Range 4WD when the surface is wet and slippery, while you are traveling through trails and sandy areas, in shallow water, when climbing rocks, and when going down steep hills.

Tips for Using 4WD

  • Always finish the obstacle before switching gears. Don't shift while in water or on hills.
  • Don't get caught off guard; get into gear before you get there. By the time you have to stop to switch into 4WD you may already be stuck.
  • Always get back into 2WD when on pavement or hard surfaces.