Owning a four-wheel drive vehicle is a recipe for excitement when you’re doing a little off-road adventure, but it’s just as helpful for gaining stability and traction when facing inclement weather. There are countless uses for a 4WD, including heavy-duty towing, hauling your camping gear, and outback driving. Whether you have purchased your first four-wheel drive vehicle or are a veteran driver with years behind the wheel of four-wheel drive vehicles, the following tips can help.
1. Not all 4WD systems are created equal
If you last drove a four-wheel drive vehicle a few years ago and are about to slip behind the wheel for the first time since then, don’t assume your new SUV will handle the same way. There can be significant differences between systems from car to car, including their capabilities and operating procedures. Be sure to read your owner’s manual before attempting any off-road adventures.
2. Choosing your team BEFORE you drive through a losing streak will improve your success
Please note that you should always use 1st gear when navigating downhill areas. This will give you optimal braking effect while keeping actual use of your brakes to a minimum. This will minimize skidding and help you maintain control of your vehicle.
3. Gearing too high is just as dangerous as gearing too low.
When your 4WD starts to slide, be sure to turn into the slide while applying the throttle, then straighten your vehicle and release the throttle. Choosing a gear for uphill use will depend on the type of four-wheel drive you are driving. In most cases, starting in second or third gear will work. If you go too high a gear, you risk stalling, so be sure to check your tachometer regularly, keeping the rpm between 1,800 and 2,200 when possible.
4. Improve traction with low tire pressure
When you’re driving in an area that’s “soft,” like sand, swamps, or mud bogs, letting a little air out of your tires can help improve traction. It can also help reduce sag, giving you more time to get out. Just remember to re-inflate your tires when you’re back on solid ground. Under-inflated tires can cause heat to build up, which could lead to blowouts or tire damage. Your owner’s manual will give you the proper pressure guidelines.
5. An easy way to dry your braces quickly
You know you won’t encounter many mud holes and deep water when driving your 4WD, but wet or sticky brakes can be dangerous. You can dry them out pretty quickly by driving while lightly applying the brake pedal. Checking the air filter for water is also a good idea.
6. Avoid oversized tires
Increasing tire diameter will have a negative impact on gear ratio and performance. They can also cause additional bearing wear and affect suspension due to excessive weight on the axles. Avoid installing oversized tires if you want optimal handling and control.
And finally, talk to an experienced 4×4 owner or join one of the many four-wheel drive clubs in your area if you’re still unsure how to safely ride your new four-wheel drive. Happy trails!