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Driving on gravel roads, use 2wd or 4wd ?

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#1 klahanie


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 06:47 PM

Searched a bit but didn't find this covered.


Curious on what others are using and why. Specifically on gravel fsr, haul roads, resource roads and just plain old unpaved roads. These being the roads found just after turning off pavement, mostly decent surfaces, decent speeds and chance of meeting other traffic - not 4x4 only stuff.


If you have the 4wd option do you use it here or stay in 2wd ? Use it because you have it or save it until ... ??


I know often "it depends" but I'm wondering with all the experience on this board if anyone wants to share their reasons for doing what they do and when. Perhaps food for thought for the rest of us.



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#2 pvstoy


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 07:19 PM

Roads as you ask travel in 2 wheel drive where 4 wheel drive is not nessacery. It is when the road gets a bit ruff and has some hill climbs or grade drops where the tires need more tourqe to keep momentum. That is where you will find ruts and wood-to-doos and road erosion is likely. To keep road damage to a minimum 4 wheel drive will help.
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#3 Cayuse


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 07:40 PM

Most of the time keep it in 2WD until 4WD is required.  Exception is if I haven't used 4WD in awhile I might shift into it just to get things moving around and keep the pieces/parts lubricated.

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#4 12valve


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 09:15 PM

I ALWAYS use 4wd for these reasons. The front wheels turn easier, far better steering, far better response. Often if the dirt is loose, the front wheels get pushed forward and the front end is not responsive. When power is applied to the front wheels, they "pull" themselves over bumps instead of being "pushed" by the back wheels over bumps. Much easier on the suspension, far better ride. You will have much better braking. With pushbutton on demand 4wd nowadays, there is no reason not to use it. I do not have push button 4wd, I have to get out and manually engage the hubs, and I still think it is worth it. 

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#5 DavidGraves


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 09:57 PM

Hi David


In our part of the world we generally do use 4WD high if forrest roads are steep...even more so coming down for better engine braking.


It would not be absolutely needed but it does seem to minimize road damage.


David Graves

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#6 craig333


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Posted 16 May 2018 - 10:52 PM

2wd unless I feel the need for low range. There are exceptions of course. 

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#7 OutToLunch


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Posted 17 May 2018 - 12:13 AM

I drive forest service roads every day in 2WD. Most of my driving is on gravel or dirt. Only change to 4WD when conditions necessitate it, which means deep mud or water obstacle or wet clay surface or six inches of snow or steep climb or similar. I have seen and pulled out too many people who think 4WD will save them or will let them drive fast on dirt, snow, mud, etc. Mostly, it just gets them into trouble. IMHO I think it is more about how you drive and less about what you drive.
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#8 Advmoto18


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Posted 17 May 2018 - 12:25 AM

2x when driving slowly and sight seeing.


4 High if making fast tracks.   Much better control on sketchy surfaces.  If you begin to slide, much easier to counter steer with 4 High engaged.


Regardless of mode, think about airing down.  I air down about 20 psi from 65 psi for long stretches of FS gravel roads.  Makes a world difference.

Edited by Advmoto18, 17 May 2018 - 12:26 AM.

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#9 Backroad Joe

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Posted 17 May 2018 - 03:05 AM

Like 12valve says. I've heard lots of discussion along those lines. Tried both ways. However my Dodge does not like to make u-turns in 4wd. My '68 jeep doesn't even like mild turns as there is a locker up front. Just wants to keep going straight.


Yea, airing down. Now that is what you should be paying attention to.

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#10 klahanie


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Posted 17 May 2018 - 02:57 PM

Thanks all for the comments.


For uphill sections, I'll add that I was told directly that possible, unnoticed wheel slip in 2wd was contributing to my tire wear and chipping - an important cost consideration for me - so now I try to remember for even modest slopes.


4wd for faster driving I understand. And wondered if 4wd always for always having a margin safety would be mentioned in a reply, for that unexpected patch of deep loose, gravel or reactive pull over for that sudden appearance of a industrial truck. I do usually slip into 4wd for an approaching private vehicle - just in case.


I admit to finding it difficult to break my old habit of '2wd until 4wd is necessary' but I have expanded necessary to cautiously prudent. Still not driving 4wd full time, not sure why ... maybe fuel economy or wear ... OTOH I have it, why not use it. That's why I started this.


For downhill, regular speeds not 4lo, I'm usually 2wd, thinking that would save the front drive train from some the jarring. Am I wrong here ??


And what do we think about 4wd for pot hole fields. Helpful or not ??



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