If you own or are thinking of buying a 4x4 then you’ll have undoubtedly noticed that there are several ranges available to you. Unless you’re a car enthusiast or have some experience driving off-road you probably won’t understand what these ranges do, or even what they mean.

To help give you the best understanding of your 4x4, here is a simple and straightforward explanation of ranges and gear ratios:

If you own or are thinking of buying a 4x4 then you’ll have undoubtedly noticed that there are several ranges available to you. Unless you’re a car enthusiast or have some experience driving off-road you probably won’t understand what these ranges do, or even what they mean.

To help give you the best understanding of your 4x4, here is a simple and straightforward explanation of ranges and gear ratios:

FOUR WHEEL DRIVE RANGES

Most vehicles come with two options when it comes to ranges 4Hi (or 4 High) and 4Lo (or 4 Low). There are very significant differences between these two ranges, with each designed for specific situations in order to give you the best performance for the terrain and obstacles you are faced with.

WHAT IS 4HI?

This range is perfect for snow, dirt roads and off-road trails – this ratio helps to give you better traction, allowing you to get going, maintain forward movement and reduce the risk of slipping or having the wheels spin out.

Often these vehicles will also have an automatic traction control to further reduce the risk of slipping wheels, while a slip differential works to prevent the wheels from spinning out.

WHAT IS 4LO?

Unlike 4Hi, 4Lo works to create a huge amount of torque from the engine – however this will significantly reduce the speed that the vehicle can achieve. This range does not work to create more traction, in fact with more torque you can suffer from a loss in traction which is why this is not a good choice for snow, ice or mud.

Ideally this range is used for towing heavy trailers or drivers who need to tackle difficult off-road terrain when more torque is required – steep hills and obstacles.  

FOUR WHEEL DRIVE (4WD) VS ALL WHEEL DRIVE (AWD)

When buying a new car you will probably see a lot of terms thrown about, popular ones in this market are 4WD and AWD – but these are not the same. So what’s the difference?

A 4WD vehicle’s power goes from the transmission into a transfer case that splits the power between the front and rear axles to achieve maximum torque. While this is great for things like scaling steep banks, driving in snow and climbing over rock piles, it does have a few weak points. For example, most of these systems can’t be used in all conditions and they do add complexity to the vehicle.

AWD is a newer concept and is actually much more complicated. Unlike 4WD, you find this type of transmission in everything from an Audi R8 to a Volvo XC90. One of the biggest differences with the AWD system is that it is in place all the time, delivering power to wheels with the most traction by automatically splitting the power between the front and rear axles using the centre differential and to individual wheels through the front and rear differential.

An AWD vehicle works brilliantly in slippery situations, like wet roads and snow, but it isn’t as robust as 4WD and isn’t capable of the same level of off-roading. But if you’re looking for a safe family vehicle with great traction in difficult weather conditions rather than an out-and-out off-roader then this could be a good solution for your needs.