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Beginner Tips – When to Use Low Range

 photo by 1000kbps via iStock

A capable 4WD can take you to places most people haven’t seen. When first getting into off-roading, learning how to use all the different modes and settings on your truck can be a  daunting process – especially if it is a newer vehicle. 

The ability to use all these settings will ensure you get the most out of your rig – this can be the difference between getting stuck or making it to that picturesque location. 

In today’s article, we are covering the most important “mode” of all – low range. 

Keep in mind that not all vehicles have low range. The so-called “soft-roaders” which include RAV4s, CRVs and the lot will not come equipped with low range because they are designed to tackle less challenging terrain. 

Selecting Low Range

4x4 gear shift

photo by Theodoros Georgiou

Depending on your vehicle, low range can be selected by a gear knob or a button. If your car happens to be 2WD with selectable 4WD your low range knob will have the following options: 2H, 4H, N, 4L. On full-time 4×4 vehicles, the low range knob or button will only have 4H, N, 4L. 

4H is 4WD high range and 4L is 4WD low range. So, why should you use 4L? Well, low range gives you the ability to run lower gears which will reduce your speed by about 1/3. 

The lower gears provide more torque – this means that your 4WD will be able to overcome obstacles with far less effort. The speed reduction also helps prolong the life of your components while giving you more time to pick the correct line through an obstacle. 

When to Use Low Range?

When Increased Amounts of Torque are Needed

4x4 driving in sand

 photo by Lingbeek via iStock

More torque is needed in many situations, some of them include driving through mud, soft sand, steep terrain, and big rock steps. 

More torque is also needed when recovering another 4WD that is bogged or even when towing off-road. 

Your vehicle may not be able to drive up a steep hill while towing close to its maximum towing capacity. Putting it in low range will ensure you make it up that hill with ease.

Use Low Range in Technical Sections Where Going Slow is Key

4x4 driving in mud

 photo by MousePotato via iStock

When low range is engaged you can maintain slow speeds. This means that driving over rocks, ruts, and rough terrain will put far less stress on your components. 

If you need more speed, you can use 2nd or 3rd gear low range which are perfect for driving up steep hills, crossing rivers, or driving in soft mud or sand. 

On tracks where your speeds will not exceed 25mph, prefer staying in 4L. It is common to underestimate a section of track – it might be softer or steeper than you think. By staying in 4L you will be able to make it through; so, save yourself from winching and stay in 4L on slow tracks.

If the track surface is smooth and you know you will be doing speeds of more than 25mph then switch to 4H. This will keep the engine’s RPMs low and save fuel. 

Learn More:

When You Have to Ride the Clutch

Clutch

 photo by Warut Wetsanarut via iStock

In most cases, riding the clutch when off-roading means you are trying to go slower or start on a steep hill or rough terrain. 

Engaging low range will in most cases eliminate the need to ride the clutch. This will prolong the life of it while making the obstacle look easy. 

Use Low Range When Driving Down Steep Hills When Off-Road

4x4 going downhill

 photo by dstephens via iStock

When going down steep hills, 1st gear low range is your friend – especially in a diesel. The engine compression slows the vehicle down and, in most cases, you don’t even have to use the brakes. 

Using engine braking to drive down a steep hill will keep your seats clean by eliminating brake fade and helping you stay in control. 

When You Keep Stalling the Vehicle

4x4 driving over rocky road in mountians

 photo by Petrichuk via iStock

You will be amazed on how steep of a hill you can get a vehicle going when in low range. If you find yourself repeatedly stalling while trying to make it over an obstacle, engage 4L – you will make it through with no hustle!

I hope this article has helped you get a better understanding of why you should use low range and when to do so. 

If you have any questions, let us know!

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