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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How to Prepare for Off-Roading: Getting to Know Your 4×4’s Systems

Image by Aleksandr Zyablitskiy via iStock

Off-roading is a thrilling activity that immerses you in the raw beauty of the wilderness, offering a sense of freedom and adventure that’s hard to match. However, the rugged terrains and unpredictable conditions that make off-roading so exciting also pose unique challenges. 

Success and safety in this sport are largely dependent on your preparation and understanding of your vehicle’s capabilities. So, buckle up and join us as we continue our off-roading journey, exploring the capabilities of your 4×4, sharing tips, and highlighting essential tools to ensure you have a fun, safe, and successful off-roading adventure.

Before we dive into this discussion, we highly recommend catching up on the first two parts of this series. The first article can be found here and the second article is available here. As part of a comprehensive guide, each installment provides valuable insights that will be invaluable on your off-roading journey.

Let’s get started on the path to mastering your off-roading skills and preparing you for the great outdoors!

Table of Contents

When to Use 4H for Off-Roading

Aggressive off road ready car in mountains

Image by molchanovdmitry via iStock

Understanding your 4×4’s drive modes is crucial for off-roading, with the four-wheel drive high range (4H) setting being one of the most frequently used. 4H is perfect for navigating slippery or loose surfaces at normal road speeds. It offers an ideal blend of additional traction and higher speed capability, enhancing control and stability.

The versatility of the 4H setting is seen in its usage across a variety of terrain, from sandy beaches to gravel roads and from wet, muddy paths to snowy landscapes. The setting provides the necessary traction to prevent your vehicle from slipping or getting stuck, making it your best companion in light off-road conditions. 

However, caution is needed when off-roading on dry and hard road conditions. In such cases, 4H can lead to excessive wear and tear on your vehicle’s drivetrain due to driveline binding. The key, as always, is to assess the terrain and use the right tool for the job. Used correctly, the 4H setting can significantly enhance your off-roading experience.




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When to Use 4L for Off-Roading

Jeep Off Roading

Photo by Petrichuk via iStock

Navigating challenging terrains in off-roading calls for robust tools like the 4L (four-wheel drive low range) setting. This drive mode is a savior when confronted with extreme obstacles, steep inclines, rocky trails, or heavy mud. The 4L setting delivers additional torque, enabling your 4×4 to power through tough spots with low-speed control.

However, the strength of 4L lies in its slow, strategic maneuvers. High-speed travel in this mode can damage your vehicle’s drivetrain. It’s essential to match the drive setting with the terrain conditions to ensure a safe and enjoyable off-roading experience.

Remember, 4L is not designed for high-speed travel or smooth, paved surfaces. Instead, it’s a specialized tool for those challenging terrains that make off-roading the thrill-seeking adventure that it truly is.

When is Traction Control Needed for Off-Roading?

Traction Control

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Traction control proves invaluable during off-roading, mitigating wheel spin when the vehicle begins to lose grip. This system, in essence, aids in maintaining control and stability by minimizing engine power or applying brakes to the wheels that are struggling for grip, thus redistributing power to the wheels with better traction.

Now, when discussing traction control, one cannot overlook the importance of tire pressure and the critical role it plays in maintaining grip, especially in off-road conditions. Lowering tire pressure, also known as ‘airing down,’ enhances the tire’s contact patch with the ground, leading to improved traction. This practice proves beneficial in challenging terrains like deep sand or rocky landscapes.

morrflate mega quad on jeep

MORRFlate‘s TenSix Portable Off Road Air Compressor is a formidable tool for maintaining proper tire pressure and inflating and deflating all four tires at once. This neon green hulk of a compressor can inflate a set of 35″ tires in under 5 minutes and offers a remarkable 10.6 CFM at 0 PSI.

Complementing the TenSix is the MORRFlate Mega Quad Kit, a system for simultaneously equalizing, inflating, or deflating up to 6 tires. It’s designed to work seamlessly with the TenSix compressor, optimizing the compressor’s efficiency and longevity.

morrflate tensix in use

Combining the TenSix Compressor and the Mega Quad kit enhances the efficiency of your off-road trips. These products streamline tire pressure management, making your off-roading experience more seamless than ever.

And combined with a better understanding of your 4×4’s off-road systems, you’ll be in great shape to tackle your first off-road excursion!

Why Differential Locks are Important for Off-Roading

Three White SUVs in the Desert

Photo by visual7 via iStock

Differential locks, or “lockers,” play a vital role in off-roading by enhancing the vehicle’s capability to navigate challenging terrains. These mechanisms synchronize the speed of both wheels on an axle, ensuring equal distribution of torque. This is especially beneficial when one wheel encounters reduced traction, such as in mud or sand, where power can otherwise be wasted on a spinning wheel.

When navigating obstacles, a vehicle with a locked differential directs engine power evenly to both wheels. For instance, if one wheel is in the air on rocky terrain, the differential lock ensures the grounded wheel receives sufficient force to propel the vehicle forward. This drastically increases the likelihood of overcoming the obstacle successfully.

However, appropriate usage of lockers requires experience and finesse. It’s essential to engage them only when necessary and disengage once the obstacle is cleared. Incorrect application or overuse can lead to drivetrain damage. Despite this, when used judiciously, differential locks are a crucial tool for off-roading.


Red off road car at Bromo mountain, adventure trial

Photo by SasinParaksa via iStock

How Can I Improve Off-Road Driving Performance?

Improving off-road performance is a mix of using the right equipment, proper vehicle maintenance, and honing your driving skills. This includes understanding your vehicle’s 4WD system, knowing when to engage 4H vs. 4L, and the optimal application of traction control.

Are All-Terrain or Mud-Terrain Tires Better for Off-Roading?

Choosing between all-terrain and mud-terrain tires largely depends on the type of terrain you’ll be driving on. Mud-terrain tires are best for heavy off-roading conditions like deep mud, while all-terrain tires are a balanced choice for mixed on-road and off-road driving.

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