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Friday, June 21, 2024

Modern 4WD Technology in Off-Road Use

 photo by RonBailey via iStock

In the automotive industry, one of the key doctrines is “newer is better,” and ever since the first vehicles rolled off assembly lines, the industry and community, in general, are on the path of constant development, improvement, and modernization, including 4WD technology. With each new model generation, vehicles are better, faster, more durable, comfortable, and safer. We feel that evolution really improved the driving experience by perfecting the construction and the materials.

On the other hand, the off-road community is one of the rare places in the automotive world where you can still be old school and as capable off-road as somebody with a brand-new SUV or truck. In some cases, in this world, “older is better” since older vehicles have less complicated 4WD technology, can be fixed with common tools, and are more dependable than some newer models.

However, we are still glad that there are still several high-tech items that made way into the off-road community and became mandatory options on modern all-terrain vehicles. Today, we will tell you more them and how it helped to make off-road driving more enjoyable and safer.

4WD Technology – Downhill Descent Control

jeep going downhill

“Morgan Quarry – 27th & 28th Nov 2010” by Allshots Imaging is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For years now, downhill descent control is part of the standard equipment on so many modern SUVs, trucks, and off-road vehicles. For those who don’t know what it is, this is an electronic system that helps you to descent downhill when you are driving on rugged terrain by determining what is optimal speed depending on the surface, angle, and traction.

Inexperienced drivers might ask why this system is so essential, and the only way to find out is to take them on the trail and ask them to descend down the long and slippery path. If you go too slow, the gravity will make you slide, and if you go too fast, you are risking flipping over and not being able to stop. The DDC will find that perfect balance for you and protect you from accidents. That is why it is a valuable addition to off-road equipment, and we cannot imagine serious off-road tasks without it.

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Trail Crawl Control

jeep going up hill

“Morgan Quarry – 27th & 28th Nov 2010” by Allshots Imaging is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Contrary to DDC, which keeps the speed when you are going downhill, the Trail Crawl Control does the same thing but going uphill. Although it sounds easy, this 4WD technology is, in fact, very complicated since it has to monitor several aspects of the vehicle dynamics in order to make it work.

Regardless of whether you are climbing a snowy hill or going rock crawling, when you engage it, it will monitor the traction, position, and angle of the wheels and maintain optimal climbing speed according to the conditions. This system is very valuable since it takes a lot of work from the driver and leaves the person behind the wheel concentrated on steering and direction. Under challenging conditions, steering and finding the right way is as important as not sliding back, so TCC is immensely helpful.

4WD Technology – Electronically Disconnecting Sway Bars

The sway bars are a simple but very important part of the vehicle’s drive train, whether connected or disconnected. When the vehicle is driven on the street, sway bars help to keep the front wheels in check and allow it to track straight and steer precisely. However, when you find yourself on the challenging terrain or rock crawling course, you want your sway bars to be disconnected since it will allow each wheel to have its own angle and achieve maximum traction and grip.

It is an old off-roading trick, and for decades, skillful overlanders have manually disconnected sway bars, which meant laying underneath the vehicle and wrenching. Finally, in the last couple of years, manufacturers presented sway bars that you can disconnect with the press of a button, saving you an enormous amount of time and effort.

Front Cameras

The appearance of cameras in vehicles gave a new dimension to parking and maneuvering, helping those less skillful to finally master the fine art of squeezing into tight parking spaces or parallel parking. However, in an off-road world where parking is not an issue, cameras don’t have much of a purpose. Or do they?

It turns out that this 4WD technology is immensely useful when driving off-road since it can show you the ideal path and help you guide the vehicle in the wanted direction. This is especially useful when you are driving an enormous truck or full-size SUV with a large grille, which limits the view upfront. Some vehicles even offer extraordinary helpful cameras mounted underneath the front bumper, which will show you the obstacles, big rocks, or potholes you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

4WD Technology – Wade Sensors

SUV in high water

photo by kschulze via iStock

One of the worst nightmares of every off-road enthusiast is to realize that the water is too deep, too late. In most cases, you don’t know how exactly the stream or river is deep until you start crossing it, and there is no way to know it unless you step out of the vehicle and check it out manually.

Fortunately, with the help of modern technology and some innovative thinking, several car companies are now offering wade sensors. They are simply parking sensors but calibrated for a different purpose and usually mounted on the front of the vehicle or on the side mirrors. Using wade sensors, you will always be informed of the water’s actual depth, and you can avoid being submerged and stranded.

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