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How To Operate Your Truck's 4WD System

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Driver at the wheel of tractor trailer
Jetta Productions / Iconica / Getty Images
It doesn't take long to learn when and how to use your truck's 4WD system. Follow these steps and you'll feel confident about engaging the system the next time you need to get out of a slippery situation.

For a conventional system, where you can select 2WD or 4WD, the instructions refer to engaging 4WD. For trucks with permanent 4WD, they refer to locking the center differential.

Time Required: varies

Here's How:

  1. Refer to your owner's manual to find out how to engage your truck's 4WD mechanism.

  2. When driving in snow, mud, or just going off road, shift into 4WD when you get ready to leave solid ground. If you have lockable front hubs, lock them for those operations.

  3. For severe conditions, use low range if available. Before shifting into low range you must either stop or slow down to at least 3 mph to prevent grinding gears.

  4. When you return to normal conditions, shift out of 4WD or unlock the center differential. If the shifter doesn't want to move from 4WD or the differential lock stays engaged, don't panic, becaue the problem is normal and is caused by pressure on the gears.

    • Try backing in a straight line about 10 feet and try to move the shifter again.

    • If the shifter still won't move, try backing in an "S" pattern while trying to move the shifter.

  5. If you have lockable hubs, don't forget to unlock them when you return to dry pavement.

Tips:

  1. Vehicles with permanent 4WD are set up for everyday driving, but not necessarily for maximum traction on slick surfaces. Engaging the differential lock increases the vehicle's traction capabilities.

  2. Do not operate a locked 4WD on dry, hard surfaces. Doing that could cause damage to the driveshafts, differentials or transfer case.

What You Need

  • Owner's Manual

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