What Driving 4×4 Off Road Means To Me – Off Roading Basics

The first thing to explain when talking about the acronyms or denominations 4×4, AWD, and 4WD is that these basically refer to the traction systems in a vehicle.

Normally a car has a basic 4×2 traction, where the front wheels are the ones that move the car when propelled by the engine, while the rear wheels only follow the movement. In other words, “4×2” means that of a vehicle’s four wheels only two are drive wheels.

Owning a car gives you multiple possibilities, such as getting to work earlier or carrying out procedures that require a great investment of time and patience in public transport. However, there is also room for entertainment. Does the 4×4 Off-Road concept sound familiar to you?

4×4 Off-Road: Adventure And Expertise On Difficult Roads

Drivers who usually drive off-road, in terrains with extreme conditions, what they are doing is Off-Road 4×4. The activity usually takes place on poorly defined roads with rugged terrain characteristics.

For this reason, to perform this adventure sport it is necessary to have vehicles with 4×4 traction, which are conditioned to overcome any difficulty you find on the road. Therefore, if you want to immerse yourself in this exciting world, you should clear your doubts about how 4×4 works and what 4H and 4L mean in a 4×4, among other related concepts.

How Does 4×4 Work In A Vehicle?

Normally, in the market, you will find cars with 4×2 traction. This basically means that only the front wheels move the vehicle after being driven by the engine. Therefore, out of the set of four wheels, only two have traction.

This type of vehicle works safely in urban environments but may have disadvantages when traveling on more difficult roads.

Well, manufacturers have found the solution: four-wheel drive, which provides a traction force that is distributed equally between the front and rear axles of the car (50% front and 50% rear).

In these models, which are usually vans and SUVs, it is the four wheels that move the vehicle using the same amount of force. To know how this system works, it is necessary to define different variants of all-wheel drive:

  • Those that have permanently coupled all 4 wheels to the engine. They are also called all-wheel drive and are the most efficient cars.
  • Those that have front or rear-wheel drive and only couple the other axle to the engine on certain occasions. In this group we can find those with central differential, that is to say, those that can use the traction on any road and at any speed; and those without central differential, which only couple the supplementary axle when the road conditions are very bad and at low speeds.

At the same time, there are different complementary versions to the 4X4 system that you should know:

  • AWD traction: they offer four-wheel drive without driver intervention. It has a center differential that equalizes traction on each wheel separately to enhance vehicle control. It is more focused on comfort than on off-road thrills.
  • 4WD: similar to AWD, but with the difference that it is the driver who selects the locking of the two axles or only one. It offers the advantage of adapting the driving to the type of terrain.

How Do The 4WD Hubs Work?

The locking hubs allow, as the name suggests, the locking of the front axle of the wheels, their main job is to allow you to switch from 4×2 to 4WD.


When you lock the hubs what you do is connect the two half axles to a drive plate, locking them together.

Thus, the axles rotate together, and they will be ready for you to connect the 4WD, which transmits the power through a differential located in the transfer case. In older vehicles, the procedure must be initiated manually, i.e., get out of your car, turn the hub to its locked position, and put the transmission in the “neutral” position before engaging the 4WD.

On the other hand, in modern cars, you have automatic locking hubs that do not require much manual work. You just stop the car and put the transfer lever in 4H or 4L and move forward. The hubs will then lock automatically. Now that you know how the 4×4 hubs work it is important that you learn what 2H, 4L, and 4L mean.

What Do 4H And 4L Mean On A 4X4?

On some models, you can choose different driving alternatives, such as:

  • 2H: you drive with one axle disconnected, that is, only front or rear-wheel drive, depending on your car model.
  • 4L: you get the 4-wheel drive and lower the number of revolutions (speed). This is to maintain control of your car on rough roads.
  • 4H: you activate the 4WD function, which gives you the possibility to drive on low-grip terrain. In addition, the differential lock is activated automatically.

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4X4 Off-Road experiences are a stimulus to your adventurous spirit and allow you to enjoy panoramas that give you satisfaction behind the wheel. Don’t forget to take all the safety measures to do so.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty

Written by Mud Flap

Hi Im Ryne Sweeney, or, Mud Flap. I am a dedicated truck enthusiast. I like to argue how Dodges are expensive pieces of metal. One day I will start showering daily inside the house. My nights are long and my days are muddy.

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