To use 4wd on dirt roads or not?

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 08:40
ThreadID: 102899 Views:9644 Replies:24 FollowUps:22
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Just wondering what everyone does when travelling on outback roads. Do you leave it in 2 wheel drive or use 4 wheel drive. I'm talking good dirt roads as well as outback tracks and unsealed surfaces
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Reply By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:08

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:08
Back when I had to get out and lock the hubs I wouldn't bother. Now with all the auto shift on the fly 4wd systems around I prefer to use 4wd. Seems to be safer when you hit a slippery patch.
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:31

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:31
There can be no doubt that the vehicle is more stable when in 4WD on a dry loose-surface road.
Furthermore, tyre wear is more even in 4WD. On a recent reasonably rapid trip along the Great Central Road I did not use 4WD and found that my rear (driving) tyres wore twice as much as the front tyres.

Just remember to take it out of 4WD when you hit a sealed section! Of course, you can leave the hubs locked until 4WD is next needed.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Batt's - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 09:33

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 09:33
That's very unusual never had or heard of that before with an open diff but it's normal for an LSD but twice as much sounds a bit extreme you weren't drifting were you.
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Reply By: Trevor P4 - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:38

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:38
Yep any dirt road of any quality equals 4WD... that's why we buy them
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Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 13:41

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 13:41
Is it.
Most use 4wd when they need 4wd. To use it on dirt roads is overkill and unnecessary.
Why wear out lots of mechanical bits when you don't need to?
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Follow Up By: greybeard - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:03

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:03
There's a few reasons why you may want to consider using 4x4 when on dirt roads.
It provides a dramatic increase in stability/driveability and safety. Especially for people who don't usually drive on unmade roads.

The extra 'mechanical wear' is debatable for those without unlockable hubs. Those with permanently locked hubs still have the drive train moving as a result of the wheels turning. Against that you have less stress on the two wheel drive only components when you spread the power distribution over two diffs and four wheels/tyres.

By using 4wd you spread the power distribution over 4 wheels and reduce the impact of wheel spin/slide to the track.

The vehicle steers easier and much more effectively when in 4wd as opposed to 2wd on any surface.

Yes, you will find a small reduction on fuel economy, but you will also be travelling slower on dirt roads so there isn't likely to be much in it.

That said, drive your vehicle on a dirt road in 2wd for a few km's and include some curves and braking. Then repeat the exercise in 4wd over the same stretch of road. Have a look at the people in the vehicle with you and at the people in the other vehicles on the road with you. Tread your own path. ;)

Yes, I used to go places in a 2wd before I purchased a 4wd, I've even driven to lots of places in a 4wd but haven't engaged 4wd, I've even driven places in 2wd that others have struggled to get to in 4wd but I've looked and tried the options and now I've decided that not only is my rear end important to me and my loved ones, my loved ones and everyone else on the road is kind of important as well. The trivial operational cost of using a feature that I've already paid for seems to be worth it. YMMV
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:15

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:15
Agree absolutely Greybeard.

In a past life I was a rally driver and was absolutely delighted when I moved to a Subaru and had 4WD at my disposal for loose surfaces. Cornering was way faster and felt much safer with reduced drift. Even on straight sections the vehicle behaved with more stability.
The only real problem was remembering to take it out of 4WD when reaching the bitumen!

I cannot believe that fuel consumption increases with 4WD use. It is still the same vehicle weight being propelled at the same speed and the energy losses in the extra transmission would be minimal. If anything, I would expect an improvement in fuel performance due to reduction of 2WD wheel spin. Either way, the difference in fuel consumption would be minimal and significantly offset in the improvement of vehicle handling.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:11

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:11
Basically what Greybeard said except on fast hardpacked dirt I may or may not use 4H depending on how regularly I expect to encounter loose or slippery stuff. There's not much doubt that older 4WDs with free wheel hubs use slightly more fuel in 4WD in such circumstances whereas the reverse may apply in shifty conditions as Allan says. Where there's a fair bit of loose dirt, sand or gravel you'll probably find that your truck handles and rides better in 4WD. It's easy enough to drop in and out as you go and use feedback from your vehicle to decide in any case.
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Follow Up By: Member - OnYaBike - Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 10:25

Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 10:25
All this sounds good but I've just driven up to Bamaga. I would be concerned that I would forget to switch back to 2WD when I hit those frequent stretches of sealed road and damage my drive train travelling at 100 kph on bitumen. I only use 4WD when I need 4WD and get out of it when the drama is over.
The only time I made a mistake was when I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.

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Follow Up By: garrycol - Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:29

Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:29
Tie a hankie around your finger to help you remember.
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Follow Up By: Member - OnYaBike - Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 14:53

Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 14:53
To be in 4WD or not was the least of my worries on the way up.
The only time I made a mistake was when I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.

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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:51

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 09:51
Nope. Only when actually off road and if needed. I forgot to take it out of 4WD when we hit the bitumen once and had fun at the next town. Also we tend to use more fuel in 4wd.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Lyn W3 - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:20

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:20
Haven't found a way to take our LC 105 out of Full Time 4WD to try it.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:01

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:01
Phil, I would suspect that any "more fuel" that you used in 4WD was because the track conditions required more energy and hence fuel rather than simply because the 4WD was in action.
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Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:20

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:20
You may well be right. But it's better than forgetting and winding up the center diff.

I don't travel that close to the edge anyway so it is purely immaterial which way I drive, 2WD or 4WD.

It's not the Finke Rally or Bathurst anyway.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:33

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:33
Phil, your'e right. If your vehicle/speed/driving style/road surface is such that you feel comfortable then what matters?
And I do agree about the risk of forgetting and winding-up the transmission.
Actually, you said "winding up the centre diff".
If the vehicle has a 'centre diff' between the front and back axles then there can be no transmission windup. So reaching the bitumen is of little consequence.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:04

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:04
It's a differential like action that is very asy to undrstand and that will do me. I am not about to take it apart so who cares.

Phil
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:32

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:32
"If the vehicle has a 'centre diff' between the front and back axles then there can be no transmission windup"

Hi, unless the center diff is locked e.g. most (all?) constant 4WDs when placed in high or low range 4WD .... Well that's my understanding of the situation.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:50

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:50
Well Greg, it may be a little pedantic, but if is 'locked' it is no longer a differential or have a differential action. Which places the vehicle in the same class as a 4WD vehicle without a central differential.

If you are using a central differential then, as I said, there can be no transmission windup.

Obviously I don't have one, but surely you don't "place a constant 4WD in 4WD"..... it is always in four wheel drive? Maybe the central diff locks if placed in Low ratio, but that is a different kettle of fish from the subject of belting along a dirt road in 4WD.
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Allan

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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 18:08

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 18:08
Hi

A constant 4WD is just a one wheel drive, like a tradition 4WD but it is any one of the 4 wheels, not just one of the 2 rear wheels at any one point in time, thanks to the centre dif. When placed in Hi 4 or Low 4 the center differential is locked ..not just low range as you suggest. So it is relevant to discussion. I often place my constant 4WD (Prado) in Hi 4 when zooming along gravel roads...same as locking the hubs and putting traditional 4WD in high range.

If you wish to be pendantic - the fact of the matter is the car still has a center differential even when locked...its just not working as a free differential :) Stating that a car with a centre differential wont get windup is just a bit misleading..because my car has one and you can get windup (FACT). Just some additional info to make sure people get the full picture...thats all.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 11:33

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 11:33
Gday,
As you've probably worked out by now, its a personal choice.
Its easier to control your vehicle in 4x4 but you will probably use more fuel and increase diff and tyre wear.......
You need to weigh up whats more important in your case.

Cheers
AnswerID: 513637

Reply By: Member - flashcher - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:35

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 14:35
I put ours into 4wd even on short 3km stretch's of dirt. With our old 4wd (the first one we had ever owned) the manual said to do this to ensure the 4wd mechanism didn't seize up with dirt and grime.
AnswerID: 513641

Reply By: SDG - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:23

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:23
Depends on the dirt road and the condition it is in when your on it.
I have come across some dirt roads that are actually in better condition than the black top.
AnswerID: 513647

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:31

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:31
Allways in 4WD on the dirt.
Improves handling, especially braking.
Halves the loads on the mechanical bits doing the work and spreads the lubricants around.
The difference in fuel consumption in the OKA is not measurable.

When we bought it, OKA196 had done 330,000km and did not have free wheel hubs fitted. I fitted them. I now consider that a mistake. I simply added a weakness and a complexity into the drive train that I did not need.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 Motorhome
AnswerID: 513648

Reply By: 515 - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:36

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 15:36
In my opinion.

Use the system the way it was intended, all loose surfaces use 4WD.

With all the fuss about the environment and fuel consumption you would think that 4WD manufactures would be putting in freewheeling hubs, not taking them out, if they saved that much fuel..... just so the could get a better Co2 reading and consumption readings....

The reality is that, constant or AWD does not increase fuel consumption greatly, nor does it wear out components quicker. If it did there would be an outcry of the vehicle is not able to do what its designed for....

Unused components sitting un oiled with grease packing to the bottom of the bearing attracting condensation and rust is more likely to fail when needed that a well oiled and used component.

What it does do is allows you to slip into and out of 4wd as needed, it also spreads the strain across 4 wheels and 2 axels providing your 4WD with the best of front wheel drive and rear wheel drive at the same time, as well as improved braking as those big disc brakes on the front are now supplementing those drum brakes on the rear of most Utes.

Vehicle control and handling is better, corrugations, washouts, pot holes and those unexpected things that may occur. this is the reason for buying and paying a premium for a 4WD in the first place, seems strange not to utilise it when possible......

In my experience roughly 90% of resource industry mine/environmental/geologist etc. vehicles that do have freewheeling hubs have them locked in.

All those new vehicles without freewheeling hubs can't be wrong.. can they?
AnswerID: 513649

Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:44

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:44
I thought it is recommended to use 4WD on dirt roads to lessen the formation of corrugations.
AnswerID: 513657

Follow Up By: Trevor P4 - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:54

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 16:54
I'd hate to see anything in the paper or the courts that says something like " the driver failed to engage 4wd when commencing to drive on the dirt road and conditions at the accident site suggest that if he had been in 4WD that he may have been able to maintain ed sufficient control to avoid the accident".
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Reply By: Member -Dodger - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:15

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 17:15
I was a 4wd instructor for ten years and have learn't the full meaning of 4wd.
I have also travelled over nearly all the Iconic Australian roads towing trailors and an off road caravan as well as a standard type caravan doing all this in 4wd when on any gravel or unsealed surface without any problems.
I have always believed that the 4wd gives better stability and braking ability when in use.
As there is in most 4wd vehicles an indication on the dash showing when one is in 4wd or as on some vehicles constant 4wd types that the centre diff has been locked.
A glance at the dash will therefore remind you that you are in 4wd or locked up.
It is usually very simple to disengage by an electronic switch or via the small transmission gear lever when back on a sealed surface.
When disengaging or engaging 4wd you should be driving in a straight line and take the foot of the go pedal whilst doing so.
As for free wheeling hubs they can be disengaged at the next stop.
Remember to read and follow the instructions in your vehicles handbook.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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Reply By: pop2jocem - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 19:44

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 19:44
Ok, just my take on the subject.
If you are travelling on a gravel or loose/slippery surface at a speed that feels unsafe maybe consider slowing down.
Two different (maybe three) types of vehicles being discussed.
Part time 4WD, usually fitted with free wheeling hubs and no centre differential. To have the benefit of 4WD you need to shift the transfer case from the 2WD Hi Range position to either 4WD Hi Range or 4WD Low Range and either get out and put the FWH in the locked position or rely on the auto locking hubs to achieve this. Be aware that on a surface that will not allow the tyres to slip a little you will end up with drive line wind up. This will put extra strain on all the components involved and most probably increase your fuel consumption to some degree depending on the surface. Will this increase "driveability", most probably unless you have some type of auto locking differentials in the rear and/or front axles. If this is the case you might find some very exiting steering characteristics (read dangerous).
Full time 4WD, usually not fitted with FWH because without the hubs engaged you will not go anywhere. To me this is the "best of both worlds" type of system. Drive is directed to all wheels but the centre diff prevents transmission wind up with the resulting possible excessive drive line wear or failure. As someone else has already observed, with a system like this, lift one wheel, front or rear, and unless you have some type of auto or manual axle diff lock you go nowhere. To engage positive 4WD there is usually some type of selector mechanism which will lock the centre diff. This system is directing drive to all wheels whether on loose or hard surfaces. Regardless of opinions, my experience is that all this sophistication come with a small loss of fuel economy however allows driving on loose surfaces with a bit more control.

Cheers
Pop
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Reply By: Member - Duncs - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 20:45

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 20:45
I looked at this thread expecting there to be a lot more argument, what a pleasant surprise.

I agree with what most people have said here.

In the GU especially wiht that super LSD in the rear you have to be a bit careful, it winds up more quickly than I expected. Something I experienced when camped at Innamincka for a week.

My rule, based on experience, if its kicking up dust I use 4wd, no dust no 4wd.

Duncan
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Reply By: grunta1970 - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 23:31

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 23:31
I drive a 97 twin cab hilux, 4wd. I don't go 4wding very often so don't have a lot of knowledge on the topic.
I have a couple of questions.
What is the actual reason for having the lockable hubs?.
Can I leave them locked permanently and just flick from 2wd to 4wd from the inside lever when I do decide to go offroad?.
What are the negatives of doing this?.

Thanks all.
AnswerID: 513690

Follow Up By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 23:50

Sunday, Jun 23, 2013 at 23:50
If your hubs are locked then your front axles and diff are being turned by the wheels even though the motor isn't driving them directly. When the hubs aren't locked, the wheels turn freely but your front axles and diff are not spinning at all. On older cars, there is more resistance having the front axles and diff spinning for no good reason. You can feel it on tight turns.
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Follow Up By: Bazooka - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 20:11

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 20:11
"Can I leave them locked permanently and just flick from 2wd to 4wd from the inside lever when I do decide to go offroad?"

Going offroad - lock hubs in advance is exactly what I do most of the time Grunta. You may notice an ever so slightly heavier feel with hubs locked and you may use ever so slightly more fuel (for the reasons Mike says above) but it does no harm, and means you can "instantly" respond in off-tar situations as you say.

Most car manuals advise regular locking of hubs even around town in order to keep everything lubricated and functional.
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Reply By: NTVRX - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 00:29

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 00:29
I use 4H...even on slippery,wet,icy Victorian roads because in a Pajero I can. A lot safer & I am using the vehicle for what it was made for....just like usingthe gears. Selecting the proper gear to negotiate the hazard.
AnswerID: 513691

Reply By: Member - evaredy - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 05:02

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 05:02
Well me being new to 4wding I was wondering the same thing on a recent trip. The roads were mainly dirt but for the most part were in very good condition. I was towing out CT and only used 2wd, when we hit some rougher stuff I put it into 4wd.

I was worried about transmission wind up, I had heard about it and know that it can occur when in 4wd on bitumen, but can it happen on dirt?

If I am travelling along a dirt road that is in very good condition at approx 80kph is it safe to use 4wd or do I still risk transmission wind up?
AnswerID: 513692

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 11:12

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 11:12
No hard & fast rule evaredy, however as a yardstick on dirt, about 80kph is what I use. I have have a 40 series with no central diff and manual hub locks. My theory is that if you can do more than 80kph, you probably don't need 4wd anyway.

It won't do any harm to leave the diffs locked in even if you're in 2H for a while, for the most part. If you have manual hub locks and do a lot of bitumen driving, you should lock them in occasionally for 5-10 k's to get the parts moving and avoid any flat spot wear....
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 08:41

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 08:41
My current car is full time 4WD but when I had a part timer I selected 4WD for gravel roads (99 Jackaroo) - that vehicle mainly did city travel, so the $ I had invested in 4WD hardware might as well earn it's keep on every bush trip - if properly lubricated at services, that front end drive hardware will still hardly be worn compared to everything else, when you sell or trade the car.
AnswerID: 513701

Reply By: Tjukayirla Roadhouse - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 12:18

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 12:18
without a doubt, even on good gravel like the GCR the vehicle drives a hell of a lot better and safer, in 4wd.
One constant we find is in the case of rollovers, they usually still have the little stick firmly planted in 2H.
Personally, I'd happily cop a bit of extra fuel use any day.

Cheers
Al
AnswerID: 513714

Reply By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 12:44

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 12:44
My vehicle is a Prado. It's AWD (4WD with a centre diff) until you engage 4H or 4L.

I believe the torque split in AWD is 40% front, 60% rear. With that in mind I don't use 4H unless I forsee a traction issue. It drives and tows beautifully in AWD on dirt and gravel roads.

You can get transmission windup on hard dirt, so I tend not to use 4H until I see a specific need for it.

Cheers
FrankP

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Reply By: Sandman - Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 18:13

Monday, Jun 24, 2013 at 18:13
Having spent a bit of time on dirt roads (I live in Alice Springs) I much prefer to stay in 2wd but more importantly adjust tyre pressure. Travelling up the Tanami from Alice to Halls Creek, our fully loaded Prado with 240L of diesl on board, we drove it in 2WD and 28lbs in the rear....

When in more challenging terrain we move to 4wd, even if its debatable its better to stop tearing up the road (digging holes) and just leave a set of tyre tracks :-)

Pete
AnswerID: 513738

Reply By: Hoyks - Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 12:57

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 12:57
I have a 4x4 ute with an aluminium tray. It almost always goes into 4H on the gravel, because if I don't the back end bounces around all over the place and skips sideways when you hit a pot hole. In 4H it tracks happily in a straight line.

The other reason is that it has a tendency to lock the rear wheel when heading down a slope and the brakes are applied. By having in in 4H and the rear wheels tied to the front, it is more like a poor mans ABS and the rear doesn't lock anywhere near as easily.

I did drive a Landcruiser troopie over good gravel roads with a bit of a load on and found that after after 100km it was almost impossible to get out of 4H. The hubs were then unlocked and it still wouldn't release. In the end I stuck two wheels in the loose gravel on the side of the road, revved it a bit and dropped the clutch. The wheel spin was enough to remove the tension in the drive line and let it come out of gear.

I could have jacked a wheel up, but spinning gravel was easier.
AnswerID: 513786

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 14:28

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 14:28
Reversing a couple of metres seems to overcome the problem on mine.
Just push the lever toward 2WD whilst reversing and it drops out.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Hoyks - Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 15:09

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 15:09
Nope, tried that. Even reversed about 20m, but it still wouldn't slip enough to release the stumpy lever.
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Reply By: Member - evaredy - Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 08:04

Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 08:04
So from what people here have said, am I right in assuming wind up is common and if H4 is used on decent gravel roads wind up is to be expected?

I am just trying to understand it and am wondering if wind up can cause any long term damage.
AnswerID: 513855

Reply By: Hoyks - Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:54

Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:54
As long as there is some slippage which allows any accumulated torque to dissipate, then wind up us unlikely. A heavily laden vehicle on a firm surface with will press onto the road more, reducing the chances of tyre slippage.

If the surface is that firm enough to get that much traction though, then 4H is probably not required in the 1st place anyway.

Keeping the tyres the same diameter and with even wear on all corners will help a lot too.

This is at the extreme end of the scale, but it can happen. This is from a Land Cruiser that had the centre diff engaged and it wouldn't release.


http://www.landcruiserclub.net/forums/showthread.php/42260-Help-Centre-diff-lock-not-releasing-light-going-out


AnswerID: 513869

Reply By: Member - VickiW - Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 19:05

Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 19:05
Hi,

Like a lot of others have said, I leave my hubs locked when away on a trip and change between 2 and 4H depending upon the surface of the road. If it is a good dirt surface I'll leave it in 2. If it is sandy, gravelly/rocky, wet or corrugated, or a chance of damaging the road surface, I will change to 4H. I tend to travel at a fairly relaxed pace :)
AnswerID: 513883

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