"dumb question" Should I engage 4wd high range on Gibb River Rd

Submitted: Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:09
ThreadID: 56869 Views:5222 Replies:24 FollowUps:15
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Apologies if this sounds like an obvious (dumb) question but I thought I'd put it out there... I have an 80series Landcruiser and we're doing the Gibb River Rd in June and I was wondering what people to enaging 4WD high range for the general gravel road driving. Obviously when conditions call for it I always drop into 4wd but for general long distance basic gravel roads do people recommend running 4wd high range? I know when we drive out of camping spots onto the gravel 4wd gives a much nicer, more controlled drive (i.e. I know its easier, safer and better than for the road - doesn't dig it up as much) but is this worth any extra diesel costs? Does running 4wd high range increase your diesel fuel costs that much?

Opinions appreciated.

cheers Tony
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Reply By: Top End Explorer Tours - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:18

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:18
I have driven hundreds of thousands of km on dirt corrugated roads in both a free wheeling hub cruiser and GXLs, I would not put a free wheeling hub cruise into 4wd on those types of roads, why ?? they are not set up like the constant 4wds and you will create more stress on the front end than necessary.

Cheers Steve.
AnswerID: 299713

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:31

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:31
I agree with Steve 100%. If the LSD in the back diff is working to even some degree you should have all the drive you need for general gravel road travel. As you have already said engage 4wd as necessary to prevent road/track damage and obviously getting bogged. IMHO you will only cause unecessary driveline wear on hard surfaces without a constant 4wd designed system. I think the possible extra expensive would far outweigh any minor fuel savings.

Cheers Pop
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Follow Up By: Cairns Offroad Training & Tours - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 11:04

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 11:04
A 4wd vehicle should always be in 4wd on any loose dirt surface. The power is mellowed at 25% per wheel, less, more even tire wear, the front wheels aid steering and pull you thru a corner, less oversteer, much better braking as the transfer case links all the wheels helping prevent lock up. This is a no brainer, your vehicle will be so much safer in 4wd on a loose dirt surface. In the Territory and WA there are even signs instructing you to be in 4wd and lights on on loose dirt surfaces. The advantages out way any percieved disadvantage.
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Reply By: Outbacktourer - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:19

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:19
I would/did. Your vehicle will handle and steer much better, particularly over corrogations. I did not notice any difference in economy in the 3L Patrol. Extra grip probably offsets driveline loss.

AnswerID: 299714

Reply By: Member - Davoe (Yalgoo) - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:22

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:22
you will get alot of debate about this
answer - maybe

Personally i dont on well formed gravel roads although sometimes i do if they are skatey.
many do so they get the safetey benifits of 4wd.
if the dirt road provides too much grip you can suffer windup and premature companant wear.

AnswerID: 299715

Reply By: Kiwi & "Mahindra" - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:25

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:25
Yours is constant 4wd yeah?? if so, dont touch a thing...you'll be fine. If not I would purely for handling better.
AnswerID: 299716

Follow Up By: TD100 - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:45

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:45
if its a base model 80 you can choose 2H,4L or 4H,but if its a gxl up spec only H or L range cheers Paul
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Reply By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:27

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:27
Do it, this is what 4wd is designed for ! If the tail wants to 'hang out' on a loose surface the front driving wheels will tend to pull the vehicle back into line.

AnswerID: 299720

Follow Up By: Tony - Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 21:23

Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 21:23
" If the tail wants to 'hang out' your driving to bloody fast.
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Follow Up By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 at 06:56

Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 at 06:56
Hi Tony,

It can happen any time on any road. Evasive action due to animals, pot holes, slippery patch, crazy Britz drivers etc. If it has not yet happened to you then you have had good luck (so far).

It is not always speed that causes loss of traction !

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Follow Up By: Tony - Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 at 18:24

Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 at 18:24
If what you are saying is right, I should be in 4WD all the time on the dirt.

Well in a actual fact due to my line of work at present I am in 4WD all day every day, with a lot in low range.

But normal touring it would want to be a fairly bad road for me to drive it in 4WD
FollowupID: 566453

Reply By: equinox - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:59

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 21:59
I don't mind short distances on gravel in 4wd.

Long distances on gravel I'll generally keep in 2wd but may put into 4wd on approach to hard corners or soft sections. You can change into 4wd at high speed, with mine you can anyway.


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AnswerID: 299729

Follow Up By: Member - Davoe (Yalgoo) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 01:51

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 01:51
just make sure you hubs ARE in though - youll get a rude shock pulling the lever into 4wd if they arnt
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Follow Up By: Richard Kovac - Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 21:47

Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 21:47
I,m with you Alan, unless the condition demand it I stay in 2WD.

Davoe, make it as a rule to stop and lock hubs in when on dirt, I will post the day I don't.. LOL
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Reply By: Rock Ape - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 22:14

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 22:14
I drive cruiser utes that have done 50000k locked in low range 4wd on hard rock, gravel, and some bitumin. They blow the odd diff, a lot have the original diffs so I wouldn't be concerned running on dirt as you will get wheel slip as soon as you get a bit of wind up
AnswerID: 299731

Follow Up By: Member - Davoe (Yalgoo) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:59

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:59
If your talking about underground utes it also costs at least 20 grand a year usually more to keep them going and the CVs last maybe 15,000k originals then abot 5,000k thereafter for the afermarket ones
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Follow Up By: Rock Ape - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 09:33

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 09:33
Davoe, your figures are pretty spot on, the only difference is a lot of that cost is servicing/brakes always stuffing up new rotors, steering wheels tyres ao on and so on.
The u/g utes as you put up with constant mud, acid water, 1 in 6 and 1 in 7 declines, hittig walls, tight constant bends and constant stream of rally drivers to test them to the max.

I have no fear of pulling the high range lever on a dirt road if I need it or the road is u/s .

My old 89 troopy has original diffs, cv's and uni joints that have also put up with the torque of the 6.5 chev without a problem.

As you said eariler you don't have to use 4wd all the time on dirt but when the road is made of marbles it won't hurt the vehicle when you use 4wd
FollowupID: 565935

Reply By: Member - JASON C (WA) - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 22:53

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 22:53
I think its personal preference, if you feel confidant in the handling on gravel in 2H leave it their if not switch to 4H you will get better handling, steering not so vague !
AnswerID: 299741

Reply By: Mainey (wa) - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:02

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:02
I have done the Gibb about 3 times in a *non* 4wd and also twice in a Troopy, but was not in 4wd mode (on the road)

The Gibb was in reasonable condition each time and was ok at 80Kph plus, as it's just a long dirt road and not too many sharp bends that require slowing down when I went, BUT it changes as the big trucks muck it up a bit.

Just watch out for them ****** road trains, they usually don't slow down or give you any right of way at all.

The corrugations and the sharp 'stones' are the major problem grrr

Mainey . . .
AnswerID: 299742

Follow Up By: Oldsquizzy (Kununurra) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:01

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:01
The Gibb River Road is an important transport road for the cattle industry. You will come across many road trains, trucks with three, four or more trailers. And they move...

Whatever you do, keep in mind that these road trains can't just jump on the breaks and stop in a hurry, so stay out of their way.

Don't take any risks trying to overtake them. You will need a lot of clear straight road ahead to do so, and how you are going to see that in their dust cloud I don't know...

Last but not least: at dusk and dawn there is always a risk of animals on the road. Not only wildlife but also cattle are a big hazard. Remember that all the land along the Gibb River Road is cattle farming country, and that the road is not necessarily fenced.

FollowupID: 565903

Follow Up By: Oldsquizzy (Kununurra) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:29

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:29
That came from this web page. Not a bad one to read if going on the gibb. Site Link
One of the other things to remember is as a gravel road it has a formed all weather surface, ie :- hard formed gravel. This is only one lane wide in the middle of the road. when the surface is broken you get bulldust pits forming or large holes. This is why the road trains that service the area stay in the middle of the road, you can see them coming from a long way off and it is so easy to just pull over and let them by.
There is also a single lane section of Great northen hwy between Warnum (Turkey Creek) and Doon Doon that has road trains on it from Sally Malay mine which are five trailers long and normal three trailer road trains that service Kununurra from Perth, once again they wont drop trailers off the bitumen onto the dirt so care should be taken and common sense used. Youre on holidays , dont stress, better to get there late than to get there DEAD on time.
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Reply By: Crackles - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:04

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:04
Tony in dry conditions I wouldn't bother using 4wd on that road unless I was driving particularly fast or if it were wet which would then give a noticeable improvement in handling. On a vehicle with free wheeling hubs out, an improvement of 1 or 2 mpg could be expected but on a constant 4wd there would be no noticeable difference in economy.
Cheers Craig.....................
AnswerID: 299744

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:52

Monday, Apr 21, 2008 at 23:52
I often do on gravel roads, but don't on clay. I don't think it affects fuel consumption.

Theres a school of thought that says a lot of rollovers on gravel roads may have been avoided if the vehicles were in 4wd rather than 2wd.

And if you choose 2wd, do you lock or unlock the hubs? I like to keep the bearings turning over on corrugated roads, so I lock the hubs.
AnswerID: 299753

Reply By: TBudge - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:15

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:15
Thanks for all the comments, thought and opinions. It seems there's no easy answer as some say do and others say don't.

Does anyone know roughly how much extra fuel (diesel) you use running 4wd high range at speeds of between 40 and 80km/hr (which is the speed I expect we'll mostly be travelling at on the Gibb River Rd)? Note: my cruiser obviously ISN'T constant 4wd (or all wheel drive - whatever you want to call it). I know from my experience the car certainly 'feels' nicer on gravel in 4wd so if as long as it's not going to chew up heaps more fuel I'll probably run it in 4wd.

Thanks and again and keep your advice, thoughts coming.

cheers Tony
AnswerID: 299757

Follow Up By: On Patrol (East Coast) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:28

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:28
You have answered your own question mate.
"I know from my experience the car certainly 'feels' nicer on gravel in 4wd"

As for fuel consumption I have not noticed a big difference, therefore for me it is not a huge issue really.

Tony, you do what is right for "you" and if your happy in 4wd, then do it. It's that simple.
FollowupID: 565919

Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 09:42

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 09:42

You would be hard pressed to measure the difference in fuel consumption, its not really an issue. I agree with you that the 80 feels more sure footed in 4WD and I will ususally drive that way on long stretches of dirt.

If it feels good - do it. You never know when some Fritz in a Britz will shove you in to the loose stuff, bit late to be thinking about the extra traction then.

FollowupID: 565937

Reply By: tukka - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:21

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:21
I would say yes if you want slightly better handling but no if you like to look after your vehicle. Why try to ruin it when you can just take your time and take it slow, there is no rush and i dont see why you should be doing anymore then 80kms an hour anyway. At 80kms you have plenty of time to react to any sudden changes. Believe me have seen far too many travellers on there roofs on the Gibb Road. Slow turn and take your time. I have never had to engage 4wd on any dirt road due to the fact that i take it easy, regardless of your driving experience or ego anything could happen. Peter Brock is a perfect example of someone knowing what they were doing but being caught out.
AnswerID: 299759

Reply By: Member - Phillip S (WA) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:23

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:23
Tony, I towed a pioneer camper trailer on the GRR and I hardly ever was in 4WD...only on some river crossings...most of it just two wheel drive with my hubs free....but I did stake one tyre and bend a rim...bashed it back with the back of my axe....seemed to work OK....the staked tyre I plugged with one of those plugging kits...that worked OK too.....in all I had a great time and none of it was hard...cheers Phil
AnswerID: 299761

Reply By: David A A - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:34

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 00:34
You will not need to be in 4WD on the GRR, you will need to drive to the conditions, ie take it easy, throw away the watch and enjoy.
I have been there when locals have said it is bad and have found it very much OK, but we were not in a hurry and drove accordingly.
Some creeks and bulldust holes will appear from no where so if you are taking it easy there is no probs (you may still find yourself all locked up and skidding LOL, happens).
If you feel better in 4WD then use it, the extra fuel is not worth worrying about for piece of mind, I have used 4WD where others would not, because I have the other half and kids with me and did not wish to push it.
I would not have it in 4WD in my old HJ60 and I would also tow my OR CT but would not hessitate to put it in 4WD. And yes I would take my old 60 will get there and back.

AnswerID: 299763

Reply By: Member - Barnesy - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:35

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:35
I do use 4wd on gravel roads. That's what a 4wd is for. Over corrugations when the rear wheels are in the air for that split second there is no drive at all. In 4wd there is always at least one drive wheel on the ground at all times.

The difference is noted espeically when towing and going around bends. I don't see how it would damage the vehicle at all, except if it was a very good dirt road with lots of grip. Isn't that what high range is designed for?

AnswerID: 299765

Reply By: Member - Bucky (VIC) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:51

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 05:51
Generally I use 2WD but as we all know, it can be too late sometimes, so my manual locking hubs are in, but I only use 4WD, when necessary,,

AnswerID: 299766

Reply By: Peter 2 - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 06:40

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 06:40
I've had seven Landcruisers, mostly troopies since the mid seventies and we used to spend aboout 3 months of every year travelling outback so the vehicles were all well used but not abused.
Qnce I leave the bitumen the hubs are locked and stay locked for the duration of the trip, or at least until the last couple of days when it is all bitumen home.
Although I've driven across the Bells line of road back into Sydney a few times in wet slippery conditions in 4H a few times.
The improved traction, especially when braking when slowing down in loose corrugated corners as well as better traction and control in corrugated conditions far outweighs any perceived extra wear or increased fuel consumption.
I never broke or wore a diff out prematurely and could not detect any difference in fuel consumption when running in 4H.
I also never had drivetrain windup unless I forgot to pop the transfer back into 2wd when manouvering at a campsite orpulling into town.
You can easily go from 2wd to 4wd on the fly at anytime if the surface improves or speed increases, I rarely ran 4wd over about 90kph.
We did have a 4wd hilux for a short period and it did use more fuel in 4H but in cruisers I could never detect any difference.
You paid extra to have a 4wd so use it!
AnswerID: 299770

Reply By: mfewster - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:22

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:22
I'm with Peter2 and Barnsey. Yes, you can drive that sort of road in 2WD. But, it is the sudden big rock you want to swerve just a bit quicker to miss, when you are on a bit of a bend with big corrugations and some of your wheels aren't 100%in contact with the ground. That sort of scenario. Very common on that road, especially when you really want to be in the middle of the road because of the conditions of the shoulder, or you want to take a bit of avoidance and thAt big road train is bearing down on you at the same time and he is sure going to stay in the middle of the road. The extra steering control in 4WD is well worth it on the Gibb in my opinion. I could be biased. We did it last in a 4 Runner and broke every shocker, so precise steering was certainly an issue for us at the time.
AnswerID: 299779

Reply By: Willem - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:35

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 08:35
I agree with Kiwi Kia, Barnesy and Peter2

The 4wd was designed to be drivern by all four wheels on gravel roads.

Not sure where the idea comes from that the front will wear out quicker or that you get gearbox windup all the time (although my old FJ 55 with 500,000 on the clock would do that from time to time....then it was a simple fix by reversing 5 to 10 metres and slipping the gear transfer lever out).

Although agreeing with the above posters I am rather slack and would f'instance drive the Birdsville Track(Hwy...lol) in 2wd and only engage the hubs once I get into the Simpson Desert proper. As a rule I travel slowly on gravel roads but have been known to speed along when the roads are smooth.

All of my indiscretions with 4wd's over the years have happened travelling below 20kmh whilst in low range.

I woulld suggest, as you are asking, and as you seem inexperienced, that you lock the hubs in 4wd and engage High Range once you reach the gravel of the GRR. This should assure you of safe travel.

AnswerID: 299781

Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 10:46

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 10:46
Another one here agreeing with those advocating using 4WD on gravel roads.

One thing no-one else has mentioned is that while you are in 4WD you are lowering by 1/2 the torque/power to each wheel thus improving tyre wear. I have found that 4WD decreases the wear on gravel roads, mainly when you are travelling faster on the sharp gibber roads - and thats on top of the better handling in 4WD.


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AnswerID: 299814

Reply By: Member - Roger B (VIC) - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 22:22

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 22:22
It's not the road trains you need to worry too much about. They're pros' and know what they're up to. But as Matt mentioned earlier, be on the alert for 'FRITZ IN A BRITZ' He's the most dangerous thing on the GRR. Never mind the cattle,corrugations,bulldust, roadtrains or crocodiles!! BEWARE OF FRITZ!!!!
AnswerID: 299966

Reply By: pop2jocem - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 22:27

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 22:27
Well TBudge I guess that just about sums up the debate. If you want to cruise along and enjoy the country 2wd or 4wd will be fine. If you are in a hurry and want to get to the next tourist attraction as fast as possible 4wd is a must.

Cheers Pop
AnswerID: 299968

Reply By: TBudge - Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 23:30

Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 23:30
Thanks heaps guys for all your thoughts etc. I didn't think this 'dumb' question would generate as much interest.

We're talking a month to do the Gibb River Rd (inc a trip up to Kalumburu and the Mitchell Falls) so we certainly plan to take it easy and slow. Based on the advice given in this thread I think I'll go the 4wd high range mode and assuming I don't notice a huge increase in fuel consumption (shouldn't do according to this thread) I'll stick with that as I know from experience the cruiser definitely feels 'nicer' on gravel in 4wd.

We're just counting down the days now (going in June) and hoping that the water crossings clear up (should do, many are open'ish already).

cheers Tony
AnswerID: 299985

Follow Up By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008 at 00:23

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008 at 00:23
Tony, I'd definitely be engaging 4H on the Mitchell Falls road
FollowupID: 567317

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