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Winter Driving - When to use 4X4?

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Old 12-29-2012, 02:55 PM   #1
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Winter Driving - When to use 4X4?

I'll be honest, I'm still new to 4X4s, so I just want to make sure I don't blow up my transfer case.

Two schools of thought I'm being told are -

If the rear wheels will spin, put in in 4-High.

and the polar opposite -

Never use 4X4 on the road, it's to get your out of the ditch you just slid into.

Roads today are super slick - a blip of the throttle will send the rear swinging out and everyone is spinning at stop signs.

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Old 12-29-2012, 02:59 PM   #3
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4x4 Snow Question

Confused about Traction Control Systems

DAC does nothing

ABS sucks in snow

That ought to do it.
FWIW, if I was driving in conditions like the OP's opening photo, I'd be in 4H. With my wipers on.
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DoorDing View Post
4x4 Snow Question

Confused about Traction Control Systems

DAC does nothing

ABS sucks in snow

That ought to do it.
FWIW, if I was driving in conditions like the OP's opening photo, I'd be in 4H. With my wipers on.
They are on... just low speed. Thanks!
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:29 PM   #5
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My wife and I drove from Pittsburgh PA to Richmond VA on the 26th. The snow/ice was thick enough on the highways that you couldn't see the pavement at all. I drove about 150 miles in 4hi until I started seeing patches of pavement south of Winchester VA, then switched back to 2wd. I didn't experience any driveline binding whatsoever, and the truck is no worse for the wear. That was the first time for me using 4wd for such an extended distance, and I was very conscious of the condition of the road surface the entire time.

You cited two vantage points that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I think that using logic and knowledge of how your drivetrain works will land you somewhere in between. If there's a chance that you'll experience driveline binding (i.e. if your tires can get traction >50% of the time), don't use 4wd. If not, then use it, it's better than ending up on the side of the road with damage to your truck.
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:43 PM   #6
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4 High

Hey. I drive on a lot of winter roads in personal and work vehicles. The biggest benefit of 4wd for a truck (in my opinion) is to keep you from losing your back end traction on turns and accelerating up hills.

Use the 4wd if you are on bad roads and want the extra traction. If the roads are so much as wet you're not likely to hurt anything. (I wouldn't be turning super tight though).

I have spoken with many people who have ditched their 4wd trucks because they were in 2wd. You paid for the added security of 4wd. Use it!

Remember though... 4wd doesn't help you stop. (unless you are gearing down yadda yadda yadda)

And don't feel like you need to crawl in 4wd. You're fine doing 50 on the highway. Weather should dictate speed more so than the transfer case.
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neverstuck View Post
[...]
Remember though... 4wd doesn't help you stop. (unless you are gearing down yadda yadda yadda)

And don't feel like you need to crawl in 4wd. You're fine doing 50 on the highway. Weather should dictate speed more so than the transfer case.
Why Electronic Drivers Aids and AWD/4WD Systems Aren't Enough (Winter)

Obviously, TireRack would be happy to sell you another set of tires, but they do have a point. I completely agree that weather and road conditions should dictate the safe maximum speed. IMO, the biggest winter driving error with AWD/4WD is overconfidence, which can lead to overdriving the vehicle. The extra traction for acceleration can easily put you in the ditch when it's time to steer and brake, no matter the mad skillz of the driver.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:06 PM   #8
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I'm pretty sure that if you live in a place where there is snow all winter long you could have it engaged all winter. If you think about what is actually going on.. it should be fine, especially if the roads are slippery, the truck will move the tires on the slick road to avoid binding before metal bends.

If you are nervous about driving in the snow.. go ahead and use 4wd, thats what its there for.. then just turn it off when the asphalt
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:09 PM   #9
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If your drive tires are slipping, you need to be in 4WD.

On roads like you show I'll keep it in 4WD. If conditions seem to be improving, just slide a little bit to the left or right so you get one set of tires off the clear pavement into the snow every now and then to remove any chance of binding. Switch back to 2WD right when you pull into somewhere to park with clear pavement.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:24 PM   #10
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I use it in those condition for better control, just don't allow yourself to get over confident. 4X4 still can't stop any better than anyone else. I never use it on dry paved roads only on dirt/gravel. I belive the book says to excercise the every couple of months to keep the fluids active.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:24 PM   #11
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In the situation shown above it's dealers choice. If I slip a lot and feathering the pedal doesn't get me going I'll switch it into 4-hi and usually stay there. I did that today and kept it there for about 30 miles driving around the area. I even found a spot where I could switch to 4-lo and engage the locker for a mile or so. Handles great with the locker, 4-lo and a heavy foot.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:32 PM   #12
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I drove through a storm in 09'. Hit it around Richmond VA all the way to my home town in MD which is about 200 miles. Put in in 4 Hi once the snow was building up the road, made it just fine though it took a couple hrs longer than normal. Have not experienced any problems yet.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:39 PM   #13
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Definitely would use it in those conditions!
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:47 AM   #15
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If you think it's slick use it that's why you bought 4X4 it will not damage it.
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:20 AM   #16
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When it snows
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:22 AM   #17
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I use mine when it is under 32 degrees, snowing, and when you can definitely tell there is ice. 4x4 is okay to use on roads, which I do. Just don't go real fast with 4x4 engaged.
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