When To Use 4HI, 4LO, and 2HI When Off Roading

There’s a lot of value in having a 4WD vehicle, especially if you live in — or spend a lot of time in — more rural areas. Once you’ve got your hands on the keys of a 4WD truck, you’ll be able to tackle more or less any terrain that vehicles can go over. However, in order to do so, it’s important that you know how to use the setting properly. Some 4WD vehicles have dynamic 4WD, which more or less means you don’t have to do anything; the truck will adjust to the land that you’re driving over. But most vehicles don’t have this feature, and, as such, you’ll need to know when to use each setting. 

In this blog, we’re going to run through all the different settings and outline when you should use them. By the time that you’ve finished the article, you’ll be able to answer the question, when to use 4HI, 4LO, and 2HI when off-roading?


With 2Hi, the clue is all in the name. This is two-wheel drive. As such, you shouldn’t really be using this setting when you’re off-roading. It’s designed to be used on flat, smooth roads. And so, while it’s possible that you’ll come across that type of driving surface when you’re in the great outdoors, it’s not very likely! This is true even if you’re pulling a trailer or anything else for your outdoor adventure. When this mode is activated, the power will be split between your two rear wheels. Whenever possible, it’s best to use this setting since it helps to improve fuel mileage — it requires less energy to only move two wheels, rather than four.


You won’t be moving very fast when you have the 4Lo setting activated. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever go about 35 mph when you’re using 4Lo. It’s a high-torque setting and is used when you’re going over difficult terrains, such as heavy, deep snow, or you’re navigating through water. You’ll find that this setting helps you to get out of sticky situations, such as when you’re stuck in the mud. You’ll also use it when you’re trying to drive up a steep gradient. 


You’ll have a lot of traction when you’re using 4Hi, but not all that much power. It’s meant to get you through slightly difficult terrain rather than out of it. For instance, you’ll never go under 15mph when you’re in 4Hi mode. If you find that you’re stuck, you should get out of the situation using 4Lo, and then switch to 4Hi if conditions are still difficult. If you’re driving on normally good roads that have been taken over by ice or snow, this will be the setting that you need.

Useful 4WD Tips

If you’ve only recently gotten a 4WD vehicle, then it’ll be useful to know some handy tips. Let’s take a look at some. 

Get to know your car

There are some general uses for each setting that apply to all 4WD vehicles. But of course, every vehicle is different — and that’s true even of separate vehicles from the same manufacturer. You can help yourself to understand your truck — and also improve your driving — by taking the time to get to know your vehicle. You’ll be able to learn the optimal conditions for getting out of sticky situations.

Don’t expect it to do everything

Your vehicle will be powerful, but it won’t be able to do everything that you want it to do. The uses for 4Hi, 4Lo, and 2Hi are broad, and there’ll be some driving conditions that none of them work for. Plus, in any case, you’ll need to know how to drive properly if you’re going off-road safely.

Drive prepared

You never know what might happen when you’re off-roading. Your 4Lo might fail when you’re trying to free yourself. As such, it’s important that you’re prepared for anything that happens when you’re out there. Look at putting together a survival kit and keeping it in the back.

Slow and Steady

You’ll want to have fun in your vehicle, but remember to keep things safe. You should aim to go pretty slowly when you’re going over difficult terrain. If you don’t, then it’ll be more likely that you will run into issues. 


And there we have it! As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there’s a lot of value in having a 4WD vehicle, but you’ll only get the most from it if you know how to use the settings properly.

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