Four-wheel drive myths. You’ve heard them uttered by mates and mates of mates; possibly repeated on internet forums; and they just refuse to die. Some of them are harmless, but a lot of myths, if taken seriously, will get you into a lot of trouble. Here six of the biggest myths about 4x4ing debunked – hopefully once and for all!
1. All wheel drive is interchangeable with four-wheel drive
Repeat after me – All Wheel Drive is NOT Four-wheel drive. AWD may share some foundational principles with 4WD, but it is NOT the same thing. The major difference between AWD and 4WD is the ability to lock the centre differential, which makes a massive impact on off-road and rough terrain. On an AWD, you’re only going to get drive to your front or back in rough terrain.
2. All four wheels must spin when stuck
If you’ve ever been stuck in mud, you may have seen all four wheels rotate when throttle is applied. As discussed in the last myth, a 4WD has an open front and rear differential, which allows both wheels on the same axle to receive equal torque. If one set of wheels is loose and the others stuck, the free wheel “eats up” the torque, leaving the other wheel stuck. Not ideal. Traction adding differentials can brake the free wheels and supply torque to the stuck wheels. In short – if you have a 4×4, it does not mean all four tyres will always make traction.
3. Mud or wet tyres are useless in snow
For those of us in Australia, snow tyres are a good buy when heading up into snow country. You really have to want to go to the snow. However, for day trips or unexpected snow storms (like that in the US or Europe) all-terrain tyres are adequate to get you through. You might have to reduce speed to compensate for the lack of siping, but technology has come a long way from needing “mud only” or “snow only” tyres.
4. You don’t need to adjust tyre pressure
One of the most common newbie mistakes – and myths – is that 4×4 owners don’t need to air down when going off-road. Airing down actually provides more traction and control, and a smoother ride. In many cases, a half-ton ute or SUV can run on about 100kpa of pressure (15 PSI in imperial), with an optimal 130-140kpa (20 PSI) for rockier and unstable terrain. As always, its best to experiment to know what works for you.
5. Wire winch cable is stronger than the alternatives
This could be due to the age-old tension between science and common-sense – common sense dictates wire winch cable is stronger. It’s steel, right? What’s stronger than steel? Well, currently, a lot of things. Engineers, research, and scientific studies show that many synthetics is just as strong – if not stronger – than wire.
6. Front auto lockers do not provide steering
Another misconception is that automatic positive locking differential (auto lockers) can impede your steering ability around tight corners. There is some truth to it – only while you’re accelerating, however. By accelerating before a corner and coasting through, it doesn’t engage the locker, which gives you full steering control.
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