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Notes From The Road

Four Wheel Drive How-to
By Wayne Scraba/

Four Wheeling Tips
  1. Most systems can be shifted into 4-Low as the vehicle is moving forward very slowly at 1-2 mph with the transmission in neutral. Alternatively, you can stop the vehicle completely and engage 4-Low. Wait for the drive system lamp to stop flashing before shifting the transmission into gear.

  2. To shift back from 4-Low to 4-High, slow to 1-2 mph with the transmission in Neutral. Wait for the drive system lamp to stop flashing before shifting the transmission into gear.

  3. Always engage 4-Low before you need it, and if you're in doubt about the conditions, slow down and select 4-Low.

  4. Never operate 4WD on hard dry surfaces.

  5. If the vehicle has an "Auto" setting, it will prove ideal for use when road surfaces vary (for example, wet or dry, snowy or dry, etc.). Typically, driving in this mode results in slightly lower fuel economy than the 2WD mode.

  6. Even with 4WD, slow and steady is much more important than fast and aggressive.

  7. When in 4WD, the front wheels will feel as if they are "pushing" or "skidding" in a tight turn. Don't worry! This is normal.

  8. Treat loose or wet surfaces as if they are ice. That means you should do everything (brake, accelerate, turn) slowly and gently. This approach keeps the tires from spinning on acceleration and it also keeps them from locking up on deceleration.

  9. If you have driven through deep water or mud or deep wet snow, apply your brakes several times at low speed to dry them out. Keep in mind that water, mud and deep snow will affect brake operation.
You'll soon discover that your four-wheel drive likely has capabilities you never dreamed possible. Remember to check your vehicle owner's manual for more information along with vehicle-specific dos and don'ts. You can also check out the photos below for further info.
Automatic Transfer Case in a GMC All Terrain 4WD
This GMC All Terrain has an Automatic Transfer Case. That means it has all the features of a regular electronically controlled Part-Time 4WD as well as an automatic function that senses if and when a wheel slips. In turn, it engages 4WD as necessary.

Transmission Must be in Neutral When Shifting from Automatic or 4-High to 4-Low
When you shift from Automatic or 4-High to 4-Low, the transmission must be in Neutral. Typically, the vehicle can be rolling forward, but at speeds of only 1-2 miles per hour. You can shift from 4-High to 2WD or Auto at any speed.
Shifting into 4-Low Means the Vehicle Should Not Be Driven Higher than 45 mpg
In almost all cases, shifting into 4-Low (shown here), means the vehicle should not be used at speeds higher than 45 mpg. If you're in slippery conditions or if you're in doubt, it's a good idea to slow down and use 4-Low.
When 4WD is Engaged the Vehicle Might Feel Like it is Pushing When it Corners
When the 4WD system is engaged, you'll find that the vehicle will tend to feel as if it is "pushing" in the corners. This is normal, but it does feel a wee bit disconcerting when your first use the system.

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