How to Use a 4-Wheel-Drive Stick on the Floor

by Richard Rowe
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You can think of a four-wheel drive transfer case as though it were a two-speed transmission with an extra output. Engine power normally goes through high range (or second gear if you think of it as a transmission) in a 1-to-1 ratio. Low range is the transfer case's "first" gear. Power normally flows directly through these gears and out the back of the transfer case, but shifting it to 4WD engages a clutch that sends engine power to a second shaft that drives the front wheels as well.

Shifting the Transfer Case

Step 1

Start out with the transfer case's gear selector in the "2WD High" position. This is your standard driving position.

Step 2

Shift to "4WD High". Many older transfer cases require that the vehicle be at a complete stop when engaging 4WD. However, newer "four on the fly" transfer cases generally allow you to engage all four wheels at any speed.

Step 3

Stop the vehicle and shift into "4WD Low" when you need to overcome obstacles on the trail or pull a heavy load at low speeds. Many transfer cases offer a gear reduction of between 3- and 4-to-1. You'll have about three to four times the power, but that extra grunt comes at the expense of a very limited top speed: about 20 to 30 mph in most cases.

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