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4x4 vs. 4x2

john1642john1642 Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in General
I'm looking at purchasing a pickup. I live in
Minnesota so snow is a major concern for 6 months
out of the year. 4x2 pickups are so much less than
4x4 that it is really tempting, but the thought of
using a rear-wheel drive car in the snow gives me
the willies. Is there any way to make a 4x2 safer
in the snow? How about putting weight over the
rear tires? How much weight?



  • BrutusBrutus Posts: 1,113
    You can try weight in the bed and you can try studded tires, but the rear wheel drive in the snow with a pickup truck is really tough. It's no big deal if you only have a few snow falls per year, but that won't apply to you. I've spent 18 years in Alaska, and a rear wheel drive pickup is worthless. I've been stuck in a parking lot on level ground in 2wd. Once I flipped it into 4wd, I was able to easily climb a hill on a similar surface.

    You may not have as difficult of a time with a smaller truck. Mine was a 3/4 ton that weighed about 5000 pounds. It's just a lot of weight for the empty rear to push. The 4wd permits it to pull and push the load. By the way, a front wheel drive makes all the difference. People with front wheel drive vehicles in Alaska get great traction by putting studded tires on the front, or at least good snow tires. The pull vs push makes all the difference. Do any of the smaller pickups come with front wheel drive in their 2wd models?
  • stevekstevek Posts: 362
    If you choose the 2wd version:
    1 - Get a "posi" rear end
    2 - Have large narrow tires on your truck
    3 - Use weigth in the back (not to load it
    down but to balance the weight) over the
    the rear axles.
    4 - If you can, get a stick

    I drive a tow truck in the North East and see a lot of 4wd in the ditch. A truck in 4wd driven over lets say 45 mph on a slippery surface will slide easier and you will not have a chance to correct it. I do drive 4wd vehicles but the 4wd is there when you absolutely need it and it's purpose is to get you going and not to "flop" it in there and go fast.
  • BrutusBrutus Posts: 1,113
    Good point. 4wd vehicles do not stop any faster or slide out of control any slower. The advantage of the 4wd is to the accelaration to get you up to speed and the accleration you depend on when negotiating side streets. Once you're up to speed on the highway, you're dependent on the traction of your tires vs the road surface. Alot of drivers with 4wd have a false sense of confidence on the highway. There are at least as many 4wd vehicles in the ditches as 2wd vehicles.
  • E3MP6E3MP6 Posts: 70
    If you're used to a 4x2 the a 4x4 is rather difficult to correct if you're in a slide. It quite simply handles differently. If you go with 4x4, be even MORE cautious in snow and ice than you would be in a 4x2 vehicle, at least for the first few months of winter until you "get the feel" of the push/pull system.
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJPosts: 3,516

    I will disagree with you on the front-wheel drive car comment in one aspect. Front-wheelers are awful climbing hills in snow. My dad used to have a 1984 Pontiac 6000 wagon. Good car, but forget uphill when it got slick, because you just weren't going there. The CG on a front-wheeler uphill defeats the "weight-over=drive wheels" advantage they enjoy in other situations, simply from the gravitational shift rearward.

    There\'s actually been talk about making pickups front-to-4 drive instead of rear-to-4 - God, I hope not...
  • RoclesRocles Posts: 985
    I had a S-10 manual years ago and it was a champ in the snow. I threw 350lbs of solar salt over the rear and she would go anywhere. It would skid but I feel that you can manipulate the stick more effectively than an auto when slowing your engine down. That truck was extremely light though.
    Now I have a 4x2 F-150 but I live in Delaware now that has inconsistant winters. I agree with Brutus that a larger truck would be easier to move with 4x4 traction as opposed to a compact truck. To be honest, if I lived in Minnesota and had the extra money, I would get the 4x4. I really don't miss the days of creative driving 101 in that S-10! Lots of North Carolina mountain nightmares come back to me whenever I see a snowflake.
  • bigfurbigfur Posts: 649
    And i know, i've lived there all my life. I used to drive a 83 lincoln town car(rear wheel) and it just sucked. Yes, it was a heavy car to start with, and even with 450 puonds oof sand in the back it sucked. Now i have a 4x4 and haven't had any problem with snow. Of course i realize, like stevek and Brutus said YOU CAN'T STOP ANY FASTER. Even with ABS. You can go faster but you cant stop any faster.
  • davepercdaveperc Posts: 76
    I live in upstate NY. I have seen a good amount of winter time slop with a variety of different vehicle setups; rear drive, front drive, 4x4s. I just bought a 4x2 p/u with the following reasoning. As stated above, 4x4s only help getting going (except the front wheels do help pull you through the turns if a little gas is applied). The advantages a 4x4 usually has over others in snow is that they are setup with higher clearance and better tires. Most 4x2s have decent clearance, so good snow tires will help. I got rid of my 4x4 because when ever it snows, you get stuck behind someone going real slow anyway. I don't pass these people anymore, now that I am older and wiser. Front drives put all the forces on the front tires; accelleration, stopping and turning. If you lose traction, you lose all control until you get the front wheels rolling straight again. Rear drive put the accelaration on the rear tires, so if you lose grip when applying gas you do not lose stearing or braking. Statements above are very good. Adding weight to the front of the p/u bed will aid traction, and
    a manual trans gives you control to use the rear wheels for braking without losing control on fronts (Braking system force is higher in front than back).
    I was not willing to spent the $4k on 4x4 when it does not give me any advantage. When most other drivers are going slow in front of me, it is of no use. Spend the money on anti-lock brakes, this helps you from losing control when slowing down. The 4x2 drives much better (less unsprung suspension weight) and gets better mileage, and is much cheaper.
  • cobra98cobra98 Posts: 76
    hmm. I'm going to disagree with one thing you said. As far as slow people in front of you, are you really saying that a 4x4 is just as "vulnerable" as a 4x2? I used to live on a cobblestone hill, and in the winter, my neighbor (with his new 4x2 Ranger) would get a running head start and try to go up the hill to no avail. I was parked on the hill, and would just lock the hubs, shift into 4 high (or low if it was REAL bad), and drive up the hill like it was summer time. In fact, one time I was turning off of 148 (McKeesport) onto Hartman (long uphill), and half way up there was a full size 4x2 Chevy pickup as well as several other cars ALL stuck. I went around the small front wheel drive cars and got behind the Chevy and asked the guy if he wanted me to push him up the hill. He kinda laughed and said that there's no way I could push him, but he agreed to let me try. Well, right where he was spinning, I slowly pulled up behind him until our bumpers met, and proceeded to push him up the hill at 40mph (speed limit was 35!). When I got him to the top, he thanked me and said that he was sold. His next truck would be a 4x4.

    But, that's just my $.02 :-)
  • BrutusBrutus Posts: 1,113
    I literally could not move in 4x2 in many situations in the winter with a pickup. There is no way I could think of driving up a hill with snow or ice. But once again, it all depends on how often you have those kinds of conditions. My brother spent several years at Fort Drum in Waterton NY, just north of Syracuse. They often had more snow than we had in Anchorage. If you live up in that area, a 2x4 could be a challenge. Lots of weight, studded tires and a pair of chains just in case are likely going to be necessities.
  • E3MP6E3MP6 Posts: 70
    I went to college in Nashville and the campus was located on a hill. Not a lot of snow, but plenty of glaze ice. The parking lot from the men's dorm was on a slope and the little exit ramp onto the road was rather steep, but only about 10' long, but it had a stop sign there. Plenty of RWD cars and 4x2 trucks sat there spinning until they finally had to back up and get a running start and just run the stop sign. 4x4's had no problem stopping, then trudging right along.
  • davepercdaveperc Posts: 76
    I chose my words poorly. I didn't mean stuck, unmovable, I mean stuck, driving at the 20 mph like everyone else. Nothing would tick me off more than going 20 mph on a road that has been plowed when my vehicle has good grip. I always got back to the question why did I pay for this when I use it two or three times a year. The better choice for me is good tires that will give me good traction when I need it. Snow tire are really a good investment since most are cheaper than the road tires these days, and you are going to wear tires anyway.

    I agree with all the situations you folks have presented. If these types of situations occur to you often enough to pay the extra cash and accept the other downsides to the 4x4s, then you do need one.
    Here in NY, plowing is ussually pretty good, maybe once a year the roads will have 6 inches of snow before the plows hit them again. Usually plowing and salting is kept up. I consider the conditions when choosing my route to work. The quickest way also is the worst in snow, and I don't bother with it when bad conditions exist. I will stay on the main route that is plowed well. When I still had the 4x4, I started to test this. I found that at no time I needed the four wheel drive. I just left it in two and was able to get there.
  • cobra98cobra98 Posts: 76
    agreed. Not everyone needs 4 wheel drive. And for those that don't, it would definitely be a waste as you pointed out. Worse gas mileage, and more expensive. And, more parts that can go wrong.
  • E3MP6E3MP6 Posts: 70
    But lots of fun in the dirt when the "new truck" becomes the "old truck"
  • stanfordstanford Posts: 606
    Well, that can depend. I'm getting 4x4 in my new crew cab for one reason -- a truck that long with the diesel engine has no back end traction. I've been stuck in insignificant amounts of mud a few times with my current (2wd) version. The loss in manuverability doesn't bother me much (once you can't u-turn, it doesn't really go down). The ride is still better than what I'm used to ('99 v. '93) and the mileage is, well, not that big of an issue.

    I'm not sure that I'll ever go have that kind of fun in the dirt with a crew cab dually though...
  • cobra98cobra98 Posts: 76
    "But lots of fun in the dirt when the "new truck"
    becomes the "old truck" "

    How TRUE!!! I'd love to buy a new truck, but there's no way I could spend close to 30K and beat the living crap out it like I do with my '85 F150 :-) What a blast!!!
  • gbp1gbp1 Posts: 2
    How would a locking rear differential help, as available on the 4x2 prerunner tacoma?
  • GischpelGischpel Posts: 133

    If I understand this correctly, an locking rear differential applies equal power to both drive wheels. A "limited slip differential" allows one wheel to "slip" when stuck and transfers all power to one wheel. Which wheel gets the power and why, I am not sure of, but I am sure someone will chime in on that and whether it would help.
  • RoclesRocles Posts: 985
    Sounds like a bunch of people who don't know how to drive in 4x2 in the snow. Its not hard-just practice.
  • I may have a solution. I live in Atlanta. I have a brother that moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. He went to buy a 4x4 there and was not offered a very good deal at all. He called a dealer friend of his in North Carolina and saved over $5,000 on the exact same vehicle.

    Thus, you may be able to get a better deal by looking in a place that doesn't sell many 4 wheel drives. Then have it drop shipped to you.

    P.S. I'll sell you a 1992 Ford explorer that is 4x4. I think I have used the 4x4 two times since I bought the truck 6 years ago. My next vehicle will be 4x2 as long as I stay in Atlanta!
  • polsenpolsen Posts: 25
    There are true locking diffs like the air-locker that mechanically lock both wheels so that when the right wheel turns the left one also has to turn. The air-locker is dis-engagable when a turn is attempted or the inside wheel has to spin. Other locking differential have viscous couplings or ratcheting clogs to allow the inside wheel to turn in good traction situations. Limited slip diffs attempt to make the slip solution to be less obtrussive. The old detroit lockers would clip loudly when cornering. But the limited slip diffs won't lock up as well in some no traction situations especially off-road when one wheel is not touching the ground or if you are on sheer ice.
    Four wheeler mag took a postal jeep and rebuilt it. It came stock with a locking rear diff and only was a 2x4 and the staff was amazed at what it could climb. Now descending was a nightmare.
    As a sidelight, it is well known that 4x4 configurations allow descent in a controlled fashion over using your brakes. In that respect if I see that I'm going to have to stop I can slow faster and in better controll in limited traction situations by using the engine drag through the 4x4 than by goosing the brakes.
  • kip3kip3 Posts: 20
    In most cases, the "extra traction" rear ends purchased from the mfg on factory ordered cars work with a group of fiber clutches in the rear diff.. They might be called "traction lock,anti-spin, posi-traction, limited slip,etc.". This clutch pack will have a group of 5-10 fiber clutchs sandwiched between a group of 6-11 metal disk. They also have more pinion type gears in there that will cause the spinning axle to force the other(still) axle to turn. This "magic" will take place pretty quickly. It does allow the pulling axle a little extra turning before engaging the other so that you can turn out of your driveway without the inside axle trying to catch the outside axle with a result of smoking that inside tire or pushing (plowing)the vehicle straight ahead. I think its the new Mercedes SUV that uses 4 wheel 'traction control', where the break is applied to the spinning wheel/s which in turn forces the lazy wheel to start pulling. That seems like the best of both worlds to me.It would have to be less expensive to manufacture, especially if the vehicle already had ABS.

    Kcram, I agree somewhat about the fwd loosing a lot of their advantage in snow going uphill. In 1983 Atlanta had the mother of ice storms. That storm moved in here from the gulf and was seriously wet.(which froze to the roads as ice) My Honda civic wagon was not a happy camper until I took all the crap out of the back and put it in the front floor and seat. It did OK then! We don't have the advantage of salt/sand trucks and snow plows that other more snow prone states do, and our snow is of the wet variety that lays down a sheet of ice on the road. It makes for some real white knuckle driving experiences. My friend from Long Island New York really curses our "SNOWS". He used to be of the opinion that we just didn't know how to drive. But, now he says, "How in the H... can you get used to this stuff when your truck won't move"? kip
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJPosts: 3,516

    There was a two inch snowfall in Atlanta soon after some of my relatives moved down there from NJ on the early 80s (before the 83 storm - I remember them telling us about that one). My uncle, being used to this, drove happily around without any trouble, but was just amazed at the natives' lack of ability in the white stuff. Granted, as you say, Atlanta is not equipped for snow removal, but up here, we wait for two inches to melt on its own. I don't see a plow on my street for anything less than 5 inches.
  • Snow is not ice. In Dallas, we get ice storms come through that leave a nice sheet of ice all over the city (without much snow to cover it). The place closes down.

    Every year, two types of people go out driving and get in nice big wrecks: young kids in sports cars and visiting Northeners who don't listen to the natives.

    I agree that folk up North drive well enough on snow that will leave folk down South housebound. I also don't care how good a driver someone is, or what kind of car they have, when the city is paved in ice (often having half-thawed and refrozen overnight).
  • BrutusBrutus Posts: 1,113
    The biggest day of the year for accidents in Anchorage is by far the day of the first snowfall. It's as if people forget how to drive on snow and ice over the summer. Of course, there are also a lot of people who waited too long to put on their snow tires or studded tires.
  • KCRamKCRam Mt. Arlington NJPosts: 3,516

    I agree, a real ice storm will shut anything down. Recall the one that hit the northeast US/southeast Canada this past winter, and basically caused federal-level states of emergency. We get an occasional "glaze" here in NJ; the accidents are almost never on the heavily iced roads. Instead, they are almost always on black ice - that REALLY thin stuff that looks like puddles of water. Last winter, a car and a flatbed semi tangled around the corner from my office when someone braked too hard and lost traction. The GW Bridge between NJ and NYC gets closed quite often after a storm because the icicles (some an impressive 50 feet long) come crashing down to the roadway as they melt.

    The thicker ice (usually partially-thawed snow which does a quick freeze with a temp drop) isn't that tough to drive on if you keep the tires rolling.
  • Without even a light dusting of snow, sand, or salt though you must admit its hard to stop on.
  • ron4ron4 Posts: 24
    I lived at Lake Tahoe a few years. The average snowfall there is 20' a year.

    The right tool for the job is a 4x4 with studded snow tires all the way around.

    After a snowfall, the roads are bladed. Often then the weather clears and temp. falls.The roads glaze over and are literally sheet ice where there is not adequate sanding.

    Rubber on ice doens't cut it. Good studs make a big difference, especially on short wheelbase vehicles. I had a Dodge Raider (jeep like) and my wife swaped ends of it a couple of times before the studded tires. I also pulled out several people from snow banks who didn't have them.

    Of cource you have to have a set of regular tires for summer use as studs then are banned.

    A good "snow tire" is essential too. The best "snow tire" is only a moderate tread pattern, not a course tread that might be good for mud off road.

    You actually want the tire to "load up" with snow
    (vs. a mud tire that needs to clear itself) because snow sticks to snow better than to rubber.

    Front wheel drive vehicle w/ cable chains work pretty good to. Either way YOU MUST keep your speeds down.

    In the first year I was in Tahoe, I saw more accidents then I have seen in my entire life. Speed on snowy roads was the lead cause.
  • BrutusBrutus Posts: 1,113
    All Terrain tires on my F-250 4x4 were more than adequate in the winters for Anchorage. On a 2wd, we used studded tires on the two tires that were powered and snow tires on the other two tires. Some people used studs on all four tires with their 2wd vehicles, but I don't know of any 4x4 truck owners in Anchorage who used studded tires. I'm not saying that studs wouldn't help a 4x4, but a good A/T tire will provide plenty of traction. Like you said, though, you just have to slow down as the conditions require.
  • I have to second Brutus on the drive safe & at sane speeds for the conditions. I have driven on Anchorages snow & ice bound streets all my life and have 2 Texas ice storms under my belt. All Terrain tires & reduced speeds were all that were ever required to get safely to my destination and back.

    For those more comfortable with studs, I say more power to you. But people shouldn't drive as though it's summer (with a false sense of security) because there are studs on the vehicle. And please have them off before the streets get totally bare come spring - break-up. They really chew up the pavement. We all pay for stud rutted roads at the fuel pump.
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