Does My Pickup Truck Really Need 4-Wheel Drive?
It seems all truck dealerships these days are pushing 4-wheel drive as an option for new pickup trucks. This is a good question to think about when considering whether the use of your truck really warrants the added expense of this option or not. Even if you buy a used truck, the price will most likely be higher if the truck has 4-wheel drive. But what if you really never or rarely use it?
In most instances you will need to assess how and when you use your truck. Whether you use it for work, play or just cruising, what type of work, how you play and where you cruise will need to be considered. But first, you should understand exactly what 4-wheel drive is used for and examples of when it is most useful. The same thinking comes into play when you consider should I pay more for an F-350 as opposed to an F-150 when I won’t really be hauling big loads of cargo or a motor home?
Manufacturers have many different methods and verbiage to depict power going to all of the wheels. 4-wheel drive is basically a part-time system that can be switched on or off as the situation warrants for more traction to each wheel. The best systems will allow the maximum amount of power delivered to prevent wheel slippage. This is used more in winter for ice and snow conditions or if you use your truck off-road when more traction is needed.
Having a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle means you have one which the engine powers all four wheels either part time or full time. Some trucks have two-wheel drive, which means either the front or back wheels are powered by the engine, which can be less expensive. You may, however end up needing snow tires on all four tires if you only have 2-wheel drive. All-wheel drive, which is also referred to as full time 4-wheel drive, is designed for multi-functional driving situations both on and off-road and usually cannot be switched off.
So, now that you understand the difference between drive methods, how you use your truck is very important. Let’s say you live in a southern state or parts of California where snow and ice aren’t a factor. You may think 4-wheel drive is not necessary, but if you haul a boat or camper trailer, you may think differently if you needed the traction when you got stuck in muddy water on a boat launch or love to camp in the mountains where the terrain may present a challenge to your wheels. The added weight of a large boat or trailer can destabilize your truck and create traction issues, which 4-wheel drive can work to correct. 4-wheel drive would be very beneficial in these scenarios when you could switch it on and off as needed.
Let’s say you live in the Northeast and you are a construction worker. Your work site may take you to different unpaved situations that may require additional traction. Winters are brutal, you use your truck for plowing snow and you haul your boat or camper in summer, plus you enjoy off-road fishing or camping experiences, maybe even mudding for fun. Under these circumstances, All-Wheel Drive may be what you would need for these types of multiple uses.
Let’s talk about trucks with only two wheel drive. When 4-wheel drive is not needed on a frequent basis, many pickup owners manage perfectly fine without it and can still haul some light cargo, drive on the highway, and manage well without it. Typical models for this type of use are mid-size pickups like Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. Many of today’s newer vehicles have electronic traction control and stability control as part of standard or optional packages, making 4-wheel drive unnecessary.
Some drivers simply like the psychological assurance from having an all-wheel drive truck. If you aren’t one to venture off-road or winters aren’t harsh where you live, the benefits of having four-wheel drive may be minimal at best. Feel free to share this article with your friends and I would love to hear your comments at truckworldaccessories.com where truck enthusiasts are always welcome.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a NYS licensed Auto Damage Appraiser, CSE certified, I-Car Certified, and have worked in the automotive industry for decades. I've had the opportunity to teach auto body repair to misled kids in a classroom setting, giving them a chance to have a trade for a viable income. I found this very rewarding. Previously, I was all about the American muscle cars of the 60's. Now, I find pickup trucks and the way they have evolved to be my fascination and focus. I love hearing from fellow truck enthusiasts, so please share my site with friends and come see me at www.truckworldaccessories.com