A common question that owners of 2WD SUVs and trucks often ask is whether or not they can go off-roading even though they don’t have 4WD.
The best answer to that question is yes and no, depending on what you actually want to do with your 2WD vehicle.
If you just want to drive on the trails and don’t plan on getting too extreme, you could probably do some basic off-roading without 4WD.
It’s important to note that 4WD was invented for a reason: to give vehicles with it a greater ability to handle rougher terrain.
Off-roading in 2WD could be dangerous if you push your vehicle beyond what it’s capable of handling and are very likely to end up getting stuck without the benefit of all that traction.
What Does 4WD Actually Do?
4WD works by giving power to all four wheels on your truck rather than just two of them.
With all four wheels gripping the trail and getting traction, you can steer more accurately and maneuver more easily without sliding or losing traction.
You have the power of the other wheels to keep the vehicle moving even if you lose traction on one or two of them.
With only 2 wheels able to get traction, your vehicle will likely end up stuck or unable to move forward due to this lack of additional traction.
The more challenging the terrain, the more likely the weight of your vehicle is going to affect its ability to get traction as front wheel drive vehicles have to pull the rear wheels and rear wheel drive vehicles push the front wheels.
What Other Equipment Is Needed for Safe Off-Roading?
Although skilled drivers may still be able to maneuver a 2WD vehicle in some off-road conditions, there’s more to safe off-roading than just 4-wheel traction.
4WD vehicles designed to go off-road usually have additional components designed to handle rougher, off-road use:
===> Higher Ground Clearance - Driving over trails and uneven terrain can be a real hazard to the underside of your vehicle.
4WD vehicles are designed to have higher ground clearance that reduces the chance of this type of damage and gives you the ability to drive or crawl over rougher terrain.
===> Tougher Suspensions - The standard suspension that most 2WD vehicles are equipped with is designed to provide a comfortable ride on the road.
These softer, less durable suspensions can very easily be damaged off-roading simply because they are made from light-duty components.
4WD vehicles typically have taller suspensions made with heavy duty parts that can withstand a rougher ride.
===> Low-Range Gearing - To get the most efficient use of 4WD, the transmission needs low gearing as well as high gearing.
Low-range gears give each wheel even more power while reducing the likelihood that the wheels will break traction and end up spinning.
===> Bigger Off-Road Tires - Although many 2WD trucks come with all-terrain tires, 4WD vehicles usually come with larger, tougher ones.
Bigger, taller tires provide more ground clearance than standard street tires and are designed to get better traction on off-road terrains.
===> Other Specialty Gear - In addition, 4WD off-road trucks and Jeeps typically have other heavy-duty parts and upgrades to both make them more agile and protect them.
So Are You Safe with 2WD?
With enough driving skills, anyone can go off-road on simple trails with a 2WD vehicle as long as you keep your limitations in mind.
Today, it’s even possible to buy 2WD trucks and SUVs with light off-road packages that include taller, more durable suspensions and bigger A-T tires for light off-road use.
On the other hand, if you’re after some good off-roading fun like rock crawling, driving through mud holes, and trails that will really challenge you, doing it with 2WD is not advisable.
Not only will you likely end up stuck, your risk of causing damage to your vehicle or even getting hurt is also higher than in a more capable 4WD.
Keep this in mind as you eye that trail and decide whether or not you should push the limits of your 2WD.