Accidentally Drove In 4 Wheel Drive? (Here’s What To Do)

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Did you accidentally drive in 4 wheel drive? Well, chances are that you damaged a few things in your car, but not to worry, this article explains what you need to know about engaging all four wheels of your vehicle.  

Engaging 4-wheel drive mode means you wish to activate all the wheels in your car, and this can cause the tires to wear faster, as well as cause damage to the drivetrain or powertrain.

Definitely, fixing a drivetrain issue is quite expensive, and you wouldn’t want to be faced with such an expensive repair. That’s why you need to be careful on how – and when – you should engage the 4-wheel drive mode.

Accidentally Drove In 4 Wheel Drive?

Mainly, if you drove in 4WD mode while on a rough track, snowy track, or cruising off-road, your car should be fine. Driving in 4WD mode doesn’t instantly mean you’ve damaged your car; but in most scenarios, four-wheel drive mode damages some important parts of the drivetrain – if engaged for a long time.

However, it is understandable that you previously engaged the 4WD mode, and then thought you turned it off (but you actually didn’t), so you drove all day in 4WD unknowingly; in such scenarios, it is advisable that you thoroughly check your car for possible (minor) damages.

There are different types of 4 wheel drive modes; the 4 wheel drive high (4H), 4 wheel drive low (4L), and automatic 4-wheel drive (AWD). Particular 4H and 4L modes are manually selected by the driver, but AWD engages automatically if the car computer senses that you need to drive with all 4 wheels.

So, if you’re driving with a vehicle equipped with AWD, there’s basically nothing to worry about if you drove for long with 4-wheel mode engaged – your car sensed that’s best to drive in that mode, and so it engaged.

On the contrary, if your car supports manual 4H and 4L modes, and you had previously selected one of the two, then forgot to turn it off, that’s when to bother about having the car damaged as a result of the driving mode you drove.

Common Damages Caused as a Result of Driving in 4WD Mode

The transaxle bearings may wear off faster than they should; cracks and leaks can occur from the components in the drivetrain.

Also, driving in 4WD mode can mean higher fuel consumption – so, you may notice that the fuel in your tank went down drastically. There may be other damages depending on your car type and design.

4 Wheel Drive Modes Explained: 4H, 4L, and AWD (Auto)

As hinted earlier, 4H means 4-wheel drive high and 4L means 4-wheel low, while  AWD means automatic 4-wheel drive. These three modes are pretty different in how they perform; hence, they are designed for different scenarios.

1. 4-Wheel Drive High (4H)

As the name connotes, this mode makes you drive a bit faster than while driving in normal modes. If you activate this mode, it is advisable to maintain 55 MPH or less to ensure good traction on tracks that are not entirely dry – let’s say icy, muddy, snowy, or rocky tracks.

2. 4-Wheel Drive Low (4L)

When you activate the 4L mode, it is expected that you want to cruise on low-speed levels. Typically, this mode also helps to get your car out of a tough spot; maybe one of your tires got stuck in the mud; this is the mode you could use to get out of such scenarios.

In other words, the 4L engages more traction and power, while pushing your tires to rotate at a “tactical” slow and steady speed. Normally, you don’t need to drive on this model, it’d cause more damage than driving in any other 4WD mode.

3. Automatic 4WD

Sometimes represented as AWD, the Auto 4WD mode does not require any action from your end.

As the name implies, it engages automatically when it thinks the car needs to drive in 4WD mode; it switches back to 2-wheel mode after the system senses that you’re good to go with 2WD. This mode activates and deactivates based on driving/road conditions.

Things to Note About 4WD Mode

  • 4WD mode does not improve braking
  • Only engage 4WD (H) on rocky, snowy, and muddy roads; never use a 4WD mode on dry pavements/tracks.
  • Stick with the instructions in your car’s owner’s manual to decide how to use the 4WD feature on your vehicle.
  • If you accidentally drive in 4WD on dry pavements, you should inspect your car thoroughly for potential damages.

Final Words

Accidentally drove in 4 wheel drive mode? You shouldn’t bother if the road you plied is rocky or snowy. But, you should be concerned if you drove on a dry pavement.

We recommend you check your car manufacturer’s manual to see how to use the 4WD mode before using it for the first time.

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