How to Put a Jeep in 4-Wheel Drive?

Suppose you are an enthusiast and surfing for a perfect 4WD vehicle that doesn’t get stuck on rough terrains and gives you outstanding traction in mud, snow, or height. In that case, there is no better option than Jeep. This American classic is equipped with a 4WD option, but it doesn’t mean your vehicle is using 4WD mode all the time. Instead, it infers that it can use 4WD and 2WD depending upon the type of terrain.

2-wheel Drive and 4-wheel Drive have their own recommended uses; therefore, you must thoroughly understand the shifting process from one mode to another. So, this article will be a complete guide to the changeover process.

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How does 4-wheel drive work?

The primary purpose of 4-wheel Drive is the provision of power and traction. During off-roading trails, the engine needs extra energy to climb steep hills or pass over hurdles which a 2-wheel drive lacks.

In a 2-wheel rear drive system, the engine supplies power to the rear axle, which helps the front wheels in carrying the vehicle. In contrast, a 4-wheel drive is a system in which the engine supplies power to all four wheels through drive axles. In 4WD, the engine is manufactured in a longitudinal shape to power all four wheels through the driveshaft. This driveshaft later transmits power to differentials, transmitting it to the wheels through drive axles. In this way, all four wheels work simultaneously. 

However, the 4WD system is equipped with an electronic sensor that ensures that one front and one rear wheel is working with full torque each time. This feature improves the traction and power of the Jeep in snow or mud.

How to Put a Jeep in 4-Wheel Drive?

Jeep 4-wheel drive system gear positions

To learn the process of shifting from a 4-wheel drive to a 2-wheel drive, you must know the basics of these terminologies. There are four gear positions in a Jeep, i.e., 2H, 4H, 4L, and neutral. 


2H is the most frequently used gear position. In this case, power is supplied to the rear wheels only, and the front wheels are activated through them. The 2H position is used while normal driving through city streets and jam-packed areas.


If you are traveling on a bumpy road where added traction is needed or stuck in a hailstorm where the road is slippery, you can use the 4H gear position. 4H allows high speed with medium traction on snowy, icy, or muddy roads where better grip is required.


This gear position is suitable for off-roading situations where you need high traction, more power, high torque, and low speed. 4L gear is engaged while climbing rocks, steep hills, or passing through muddy terrain. 

In this gear position, maximum torque is transmitted to all four wheels with more power while the speed remains low.

Different 4WD systems

Different types of 4WD systems employed by the American OEM are:

Full-time 4WD:

With a full-time 4WD system, Jeep is set to be in a four-wheel drive at all times, irrespective of road conditions and traction needed. It gives boosted acceleration to the Jeep with the maximum power required for encountering city traffic and narrow turns. 

It has a center differential and a clutch responsible for maintaining even power through all the wheels. Moreover, due to an all-time 4WD system, switching from 2WD to 4WD is optional while changing from city roads to rough terrains.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

AWD is similar to the 4WD system as it allows Jeep to run in 4WD all time, irrespective of the road conditions. However, the gear position of 4L (4 Low) needs to be added in AWD, which misses the adequate power required for mountain climbing. It doesn’t mean that this system cannot at all climb on steep slopes. However, it has sensors, and whenever any slip of tires is observed, extra power is sent to the wheels. However, still, it only provides part coverage. Therefore, the AWD system is not recommended for off-roading.

Part-time 4WD

In this system, the Jeep remains in 2WD and transfers to the 4WD when required. Contrary to the above two systems, it doesn’t have a center differential. Instead, it possesses a front and rear driveshaft locking system that helps in even and improved wheel spin. This system is highly recommended for off-roading.

However, repeated conversion of 2WD to 4WD is not recommended as it leads to overheating or excessive wear and tear of parts. 

Furthermore, in part-time 4WD, engaging 4H gear is not recommended on cemented road surfaces (pavements), slippery tar roads, and snowy roads.

How do I change my Jeep Wrangler from 2WD to 4WD?

First, you need to determine which of the gear positions you need. To be decisive, understand that 4H is used on slippery road conditions where you need traction with speed. However, 4L is used on climbing rocks or steep hills where you need torque and power, and the speed limit is below 25 miles per hour.


  1. Pull over your Jeep and put the gear in a Neutral position while pressing the brake pedal. 
  2. Then move the Four-wheel drive selector from 4H to 2H.
  3. Now put the gear position in Drive (D) from a neutral position and continue your journey.
  4. If you want to change the Four-wheel drive selector position from 4H/2H to 4L, pull over your Jeep and put the gear in a Neutral position while pressing the brake pedal. 
  5. Now, release the brake pedal and continue driving at a low speed, like 2 or 3 miles per hour.
  6. At this speed, rapidly move the 4WD selector from 4H/2H to 4L without pausing at a neutral position.
  7. Adjust the standard gear position to Drive (D) and continue driving, but below 25 miles per hour.

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1. What do Jeep’s terrain settings do?

Jeep has four terrain settings: snow, sand, mud, and rock. These settings help the Jeep to customize its traction, power, and torque capability according to the road conditions.

  1. Sand

It is ideal for off-roading situations. It encourages wheelspin and increases the shift points.

  1. Snow

It increases traction in slippery conditions. It distributes equal torque to the front and rear axles. It also allows you to launch your Jeep from the second gear instead of the first gear position to reduce slippage.

  1. Mud

This option allows power distribution to one of the front or rear wheels as, in this case, one of the wheels is stuck in damp areas and requires more wheel spin than others.

  1. Rock

This option is available only on Trailhawk models of Jeep Renegade and Compass. It can be activated in a 4WD low range for off-road obstacles where more power is required, along with traction and torque. 

2. How fast can a Jeep go in 4 Wheel drive?

The Jeep’s speed in 4-Wheel Drive depends on the type of system it uses. However, the gear selector of 4L speed should not cross 25mph, while in 4H, the speed should not go beyond 60 mph. In 2H, it depends upon your driving style and comfort level, along with the safety of others.

Final Thoughts

Jeep is undoubtedly a superb vehicle suitable for everyday driving and off-roading situations. It has various settings to maximize its capacities and provides you with a customized experience according to your venture.

These settings might seem confusing to you initially, but after reading this blog you will indeed find it easier to set it your way. 

So, till the next one, have a safe drive.

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