Do You Really Need a 4WD to Go Off-Roading?

Do You Really Need a 4WD to Go Off-Roading? | Outlander Motorsports in Martinez, CA. Image of a 4WD truck traversing the countryside’s muddy road.Off-roading is a pastime gaining popularity here in Martinez, CA and throughout the U.S. As your premier local provider of vehicle customizations for all outdoor adventures, the experts at Outlander Motorsports see the evidence of this daily. 

However, when newcomers to the off-roading scene come through our doors, one question they often ask is whether a 4WD is necessary for off-roading or if a more conventional vehicle will suffice.

Let’s look at why 4WD is better than other vehicles when it comes to off-roading.

2WD vs. 4WD vs. AWD in a Nutshell

Before we dive into 4WD and off-roading, let’s differentiate between 2WD, 4WD, and AWD vehicles. They basically differ in the number of wheels moving simultaneously.

  • 2WD (two-wheel drive): Only two wheels are powered in these vehicles. So, they can either be front-wheel drive (like in most car models) or rear-wheel drive (usually in sports cars and trucks).
  • 4WD (four-wheel drive or 4×4): All four wheels are powered equally, making them ideal for off-roading, rugged terrains, and pulling heavy loads. Pickup and heavy-duty trucks are usually of the 4WD type.
  • AWD (all-wheel drive): They have close comparisons with 4WD, with a few differences. 4WD is ideal for off-roading; AWD is usually for sloppy and snowy roads. In AWDs, the computer controls which wheels will be more powered; for example, a wheel that’s slipping.

Can I Take a 2WD Vehicle for Off-Roading? 

Generally speaking, the average vehicle on the road today belongs exactly there—on the road. Most cars aren’t designed to cope with uneven terrain, challenging traction conditions, and other things you’d encounter off-road. 

That doesn’t mean that all off-roading activities are off-limits for people with standard 2WD vehicles. If you do want to go off-roading in a 2WD, you’ll need some off-roading upgrades. 

At a minimum, you’ll need to swap out your OEM tires for a set of all-terrain ones. You’ll also want to carry safety and recovery gear in case you get stuck or injured while traveling. If you’re willing to, you may also wish to install a locking differential to help you maintain traction when your wheels start to slip.

When off-roading in a conventional vehicle, it’s best to keep one thing in mind. If you’re traveling on a trail and your SUV or truck feels like it’s having trouble coping, don’t proceed. Your vehicle will not have the type of power or traction to help you through the challenging terrain.

Which is Better for Mastering Rugged Terrain: AWD or 4WD? 

If you have a vehicle with AWD, you should note that it’s not the same as 4WD. Most AWD systems you’ll find in vehicles today only offer part-time AWD. And even the ones that deliver full-time AWD aren’t as robust as true 4WD setups. 

However, you can go off-roading in an AWD vehicle as long as you outfit your ride with the proper off-road modifications. Like a conventional vehicle, you’ll want to start the changes with a set of all-terrain tires and the standard safety and recovery kits. 

You’ll also want to bolster your car’s suspension system to help it cope with the shocks of traversing rough terrain. Most AWD vehicles don’t come with suspension systems built for that— no matter what the carmakers’ ads say. 

In addition, consider adding items like skid plates and a winch to give you more flexibility on the trail.

I Already Have a 4WD Vehicle—Can I Now Go Off-Roading? 

If you already own a 4WD, you may believe it’s already suited for off-roading. And you’re right—kind of. 

While many 4WD vehicles are a bit tougher than others, they’re still designed primarily for road driving. So, adding off-road upgrades (like a lift kit for extra clearance and larger tires) will make your vehicle more capable. 

Also, consider other off-road modifications, such as a light bar, roof rack, and front and rear bumper protection. With these relatively inexpensive off-road upgrades, you’ll be more equipped to explore new roads in and around Martinez, CA and other destinations.

Contact Outlander Motorsports for Off-Roading Upgrades in Martinez, CA

Do you need tennis shoes to play tennis or baseball shoes to shoot hoops? It may not be a requirement, but having the right tools for the job can make it more fun and eventful. And having a 4WD with the right off-road upgrades is the same. 

Fortunately, the experts at Outlander Motorsports—the best off-roading shop in Martinez, CA—are here to help. We can advise precisely what kind of off-road modifications your vehicle needs for whatever trip you want. 

Make us your first stop on your next adventure itinerary! Contact us by completing our online contact form, calling us at (925) 839-4144, or stopping by our shop at 1424 Shell Ave., Suite D, Martinez, CA 94553.