Driving in 4 Wheel Drive on Dry Pavement

4-wheel drive is known for its ability to power both the front axle and rear axle at the same speed in order to gain enough traction.

Most large trucks and SUVs come with 4-wheel drive, this is because they are mainly used off-road and for heavy loads. However, 4-wheel drive is not designed to be driven on a high-traction road like dry pavement.

Driving in 4-wheel drive on dry pavement, especially when in 4 HI mode should be avoided at all costs to avoid breaking the front axles, shearing the differential gears, and even breaking apart the differential case of the vehicle.

What is a Dry Pavement?

A dry pavement is said to be a porous and coarse surface that allows for a tight grip on vehicle wheels. Dry pavement is best suited for 2-wheel vehicles i.e. rear and front-wheel propelled vehicles.

Can You Drive on a Dry Pavement?

Yes, you can drive on dry pavement, however, not all vehicles are suitable to be driven on it. Depending on the type of wheel drive your vehicle driving on dry pavement may not be the best for you or your vehicle.

Vehicles with 2-wheel drive are able to drive on dry pavement without any problem but the same cannot be said of 4-wheel drives.

For 4-wheel drives, we have full-time and part-time. The part-time 4-wheel drive cannot safely drive on such pavement because of its drivetrain design. They are designed to be driven on tarmac highways or high-traction surfaces.

It is also not advisable to drive a 4-wheel drive when its center diff-lock is engaged, this is because the drivetrain of a part-time 4-wheel is not designed for use on dry pavement but on terrain with lower traction levels.

This is not to say you can’t drive your 4-wheel drive on dry pavement, but it shouldn’t be done for an extended period.

Driving on dry pavement for an extended period will lead to drivetrain binding, which may, in turn, result in other costly damages to the vehicle.

Pros of Driving in 4 Wheel Drive on Dry Pavement

4-wheel drive and dry pavement are not known to work well together, however, this depends on whether you are using a part-time wheel as common on trucks or using a full-time 4-wheel drive.

Despite the wide talk on the 4-wheel drive and dry pavement not going well together, there are still some notable advantages to driving a 4-wheel drive on dry pavement.

  • The Vehicle Will Not Suddenly Skid to a Stop: One of the advantages of driving a 4-wheel drive on dry pavement is the vehicle’s ability to stop without launching forward. It is a common occurrence for light vehicles with powerful engines to skid to a stop rather than stop slowly and at the driver’s pace. You do not have to fear this when you are driving a 4-wheel on dry pavement because power is evenly distributed.
  • Stability and Ease of Steering the Vehicle: When driving a 4-wheel drive on dry pavement, it is very easy to steer the vehicle in whichever direction you want it to go coupled with a timely response to the driver’s input. Less difficulty is experienced when driving 4-wheel on dry pavement.

Cons of Driving in 4 Wheel Drive on Dry Pavement

It has been established that a 4-wheel drive shouldn’t be driven on dry pavement. What are the reasons why this is so? In order to get answers to this question, we will consider some disadvantages of driving a 4-wheel on dry pavement.

It Causes the Vehicle’s Tire to Go Bad Quickly

Driving a 4-wheel on dry pavement, especially rough driving, and turning the wheels sharply will have a negative effect on the tires.

Doing this repeatedly will cause the tires to twist themselves in knots and with time get worn out. All four tires may not get worn out simultaneously, but damage to one will make all others slip on the pavement when driving.

Damage to the Drivetrain

When a vehicle’s tire starts slipping, it won’t be long before the connection between the transmission and drive axles gets affected and damaged.

It May Lead to Regenerative Braking

When driving a 4-wheel on dry pavement there is a possibility that the wheels turn at different speed and causes a build-up of energy.

Majorly all 4-wheel drive trucks have a transfer case i.e. another transmission behind the normal transmission. Driving on dry pavement means you will constantly have a difference in transfer cases even in transmission.

What Can Happen When Using 4 HI Mode on Dry Pavement?

Using 4 HI modes on dry pavement can result in ‘Drivetrain Binding’. Drivetrain binding occurs when both the front axle and rear axle are locked together.

For better understanding, we should look at what it means for a vehicle to be in 4 HI modes. 4Hi mode means a vehicle’s front and rear differential are locked together in order to create ultimate traction. This means both the front and the rear wheels turn at the same speed.

Therefore, it is safe to say that a drivetrain happens because the vehicle’s tire takes different paths when the front and rear axles are locked together.

This tends to happen when a part-time 4-wheel drive is driven on dry pavement, this is because part-time wheel drive is not designed to be operated on dry pavement especially not in 4-Hi modes.

When a vehicle is experiencing drivetrain binding it is very easy to notice as the steering will become and feel a lot heavier than it used to be. Another sign may be the steering jolting from the driver’s hand.

Using 4 HI modes may be a result of ignorance or forgetting to put the vehicle in 2H mode. The first thing that usually happens when you realize this is making attempts to put it back in 2H, before you do this you should ensure to straighten the car out.

Using 4 HI mode which eventually results in drivetrain binding causes a lot of problems in the vehicle. Problems such as; yoke failure, transmission torque build-up, driveshaft twisting, etc.


It has been established that 4-wheel drive is not suitable for dry pavement, especially part-time 4-wheel, and when it is in 4 HI modes. If by mistake or out of ignorance you are driving in 4 HI modes, you should first straighten the car and then engage 2H.