Understanding 4Hi, 4Lo, and 2Hi: Off-Road Driving Modes Explained

​4Hi, 4Lo, and 2Hi are different modes of operation for a vehicle’s drivetrain, specifically for vehicles with four-wheel drive (4WD) capabilities. These modes determine how power is distributed to the wheels, affecting the vehicle’s performance and handling in various terrains and driving conditions.

Understanding 4Hi, 4Lo, and 2Hi

2Hi (Two-Wheel Drive)

2Hi mode is the standard driving mode for most vehicles. In this mode, power is sent only to the rear wheels (in rear-wheel drive vehicles) or the front wheels (in front-wheel drive vehicles). 2Hi is suitable for everyday driving on paved roads and in good weather conditions.

4Hi (Four-Wheel Drive High)

4Hi mode engages all four wheels, providing increased traction and stability in slippery or off-road conditions. It is commonly used on unpaved roads, gravel, snow, or mild off-road trails. 4Hi can be engaged while the vehicle is in motion, but it’s recommended to shift into 4Hi before encountering challenging terrain.

4Lo (Four-Wheel Drive Low)

4Lo mode is designed for extreme off-road conditions where maximum traction and low-speed control are required. It provides the most torque and reduces the vehicle’s speed, allowing it to navigate steep inclines, deep mud, or rocky terrain. 4Lo should only be used in low-speed situations and should be disengaged before returning to normal driving conditions.

When to Use 4Lo

4Lo should be used in the following situations:

  • Rock crawling: 4Lo provides the necessary control and traction for navigating rocky terrain.
  • Steep inclines: 4Lo helps the vehicle maintain traction and control when climbing steep hills.
  • Deep mud or snow: 4Lo provides the extra torque needed to power through deep mud or snow.
  • Extreme off-road conditions: 4Lo is essential for tackling challenging off-road trails that require low-speed control and maximum traction.

How to Shift into 4Lo

The steps to shift into 4Lo may vary depending on the vehicle, but here are the general steps:

  1. Stop the vehicle completely and apply the parking brake.
  2. Shift the transmission into neutral.
  3. Engage the transfer case into 4Lo. This is typically done by moving the transfer case lever or turning a knob.
  4. Shift the transmission back into gear (usually first gear).
  5. Release the parking brake and proceed slowly.

Important Considerations

  • Do not shift into 4Lo while the vehicle is in motion. This can damage the drivetrain.
  • 4Lo is not meant for high-speed driving. The low gear ratio can cause the engine to over-rev and damage the transmission.
  • Disengage 4Lo before returning to normal driving conditions. Driving in 4Lo on paved roads can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the drivetrain.


Understanding the differences between 4Hi, 4Lo, and 2Hi and knowing when to use them is crucial for off-road enthusiasts and drivers who encounter challenging driving conditions. By using the appropriate mode, you can ensure optimal performance, safety, and protection for your vehicle.