What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean

Have you seen that button in your ute with the two rear wheels locked to each other? What does 4 Wheel Lock mean? When is it useful? Let’s find out.

A four-wheel lock is a model of four-wheel drive that locks the front and the rear axle together.  To have a deep understanding of a four-wheel lock, we must know more about the four-wheel drive. Let’s find about working, variations, use, and a lot more about four-wheel drive and four-wheel Lock.

What Is a 4 Wheel Drive?

A four-wheel drive uses a two-axle system that provides torque to both the rear and front wheels simultaneously. The four-wheel drive is linked to the wheels through a transfer case. The transfer case helps give extra output to the driveshaft and an increased number of gear ranges.  A 4 wheel drive, also known as 4WD or 4×4, consists of specific components for different functions. 

What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean?
Credits: Moebiusuibeom-en, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

How Does The 4 Wheel Drive Work?

The single system car with 4WD was popular in the nineties, but that came with few disadvantages. For example, it was challenging to activate the 4WD mode, and you would have to connect the lever with the rear axle. 

New 4WD models have a transfer case to switch between the 2WD and 4WD modes automatically. These modifications made the job possible with the click of a button. 

In simple words, in a 4WD, both rear and back sets of wheels get power from the engine as it possesses an extra rear axle. The arrangement allows you to control all the wheels simultaneously. If any pair of wheels are dysfunctional, you can still accelerate the car using the other pair of wheels. 

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What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean?

Now coming down to brass tacks: Unless you have auto 4WD (which is quite common), a four-wheel-drive control will have four modes: 2H, 4H, 4L, and Lock. Let me explain what each of these means.

2 Wheel High (2H): 

This is the most commonly used mode. This is simply a 2-wheel drive mode that’s great for regular surfaces and daily driving.

4Wheel High (4H): 

This mode is useful on snowy or dirt roads where you can move at (comparatively) higher speeds, but the road has a lower grip.

4Wheel Low (4L): 

If you are traveling on a surface that has really high traction like mud or deep sand), you need a slow mode that enhances the torque that your wheels can produce.

4Wheel Lock: 

The lock mode basically connects the two rear wheels so that they cannot move separately from each other. If ever you are in a situation where one of your tires is in the air, this is the mode you should engage immediately. This mode is also useful in any situation where one side of your ute has lost traction.

What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean?

Few Variations of Four Wheel Drives

4×4: A 4×4 system refers to a vehicle having four wheels and four-axle ends that give power to the wheels. In simple words, the four axles provide torque to the rear and the front wheels.

4WD: A 4WD system refers to a four-wheeled vehicle providing torque to four axle ends with the help of 2 axles. A 4WD system has been designed for off-road driving practices. 

A 4WD car is generally equipped with a transfer case that allows the vehicle to switch from 2WD to 4WD or vice versa. The driver can change the operation mode manually, or the car can do it automatically. 

AWD: AWD stands for All Wheel Drive, a 6×6 system vehicle where torque is provided to six-axle ends to all the wheels. The system was reserved for heavy vehicles in earlier days, but now it is also used in light vehicles. 

The system is often associated with hydraulic technology to allow a wide range of speeds. Anti Slip technology is also found in such cars. These cars are also capable of transferring operation mode from low to high traction. 

Tesla Model S is an example of a modern AWD vehicle where You can control the torque electronically.

What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean?

Uses of 4 Wheel Drive

Pulling Heavy Objects

4WD is helpful when you need to pull heavy objects at a low speed as it provides you additional power to move the object. 


4WD vehicles are also suitable for off-road driving as it helps in situations like when a car gets stuck in snow or sand. It is also more efficient while moving up and down steep heels. 

The system is extensively used in vehicles meant for road racing. For example, the Spyker 1903 model has a four-wheel-drive system with an engine of 60 HP.

Bugatti had produced three four-wheel-drive cars. Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro is a recent example of a racing car that uses a hybrid 4WD that operates through an electric motor.

Construction and Heavy Vehicles

Heavy trucks or even medium-duty trucks used 4×4 drivetrains. A 4WD is also used for construction purposes, as in Volvo model 646.

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Pros and Cons Of 4 Wheel Drive

Pros of 4WD

A 4×4 drivetrain is known to improve traction, which proves to be life-saving in few situations, such as if the car is stuck or rolling down a steep hill or other such scenarios. 

A 4WD contributes to the heavyweight of vehicles that is essential for providing enough grip by increasing contact force between the wheels and the road’s surface.

You should have a 4WD if you are fond of off-road driving. It is designed for off-road lovers like yourself. 

Cons of 4WD

A 4WD is costly. Moreover, it needs additional devices to operate, such as transfer cases, differentials, etc., that add unnecessary weight to your vehicle and cost you more money.

A 4WD drivetrain can cost you a lot of money even after its installation, as it consumes a lot more fuel than a 2WD drivetrain.

A study found out that using a 4WD creates overconfidence in drivers, which results in situations where they are stuck as they deliberately did not avoid snow, sand, etc. 

The weight of the 4WD vehicles makes them prone to accidental collision as it reduces braking distance. 

What Does 4 Wheel Lock Mean

Answers to Some more Questions About four wheel Lock

Can I drive in a 4WD lock?

Yes, You can drive with a 4WD lock, but it is advised to avoid driving in a 4WD lock on dry roads. You should engage the lock mode only when you expect to lose traction on one side of the road, such as in deep sand or snow situation.

Should I use 4WD Lock or Low?

By default, you should use 4WD High or 4WD Lock in case of off-road driving in wet places where your car has low traction but high speed. 

But in areas where there is a possibility of getting stuck, you should use 4WD low as it provides high traction power, slow pace, and multiplied torque. 

When should I turn on my 4WD Lock?

It would help if you turned on the Lock when you’re not on regular dry roads. It would be best to turn it on when the road is covered with snow, dirt, sand, etc. 

Is 4WD lock for snow?

Yes, You could use a 4WD lock-in snow as it helps better grip wet and slippery roads. 

What is a 4 Wheel Drive Lock and How Does it differ from a 4 Wheel Drive Auto?

A 4WD Lock locks the rear two wheels of your vehicle together. When the mode is activated, the two wheels cannot move separately from each other. It is used in situations where you expect to lose traction on one side of the road.

Most cars these days have 4WD auto, which automatically engages the correct mode for you, so 4WD Lock mode is becoming obsolete. Don’t be alarmed if you no longer find this button in your ute.

Happy Driving!

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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