The Jeep Wrangler was specifically designed as an off-road vehicle. Learn a bit more about its 4WD capabilities and what you can do with it.By Bassem Girgis – November 11, 2015

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

The Jeep Wrangler is a tank of a car, which is designed to go off the road and go over almost anything. Of course, you can’t go off the road without using the 4WD system on it. Once you learn a bit more about the 4WD and how to use it, the world becomes much more reachable for you. With the Wrangler being one of the best off-road cars on the planet, you are simply over-paying if you don’t get to use its 4WD system. The 4WD is what activates all the wheels to help you gain more traction on rougher terrains. There is a technique of doing it, however. Read on to learn everything you need to know about your 4WD system.


The Jeep Wrangler has a transfer case between the front and the rear axles. This is designed to lock them all together when the 4WD is engaged, which provides a lot of traction to get you out of rough terrains.

Activating the 4WD allows you to carry heavier loads in your Jeep, due to the added traction you’ve created. However, it can’t be used for dry pavement.

Your 4WD lever gives you a few options: 2WD, 4WD Hi, and 4WD Lo. The 2WD is what you would use on your regular pavement drive. From there, as the terrain gets rougher, you can start switching to 4WD Hi, and finally when you’re doing the ultimate off-roading, switch to 4WD Lo.

Figure 1. Wrangler off the road.

How to Switch

Switching through the 4WD gears requires a certain technique. Don’t get into 4WD gear while you’re already on the hill, be sure to switch to 4WD before you get to the rough part.

Going into 4WD Hi can be engaged as the car is moving at any speed; however, again, don’t engage it while you’re already on the hill. Note that the lever won’t feel smooth, so you have to pull it harder than you would pull your regular transmission lever.

If you want to switch to 4WD Lo, whether you’re in 2WD or 4WD Hi, let the car coast until it is almost coming to a stop, then pull down on the lever hard; it’s common to hear a bit of a cringe.

To go back in gears, which you will eventually need to do to get your Jeep home, step on your clutch, or put your automatic transmission in neutral. Then let it coast until it is almost stopping completely, push the lever forward and put it back into the gear you want.

Figure 2. Wrangler 4WD lever.


Depending on how much off-roading you do, you will have to replace your front and rear deferential fluid between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. Always check for leaks, whether it is because you drive your Wrangler roughly off the road or because you’ve replaced the fluid recently. To check the fluid, you will have to open the drain bolt, which means you will have to top it off again after. Be consistent with your maintenance and replace the fluid earlier rather than later.

Figure 3. Front differential.

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