Contact Us

I’m stuck in 4WD (and what is diff wind up?)

Have you ever heard about drivers getting ‘stuck’ in 4WD? We don’t mean as in they are out bush and don’t want to come home… we mean they physically can’t get the vehicle out of 4WD modes – typically low range but sometimes even high range.

There are a few common reasons this may happen and knowing them could save you from an embarrassing situation at best – or some expensive damage at worse.

Firstly, do you know why we get stuck in 4WD?

Basically in 4WD mode – the wheels are all designed to get some of the power from the engine. This works well when off road but on hard or sealed surfaces it can become an issue.

“Diff wind up” occurs because as you turn a corner – all four wheels actually travel at different speeds. The front axle and the rear axle are both moving at different speeds as are the left and right side wheels.

On a loose surface road the wheels can ‘adjust’ by slipping or even mildly spinning taking the load off the drive train.

When cornering on these hard surfaces the energy builds up and is stored in the differential and drive train. It is like a build up of pressure that can not be released. This build up stops the transmission from shifting into 2WD or even between Low and High range.

Some of the signs you have this ‘pressure’ build up is your steering becomes heavier and the vehicle also jerks or skips at low speed.

If you continue to drive on hard/sealed surfaces in this situation eventually something will break. Usually a driveshaft will fail first but it could be any part of your transmission system. This is costly and may leave you stuck with limited drive for the rest of your trip.

How do you get out of a ‘Diff Wind Up’ situation?

Once the pressure is built up you need to release it. Sometimes reversing back in a straight line slowly and then stopping will work. If this doesn’t we suggest reversing while turning (either direction works).

Make sure you come to a complete stop before attempting to switch modes.

If you are going between Low and High range make sure that you are stationary and in NEUTRAL for a few seconds and give the vehicle another couple of seconds after selecting the mode before selecting drive or a gear.

Understanding how your 4WD works in all the different modes is essential to safe and efficient driving.

Doing a PDA 4WD course will give you the skills and knowledge to safely drive and recover your vehicle. Give PDA a call to find out more about the range of programs available.