Dodge Ram 4WD Lock vs. 4WD Low: What’s the Difference?

I don’t know about the settings of your truck, but my Dodge Ram 2500 comes with the 2WD, 4WD Lock, and 4WD Low modes. Now, I’ve seen many people who know and use 4WD Auto.

However, I received many messages and emails from people who don’t understand the difference between 4WD Lock and 4WD Low completely.

Well, 4WD Lock is pretty much the same as 4WD High, but what is 4WD Low, and how is it different from 4WD Lock? Basically, both modes spread the power 50-50 to the front and the rear shaft of a vehicle, allowing all four wheels to rotate at the same time.

However, there are a few differences when it comes to using these modes. Each of these modes provides different abilities to the drivetrain system, which makes them more suitable in certain conditions.

So, today I’m going to pit the Dodge Ram 4WD Lock vs. 4WD Low and settle the differences once and for all.

What is 4WD Lock?

4WD Lock is a drivetrain system that engages all four of the wheels of your vehicle for maximum traction and off-road conditions. It completely locks the transfer case. The power is spread 50-50 to the front and the rear. Basically, 4WD Lock is a fancy name for 4WD High.

Usually, most cars, SUVs, or trucks run on the rear wheels. However, when 4WD Lock mode powers up the two wheels at the front and two wheels at the back and makes them rotate at the same speed.

4WD Lock is a relatively new feature, which is often seen on SUVs and trucks. For instance, most Dodge Ram models have 4WD Lock, 4WD Auto, 4WD High, and 4WD Low modes.

What is It Used For?

The drivetrain system locks the front and rear axles together, which enables all the wheels to spin at the same speed. It also increases the traction of your vehicle, so you can use it when you’re driving through slippery surfaces.

Additionally, you can use the mode to climb steep slopes or if you ever need to drive safely through snow or mud without worrying about your wheels slipping.

Note: 4WD Lock doesn’t lock the axles completely; there is no tool or nothing available that can lock both axles entirely. However, the mode is the closest you can come to locking the axles.

What is 4WD Low?

The 4WD Low mode also engages the four wheels of your vehicle but in a different way. 4WD Low doesn’t lock the front and rear axles but provides powerful traction (even more than 4WD Lock or High) for driving off-road. It gives your vehicle more pulling power and dramatically increases the torque.

Basically, it reduces the wheel speed in comparison to the engine speed. Usually, the crankshaft of your engine and the wheels rotate at the same speed, but on 4WD Low, the wheels spin at a much slower pace.

4WD Low is like taking a step back and engaging your training wheels. Your vehicle will be set to a lower gearing when you’re using the mode.

What is It Used For?

Usually, you can find the mode on Ram trucks like a Toyota 4Runner or Dodge Ram. Such vehicles often require to drive through rough surfaces or off-road. The 4WD Low mode multiplies the torque and increases the traction of your vehicle, allowing you to go through deep sand or pull stumps, or something heavy.

More often than not, wheels have a tough time gripping the surface when you’re driving on a beach or sand. In such cases, the mode boosts the torque of the wheels and allows them to engage the surface and help your vehicle to move along. So, you can also use 4WD Low to climb very steep inclines.

However, you can only drive at a limited speed when you’re using 4WD Low.

Dodge Ram 4WD Lock vs. 4WD Low: Which One is The Better Setting?

Now, a battle between two things can’t be judged by only one fight. You need to put a few challenges in front of them and analyze which one is better at performing what kind of task. So, to figure out which one is better, between 4WD Lock and 4WD Low, I will put both drivetrain systems under different conditions.

It should help you know which mode is better suited to your needs.

Typical Off-Road Situations

It is risky to drive on 2WD when you’re off-road; therefore, most vehicles come with the option to transfer to 4WD mode. However, there are a couple of 4WD modes: 4WD High, Lock, Low, and Auto.

The High and Lock are pretty much the same thing, and the Auto mode is where your vehicle automatically shifts from 4WD High mode to Low mode.

So, when you’re driving through off-road pavements, obviously, safety will be your number one concern, but right after that will be ‘speed.’ It’s true that 4WD Low is the safest mode to drive in off-road conditions, but your SUV or truck will be limited to 10 to 15mph. If you exceed that, you will end up damaging your engine permanently.

However, 4WD Lock gives your vehicle enough traction to drive in off-road situations while allowing you to run at a decent speed. So, in a typical off-road condition, 4WD Lock is a preferred option.

Off-Road Slippery Surface

So, I started with the more obvious choice, the 4WD Lock Mode, to drive through snow. Everything was smooth, the traction was perfect, and I was able to skewer through the snow with decent speed. Tried 4WD Lock on mud, and the results were pretty much the same.

Next up was the 4WD Low on slippery surfaces. It wasn’t the worst experience ever, and definitely better than the 2WD mode. 4WD Low provides ultimate torque, but on a slippery surface, the wheels can’t deliver the torque properly.

I couldn’t drive my Dodge Ram through snow or mud with 4WD Low as quickly as I was able to do with 4WD Lock.

If you’re looking for the easiest and smoothest driving experience on slippery surfaces, then 4WD Lock is the better choice. So, this round goes to the former.

Extremely Loose Off-Road Surface

If you’re driving through deep sand or a surface that is very loose, 4WD Low is the better option. The low speed combined with the boosted torque allows your vehicle to easily go through loose surfaces.

On the other hand, 4WD Lock might not be able to help you move through deep sand as the torque and traction are not adequate enough for the job. For deep sand or highly loose surfaces, you will need maximum traction, torque, and pulling power to get your vehicle moving.

So, this round goes to 4WD Low.

Climbing Steep Inclines

In short, 4WD Low is better at climbing than the 4WD Lock mode. Now, let me tell you why. To make it easier for you to understand, I will compare the two modes with bicycle gears.

Take a look at a regular bike with a gearbox. When you shift to the 4th or 5th gear, it becomes tougher to paddle, but the wheels spin at a significantly increased speed. Basically, the crankshaft of your bike rotates at a decreased speed compared to the rear wheel.

On the other hand, when you’re using first gear, the rotation speed of the crankshaft is almost the same as the rotation speed of the rear wheel. So, when you’re climbing a steep area with your bike, do you use the lowest gear or the max gear? Of course, the former.

The same thing applies to vehicles with 4WD modes. If you want to go through steep inclines, you will need to change your truck or SUV to 4WD Low, so it can easily climb without putting a lot of pressure on the engine.

As you can guess, the winner is 4WD Low again.

Pulling Another Vehicle or a Stump from a Ditch

This part should already be clear to you guys. When you’re pulling something from a ditch or a hole, the 4WD Low is a much better option than 4WD Lock. It is because when you’re pulling something out from a ditch, your truck needs maximum torque, traction, and pulling power.

4WD Low offers the most traction, torque, and power by reducing the overall speed of your vehicle. It is also safe for the engine, as the crankshaft will rotate at the same speed as your wheels. On the other hand, 4WD Low also gives more control, so when you’re pulling something, the risk of your truck slipping reduces to a minimum.

Time to Decide

As you’ve seen, 4WD Lock and 4WD Low are not used for the same tasks. One mode outperforms the other in a particular condition. If you use 4WD Lock to pull a stump, it will fail or won’t be able to do a good job.

On the other hand, if you use 4WD Low to drive on a slippery surface, it will take you hours to travel a few miles. So, there isn’t a clear winner between the two, but both of these modes are extremely handy in off-road situations.

Now that you know which one is better between the Dodge Ram 4WD Lock vs. 4WD Low, it’s time for you to decide which one you’re going to use.

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