One of the features that attracts many four-wheel drive owners is the seemingly endless list of possibilities opened up with added traction and support that come from the four-wheel drive engagement. If you're new to this type of suspension both on and off the road, you may find yourself baffled by the small shifter with the four-wheel selections. Here is a look at the options and the best times to use each one.

Automatic Four-Wheel Drive

Some of the newer vehicle models have an automatic four-wheel drive mode to take the guesswork out of engaging your axles. This setting relies on a sensor and actuator in the axle to monitor the traction. Any time the sensor detects slipping, the actuator engages the four-wheel-drive automatically. This is ideal to use when you're driving in a patchy winter storm where the road conditions can change quickly and be unpredictable.

Four High

The high-range four-wheel setting is often labeled as "4H" on the shifter. When you engage the four high setting, it locks your axles into four-wheel drive, which means that all four tires spin together. It's most often used in situations where you're going to be traveling at near-normal road speeds, such as on main throughways and highways. Whether you're looking at snowy weather conditions or loose gravel and mud, four high can provide you with the traction that you need without slowing you down. Since it's a full-time four-wheel setting, you'll have to shift out of four-wheel drive back to the 2H, or 2-wheel drive high setting when you don't need the four-wheel support anymore.

Four Low

Like four high, engaging four low will lock the axles into four-wheel drive. This is ideal for slippery terrain, such as snow, mud and off-road environments. The difference between four low and four high is your speed. While four high is designed for traveling speeds closer to roadway travel, four low is designed for speeds of thirty miles per hour or slower. The slower speed provides more torque to the wheels, which allows your tires to make the most of the grip.

Never engage your four-wheel drive on dry, smooth roads. This can damage your transfer case, drive train and suspension. Also, make sure that you know if your vehicle's transfer case is an on-the-fly shifter, which allows you to shift into four-wheel drive while you're in motion. If your vehicle doesn't support four-wheel shifting in motion, you'll have to come to a stop before you engage your four-wheel drive. With the information presented here, though, you can understand that four-wheel drive transfer case and use the shifter with confidence. Contact Wildside Motorsports for more information.