Towing in 4WD on bitumen; is it ever OK?

The land of social media never ceases to make me chuckle, and it wasn’t so long ago when someone asked about Towing in 4WD on bitumen, with a Mitsubishi Pajero.

Now, I’d probably not recommend you ask technical questions like this on Facebook anyway, but I knew from the moment I opened the comments that it would be an interesting one with plenty of the usual misinformation floating around.

4WD Dial
Can you drive on bitumen in 4WD?

Under normal circumstances, driving in 4WD on anything but a loose surface (so not bitumen) is a sure fire way to destroy something in your driveline.

However, there are some vehicles that drive all 4 wheels all the time (and that have a centre differential), and then you have the Mitsubishi brand which is a bit unique with its Super Select options.

If you own a Mitsubishi Pajero, and you turn your your owners manual you should see a clear section about towing, and what their recommendations are. You might be surprised to read that it actually recommends you tow in 4WD.

Of course, all of the people reaming this poor lady for ever considering driving in 4WD with her Mitsubishi Pajero when towing are completely wrong, but you can’t tell them that.

Towing with a Pajero
Mitsubishi actually recommends you tow in 4WD even on bitumen

So, yes, there are some cases where you can tow in 4WD, but it is very vehicle specific and as general advice you should not do it unless the owners manual specifically states that you should.

Mitsubishi Super Select options

2H – Two wheel drive, in the normal gear ratio of high range. This drives the rear of the vehicle only, and is what most people keep it in all the time.

4H – This engages the front wheels, but not the centre differential. This is the recommendation for towing by Mitsubishi, and you won’t have any issues as the centre differential is not locked. In essence, this is AWD, and the same as an 80 series, or 200 series Land Cruiser comes from the factory.

This is where some of the confusion comes in, as Mitsubishi’s 4H is not the same as most other vehicles 4H, because it doesn’t have the centre differential locked in.

4HLC – This is true 4WD high range, with the centre differential locked (LC meaning locked centre). If you drove on bitumen with this engaged you’ll eventually break something.

4LLC – This is low range, with the centre differential locked. This should be used for soft beaches, hill climbs and anywhere you need to get maximum torque and traction. Many Mitsubishi’s also have a rear differential as factory too, which can be locked in separately.

Mitsubishi Pajero lockup kit
Installing a lock up kit in a Mitsubishi Pajero

You can have low range 2WD with a tinker under the bonnet

If you understand how your 4WD system works, its possible to open the bonnet and swap hoses around, which gives you 2WD low range without having to make any modifications.

These are vacuum hoses, and each time my folks come back from a holiday with their big van Dad does this to back the van up the steep driveway nice and slowly, with less stress on the automatic transmission and with more control. Once its parked, swap the hoses back and you are good to go!

Read your manual

At the end of the day, this just highlights the need to pick your manual up, and have a read. Facebook is not the place to go and ask technical questions, unless you are able to filter the answers very well. 

Do you tow in 4WD?

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