Testing 4×4 When Buying a Used Truck

If you’re considering a used 4×4 truck, you may want to test it before you buy to make sure it’s working properly. But how do you do that when the weather is bright and sunny? It’s actually not as hard as you think.

There are a few steps you can take to test the four wheel drive system in any weather to make sure it’s working properly before you buy it.


Doing a Once Over

If you’ve spent the time and energy doing research to find a truck with the profile you want, you’ll want to make sure everything looks good and is working properly, not just the four wheel drive.

Always check the brakes as you test drive. The tires should be aired up to the proper levels, and all engine fluids should be filled properly as well. Look for rust underneath the vehicle or around the doors. A lot of rust could indicate how well (or poorly) the previous owner maintained the vehicle.

Testing the Four Wheel Drive

Find the four wheel drive button. There is usually a button or a knob on the dash or perhaps a shifter on the floor to the right. It should be marked accordingly with 4Hi.

Drive normally and put the vehicle in 4Hi by either pressing the button, turning the knob, or shifting the lever. To engage 4Hi, you can be traveling at any speed. You may hear a clunking sound of the transfer case as it engages the four wheel drive system, but if you hear any grinding at all, it’s a sign of damage.

Turning Left and Right

Make sure you turn left and right while you’re driving and the 4Hi is engaged. If the road is wet, this is a great way to test the effectiveness of the system, but if it’s not wet, find a gravel road if possible. Loose surfaces can help you test, too.

When you’re on a wet or loose surface, the vehicle will turn normally in 4Hi. On dry pavement, you’ll feel the tires grab like they’re catching on the ground, which may cause the vehicle to wobble a little. That’s normal. It means four wheel drive is working.

If you hear popping noises from the wheels while turning, that means there may be damage to the boots or velocity joints, which are the parts of the wheel that allow it to turn.

Testing 4Lo

Next, stop the vehicle so you can test 4Lo. You must be parked to engage 4Lo. The 4Lo setting should be on the same button or shifter. Engage it by pushing the button or shifting the lever.

Try to drive forward. You won’t be able to go much faster than five miles per hour while in 4Lo. 4Lo is intended to provide you with extreme power or help you climb hills. You can listen for the same noises that may indicate damage.

Turn left and right again, just to test for the same gripping action and noises.

Finishing Up

You can stop the vehicle and return it to its normal two wheel drive function. Inspect it like you would any other vehicle, looking for the things that you need or want in the vehicle to make sure you love it enough to buy it.

Here are a few extra tips:

●     Make sure you test the vehicle on both loose or wet surfaces and normal roads if you can.

●     Some four wheel drive vehicles have locking hubs. Check the front wheels to see if there’s a lever in the middle of the wheel marked with 2×2 or 4×4 indicators. That will mean you’ll have to turn the hubs to 4×4 before shifting into four wheel drive or it won’t work.

●     Think about bringing a friend along to help you listen for abnormal noises.

●     Always shift into 4Lo from a parked position so you don’t damage the vehicle.

●     Don’t test the four wheel drive on steep slopes unless you are experienced enough to handle it.

Now you’re ready to test and purchase a used four wheel drive vehicle.