What To Look For In A New 4x4
By Ken Womack

So, you 're thinking about making the plunge, thinking of buying a new 4X4 sport-utility vehicle. You want one that can actually run a 4X4 (JEEP) trail. You won't be 4-wheeling much more than the advertised 5% that most people run (?), but you want a capable rig. Well here are some things to look for, and to look out for.

Here is a list of items that I feel are absolutely necessary to run a trail considered a 4X4 trail.

  1. a transfer case with a low-range
  2. a transfer case with a 50-50 split, 50% of torque transferred to the back, and 50% IN LOW RANGE transferred to the front, mechanically locked not computer controlled.
  3. at least 7.5 inches of ground clearance.
  4. minimum- mud and snow tires, largest size available form the manufacturer (stock, largest)
  5. a low-range gear ratio of 2.00 or more. the (higher number) is the lower gears. 2.50 or higher (numerically) is preferred.
  6. tow hooks- bolted to the frame-rated 7000lbs. or more


SOME OPTIONS TO CONSIDER , (factory or aftermarket)

  1. Brush Guards- to protect vulnerable grill- Remember, you may want to add a winch, so check to see that a winch will work with your new guard.
  2. Nerf Bars- they protect your rocker panels from scrapes with rocks, and some have steps built in. Running boards signal the world that you bought your 4X4 for looks only.(plus they are very easily damaged, and hang too low).
  3. CB Radio- to communicate with your trail buddies. Can make travelling more fun, and could save your life.
  4. All-terrain tires- better than mud and snows for the trail, and not very noisy.
  5. Limited-slip differential or factory locker, worth every penny.
  6. Winch- very handy pulling yourself and others out.


These are just a few things to look for in a 4X4. There are many. Take your time and check it out closely. Read up on your favorites, and be informed. Remember : Independent Front Suspension doesn't have as much wheel travel and axle articulation as solid axles do.

There is a new breed of so-called 4X4's out there now. They are really just cars with a little more traction than the average front-wheel drive car. They have no low range gears, and have a computer sense wheel slip and send torque to the front or rear axle. (but not 50-50 and not locked). This is Ok in high range or All-wheel drive, but on the trail, you need a 50-50 locked transfer case and low range. Period. This kind of 4X4 is great for wet streets, snow-covered roads and an occasional really easy trail (graded dirt road). Ken Womack......