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Is Front Wheel Drive Good for Off Road? | Off Roading Pal

Now most of the car manufacturers tend to manufacture front wheel drive cars and SUVs instead of rear wheel drives. Both of these types have their own pros and cons. 

But when it comes to off roading conditions which will work better?


Does front wheel drive good for off road conditions?

Short answer is yes, you can drive a front wheel drive in off roading conditions to some extent.

Front wheel drive vehicles give more traction than rear wheel drive vehicles.

Because the weight of the engine and transmission system pressing down the front wheels. 

But if you are looking for doing some serious off-roading with your vehicle, then it’s better to go for a 4WD vehicle.

Because both FWD as well as RWD (rear wheel drive) have their own limitations. To beat extreme terrains you should have a good rig with 4WD.

With that said let’s look at off roading with a front wheel drive vehicle.

Advantages of a FWD for Off Roading

As I mentioned earlier front wheel drive vehicles give more traction due to weight on the front wheels from engine and transmission parts. 

More traction means more capability of pulling the vehicle forward in slippery terrains like mud or gravel. 

Front wheel drive vehicles have less power waste due to friction. Reason for this is because the FWD vehicle engine has placed a transverse position in the engine bay. 

Because of that positioning, engine cranks rotates the same directions as the front wheels.

So this doesn’t need a differential to turn torque output to 90-degrees directions like in RWD vehicles. 

FWD don’t need a long drive shaft like in RWD. Less spare parts means less friction. Less power wastage!! As well as less fuel consumption! 

If we consider off road handling front wheel drive cars have safer and efficient handling than a RWD. 

Why am I saying so? Think of an instance where you lose forward traction on a slippery hill. With the front wheel drive vehicle you can steer back and forth while slowly spinning your wheels.

With that you can direct the driving wheels to places where terrain has more traction and propel forward. 

With the rear wheel drive you can’t do that. They will spin in the same place continuously.


Disadvantages of a FWD for off roading

Main disadvantage of a FWD at off-roading shows when trying to ascend a hill. 

At those instances more weight comes to the rear wheels. Rear wheels tend to press down while front driving wheels tend to lift up from the ground.

With that front wheels loose the traction easily and spin without moving forward. 

Apart from that there are few other disadvantages of offroading with a FWD. 

Most of the time FWD vehicles have a very low ground clearance. Because they are made for on road purposes. Not for off-roading. 

With low ground clearance, entry and departure angles are reduced.

So it’s easy to hit something under the vehicle and damage parts when going to do off roading activities. 

Next point is tires. It’s not a wonder that your FWD car never has good off roading tires set.

So it’s easy to lose traction and stuck in the middle of slippery hills.

Tips for going Off roading with your FWD vehicle

First tip is understanding your vehicle’s capabilities.

You can’t expect a 4WD or AWD vehicle’s off road performance from a FWD vehicle. So stay within your vehicle’s limits. otherwise you may damage your vehicle. 

Reduce tire pressure to get more traction

This is a general trick every experienced off roader use. When you lose traction of your vehicle and strand in a terrain, reduce the tire pressure of front wheels and try again to move forward.

Reducing tire pressure increases the footprint of the tire and gives more surface area touching the ground. It will increase the traction.

Turn off traction control

Traction control cut the power of the wheels that losing the traction.

So the traction control system cuts power to the unnecessarily spinning wheel/wheels and the vehicle stops moving forward.  

I wrote a separate article of how traction control helps to overcome mud terrains. You can read that article by clicking here.

If you lose traction and in a slippery or boggy terrain you can turn off the traction control and try again. 

There are some instances where you may be able to spin the wheels and steer back and forth to find places that have more traction and move forward. 

Don’t lock wheels in slippery downhills if you don’t have ABS

If you have to descend a slippery downhill (like snowy descent or muddy descent) safely drive forward applying brakes gently.

If you lock the wheels your vehicle will slip down out of your control.

I have written a detailed guide on how to use ABS efficiently in off roading. You can read it by clicking here.

It’s better to read before going for off-roading with your FWD.

Don’t spin your wheels unnecessarily if the vehicle got stuck in mud or sand.

If your front wheels are stuck in mud or sand don’t press the gas pedal too much and spin wheels unnecessarily.

It only makes the situation worse. Your wheels will bog down more in that mud bog or sand.

You have to try giving gas gently and steer back and forth to find traction. If you spin wheels too fast it will only lose the traction.

Use momentum

If you lose traction and couldn’t able to move forward, back up your vehicle and try again with some speed.

This trick will helps you to move forward in many of the tough situations. 

But be careful about the ground clearance when you do this.

Your undercarriage parts may be damaged with hitting protruding on the terrain. 

Try backing up in descents

If your FWD vehicle can’t climb a hill forward due to loss of traction, try to climb the hill in reverse gear.

When doing this more weight of the vehicle comes to the front wheels and presses them down more.

That increases the traction and pushes the vehicle upwards on the incline.

Use some traction aids

If you can’t move your vehicle forward try to clear sand/mud/snow around the wheels and check under the vehicle.

whether the chassis is hitting on the ground. 

If that’s the case you have to clear the chassis by removing the sand/ mud/snow under the chassis.

Otherwise you may not be able to get the needed traction to move forward.

Then you can put some gravel or carpet under the front wheels and try again to move forward.

If possible you can carry maxtrax with you for off roading. 

If you are planning to go for a beach/desert off roading with your FWD you should definitely check my guide on 2wd sand off roading.

There I described all the things you need to know in depth before putting your 2wd vehicle in sand.

Final word

So far I told you what are the advantages as well as disadvantages of using a FWD vehicle for off roading.

Finally I told you a few tips to overcome tough situations while going for your favorite destinations. 

I hope this may be helpful. If you like to learn more about 4WD off roading you can check out my off roading for beginners guide. 

If you find this guide helpful, share it with others. You just have to hit a share button below.

Have fun and safe off roading!!    

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