To 4WD or Not to 4WD - Advice needed

Saenzm

Member
I am building a B+ and am stuck with the dilema of 4wd vs 2wd with the Weldtech 6" suspension upgrade and maybe a locker, winch and traxx.

I would like to do Baja one day, so my question is do you need 4WD to do a Baja trip?

Outside of that, I don't think I really need 4wd.

1995 E350 Bornfree dually.

Thanks,
Mark20200304_114837.jpg
 

SDDiver5

Expedition Leader
I said the same thing when I got my truck. Do I really need 4x4? I decided against it because the deal on the 2WD was too good to pass up. Well, last weekend I got rained out of a hunt and was down a muddy was and I needed 4x4. Needless to say, I will never, ever, own 2WD ever again.

If your plan is to camp and stay at established spots and if you stay on the main roads in baja you wont need 4x4. I live in San Diego and frequent baja. Most roads are paved or graded but If you plan to beach camp or explore, I'd suggest doing 4x4, just in case. It's worth the peace of mind. Also do the locker and winch, because they're awesome and useful when you need them.
 

vwhammer

Adventurer
Halloween of 2011 my wife and I got caught in a brutal snow storm on our way to visit friends in Boston.
We hit the storm in Scranton PA and what should have been about 5 hours to Boston took us more than 11 hours.
I swore I would never be without a 4WD again and actually have not been since.
I do have a beater Jetta that I drive back and forth to work but it's two flat miles each way and it always has snow tires on it.

For that reason, my primary want for 4wd or AWD is the snow.

Now to really flip flop on ya, I don't think 4wd is an absolute necessity on many camper rigs.
Most people don't drive them in them in the winter months and, if they do, they are generally somewhere where "winter months" don't really exist.
Beyond winter, many of these rigs are huge and are not really something that you want to be doing any off roading in on a regular basis.

Sure there might me the occasional greasy track after an unexpected rain or maybe a bit of sand that is a little softer or deeper than expected but that's what recovery gear is for.

A locker or LSD, some traction mats of some sort and a good, strong winch with a proper recovery gear arsenal will get most 2wd rigs out of most things that they are actually capable of getting into.

A little extra ground clearance is nice when on some rougher roads and, naturally a proper all terrain tires it a must.
I would try it without 4wd first and see how it goes.
 

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luthj

Engineer In Residence
Depends on where you are going. Plenty of Baja is accessible with a 2wd on improved dirt roads. There is a significant bit thats only accessible down 4x4 trails etc, but many of those would not be good for a B+.

Personally I would not spend the time and money, plus the extra weight, lost fuel economy etc, for a 4x4 conversion on a B+. At least for visiting baja.

If you need to get away for a bit, A compact motorcycle on a carrier is a great option.

A mild lift at 2" would be a good compromise, as departure angle limitations come into play.
 
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GR8ADV

Explorer
With a 2wd or 4wd there is OK stuff QUESTIONABLE stuff then stuff you should NOT do. If you go with 2wd, not only do you miss out on the OK 4wd stuff beyond the 2wd stuff, but likely miss most all of the QUESTIONABLE 2wd stuff as well as you show prudent judgement. Easy call.
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
You need to remember that many posters actively seek out and enjoy the activity of wheeling. They will have trouble imagining someone who doesn't enjoy or seek that out. If that is not your goal, then there is no specific need for 4WD in your case. You can access similar quality camps and locations with a 2WD. Remember you are driving a 10k lbs B+, not a dedicated trail rig. If you don't need 4WD now, then you aren't likely to suddenly develop an penchant for super remote beaches or smashing your head on the window trying to rock crawl a B+.
 

North

Observer
Like others have said, depends on what you want to do in Baja.

I spent ~1 month down there last May, primarily to surf. I drove my camper-ized AWD Express Van (no lift). In a month of beach camping I probably utilized the AWD ~20% of the time. That said, I only went especially off the beaten path 1x, and in that instance low clearance was a problem, more so than 2WD would've been. IMO unless you're a wheeler, you'll be able to get a lot out of Baja in a 2WD.

If I were doing Baja again I'd take a 4WD pickup with a GFC. The amenities of the van were more than necessary, and I'd trade van luxuries for simplicity and built-in capability of a truck. Somewhat contradictory to my comments above, but for a 2nd trip I'd be more tempted to explore and don't want to beat up my van.
 
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iggi

Ian
Can't comment on Baja but can on 2wd vs 4wd on a camping rig. My ex-ambulance is about the same size. 2wd with a limited slip. Been stuck once on a super slippery wet, rutted dirt track. 4WD rigs were having a hard time as well. On normal snowy and icy roads I feel more confident in the ambulance with blizzak tires than I do in my 4WD FJ Cruiser on Duratracs. Deep snow definitely becomes an issue with the non-powered front wheels and I suspect sand would be the same. Given the investment of time/money a winch, rear locker and maxx tracks will likely suffice in any place that you should take a rig that size. With a butt that big by the time you have enough of a lift to improve the approach angles it would also have a detrimental effect on highway performance. All a case of what's important to you.

First two pics below I was very stuck as I slid backwards and jammed the bumper into the mud bank.
Last pic wasn't stuck, just navigating my way through the ruts and was amused to be up on 3 wheels. Just backed up and took an easier line.
Suspect that with chains on the rear wheels I wouldn't have gotten stuck at all.

IMG_2969.jpgIMG_2970.jpgIMG_2990.jpg
 

billiebob

Well-known member
Dual tires and a limited slip will do it all. Nothing wrong with 2WD. I'd have trouble justifying the cost and then there is the quality of the conversion and skill of the outfitter.

If you want 4WD buy a unit with 4WD. The biggest advantage of 4WD is low range. With 2WD you need speed, momentum to get thru the same things 4LO lets you crawl thru. 4LO lets you tread lightly, and go slow so you break fewer things, on the truck and on the trail.

With 2WD, caution, good judgement will keep you from getting stuck.
With 4WD, that caution and good judgement often get forgotten and you get stuck more often, and deeper.
 

68camaro

Any River...Any Place
I was faced with your decision last year, but after honest internal assessment of the limitations due to my rigs weight, width and height along with looking hard at where I normally go and type of terrain I travel on and my comfort with "pushing" it, I decided to forgo the 4wd conversion at $20k and instead make most use of rigs positives. On east coast I think size of vehicle is more limiting than not having 4wd.

Standard rig is 2001 E-350 Super Duty 2wd dually, with limited slip and 3.63 gears. To set up for off-road I went with ActionVans 4.5" front lift with 2" rear block kit. Tires are Goodyear Duratrac 235/85/16. Also got from ActionVan Fox Shocks valved for rig, fox steering stabilizer and 2008 radius arms. Recently added custom Ujoint front bumper and 12k winch. I also carry recovery treads, tire chains, shovel and snatch rope. And to make sure I know what I am doing I took a 2 day one-on-one professional off-road driving course that spent a lot of time on self-recovery, picking lines, etc...

I have spoke to and read about several people with these rigs with similar setup that they report are great in snow and slippery terrain.

Since I don't look for trouble I think my rig and recovery gear will get me out of the type of jams I could get in....if not I can relax in comfort until help arrives...LOL

My two cents...

IMG_8989.JPG
 

45Kevin

Adventurer
I just did 6 weeks on the Baja in our AWD Express.
We did a few gnarly roads where the AWD kicked in, and my companions with 4x4s lock their hubs and went into low range.

But like others have said, a rear locker in 2WD probably would have worked.

We found the Express to be slightly small for us and I am currently exploring alternate rigs and am having that exact same discussion with myself.

I'm leaning towards a couple inch lift, rear locker and winch on a 2WD transit or something. You can buy a lot of winch for a fraction of the cost of a 4x4 conversion.

I'm not ready to move to a dually yet. When I do, it will be on a 30+ foot long rig.

PS - my AWD Express may be up for sale in the near future
 

C p weinberger

Active member
Some real good advice on this thread
I can’t speak specifically to Baja experience but I know rough roads and vehicles .
I look at any vehicle holistically.
How will the vehicle systems perform for the desired task.
What is the weakest link. Rear overhang mentioned, great example.
My experience with 4x4 and difficult terrain taught me it was not the 4x4 ability that was the most important it was the complete package.
Tougher tires
Ground clearance
Stronger suspension
4 low
Basic recovery equipment and skills to use.
And most importantly driver skill
Lastly, if the vehicle components are adequate how strong is the van body and interior components.
Vibration and jerking / twisting motion can damage interior items very quickly.
IMHO..Don’t spend tons of money for a few times you may or may not need something, there is always situations you will never be prepared for or cannot reach. Spend what you can afford to get you out into the Bush quicker rather then waste years saving for upgrades you made not even use. Get dirty, you can always upgrade down the line
It’s about the experience not the stuff..
( always need more stuff..=George Carlin RIP)
Good luck 🍀
 

Rbertalotto

Explorer
I'll tell you what you DON'T want......Front wheel drive SUV, 200 pounds of stuff in the back and 150 of trailer tongue weight.

My Toyota Venza, 2WD gets stuck on wet grass!!!! I'm not kidding. Highway tires don't help..........Forget about getting up even the slightest hill. AND there are absolutely zero tow points on the front of a VENZA.......Even hooking to the front control arms will damage the front air dam. And if you did this, you'll need a front end alignment afterwards......(I'm welding up a bracket as I'm expecting needing a tow many times this summer as I attend many lawn events)
 

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Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
2WD
I’ll tow my Fj40 if I ever want to seriously explore.
The conversion cost, increased maintenance costs, and increased complexity isn’t worth it on a 21’ 10k rig that can only do mild wheeling the 40 can easily do in 2WD.

If Baja was your home then things would be different... but to visit, 2WD.

As for snow... the Ambo has handled all the snow driving I could find. I’d likely limit it to 12” deep. In contrast I have driven the 40 through a, 100 year record setting, blizzard with blinding snow, 3-4’ deep ruts, 4’+ deep snow. Pretty well the only other rigs getting around were military... most with 3 driven axles. 4WD or not, it’d be a huge 4x4 for that.
 
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