WHY IS A 4×4 CALLED A 4×4?

The term “4×4” is commonly used to refer to a type of vehicle with four-wheel drive, but where did this name come from? To understand the origin of 4×4 vehicles, we have to delve into their history.

The very first 4×4 vehicle can be traced back to the early 1900s when the Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD) was established in Wisconsin. They produced trucks and cars with four-wheel drive, which were primarily used for military purposes during World War I. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that these vehicles gained popularity among civilians.

In the post-war era, there was a growing demand for reliable and versatile transportation options. This led automakers such as Jeep and Land Rover to start producing civilian versions of their military-grade vehicles. These vehicles were equipped with four-wheel-drive capabilities that allowed them to navigate through rough terrain and harsh weather conditions.

The earliest models of 4×4 vehicles were known as “utility vehicles” or “four-wheel-drive trucks.” It wasn’t until the 1950s that the term “four-by-four” emerged as a common way to describe these types of vehicles. The use of “x” in place of “by” is believed to have originated from advertising campaigns by Ford Motor Company for their F-Series trucks. They marketed their trucks as having “four-by-four power,” using an “×” symbol instead of spelling out the word.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, other automakers adopted this naming convention, cementing the term “4×4” as a standard way to describe any vehicle with four-wheel drive capabilities.

As technology advanced, so did 4×4 vehicles. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Japanese manufacturers introduced compact SUVs like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol. These smaller yet still capable off-road vehicles became popular among consumers, leading to a surge in the production and use of 4x4s for everyday purposes.

In recent years, the term “4×4” has evolved to encompass not just trucks and SUVs but also other types of vehicles such as crossover SUVs and even sports cars. The popularity of 4×4 vehicles continues to grow, with many people opting for them as their primary mode of transportation due to their versatility and all-weather capabilities.

How 4×4 Vehicles Works

At its core, a 4×4 vehicle is designed with a drivetrain that powers all four wheels simultaneously. This means that both the front and rear axles receive power from the engine, allowing for better traction and control on varying terrains. Unlike traditional two-wheel drive vehicles where only one set of wheels receives power, 4x4s distribute power evenly among all four wheels.

The first component necessary for a 4×4 vehicle’s operation is the transfer case. This gear-driven box is typically located between the transmission and front driveshaft. Its primary function is to take power from the engine and distribute it evenly between the front and rear axles. The transfer case also allows drivers to switch between different driving modes such as high or low range depending on the terrain being traversed.

The next essential component in a 4×4 vehicle’s functioning is the differential. Located inside each axle housing, differentials allow for varying wheel speeds when turning corners while still delivering equal torque to all wheels. Without differentials, turning would be extremely difficult as both sets of wheels would rotate at identical speeds.

To further enhance its capability off-road, many 4×4 vehicles come equipped with locking differentials. These mechanisms lock both sets of wheels on an axle together so that they turn at an equal speed regardless of traction levels. This feature allows for maximum grip and prevents slipping or spinning on uneven or slippery surfaces.

Most modern 4×4 vehicles also feature electronic controls such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control systems (TCS). These technologies help to distribute power evenly between wheels, prevent wheel lockup during braking, and limit wheel spin on slippery surfaces.

Advantages and disadvantages of 4×4 vehicles

4×4 vehicles, also known as four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), are designed to provide power and traction to all four wheels simultaneously. This type of vehicle has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to handle various terrains and weather conditions. However, like any other type of vehicle, there are both advantages and disadvantages to owning a 4×4 vehicle.


1. Improved Traction: The main advantage of a 4×4 vehicle is its ability to provide better traction on slippery or uneven roads. By sending power to all four wheels, rather than just two, the tires have more grip on the road surface which can be especially useful in wet, snowy, or muddy conditions.

2. Off-Road Capability: With their enhanced traction and ground clearance, 4×4 vehicles are well-suited for off-road adventures. They can easily navigate through rough terrain such as rocks, sand dunes, and steep inclines that would be difficult for a regular two-wheel drive vehicle.

3. Increased Stability: The distribution of power among all four wheels also helps improve stability while driving on highways or winding roads. This makes 4×4 vehicles a safer option for long-distance journeys or when carrying heavy loads.


1. Higher Cost: One major disadvantage of owning a 4×4 vehicle is its higher cost compared to two-wheel drive vehicles. The addition of extra components such as differentials and transfer cases means that these vehicles are generally more expensive upfront and may require more expensive maintenance in the long run.

2. Lower Fuel Efficiency: Due to their larger size and heavier weight, most 4×4 vehicles tend to have lower fuel efficiency compared to smaller cars or even traditional SUVs. This is because they require more energy to move all four wheels simultaneously.

3. Increased Wear and Tear: The complex nature of four-wheel drive systems means that there are more components that can break down or require maintenance. This can result in higher repair costs and potential downtime for the vehicle.

Some Popular 4×4 Models

1) Jeep Wrangler: The Jeep Wrangler is an iconic 4×4 model that has been a favorite among off-roading enthusiasts since its debut in the late 1980s. Its boxy shape, removable doors and roof, and impressive off-road capabilities make it a top choice for those looking for an adventure vehicle.

2) Toyota Land Cruiser: The Toyota Land Cruiser is a legendary off-road vehicle that has been in production since the 1950s. It has gained a reputation for reliability and durability in even the toughest terrains. With advanced features like Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and Multi-Terrain Select, this 4×4 is ready to take on any challenge.

3) Ford F-150 Raptor: The Ford F-150 Raptor is not your average pickup truck – with its powerful engine options, reinforced chassis, and specialized suspension system, it can conquer any terrain with ease. This high-performance truck has won numerous awards and continues to be one of the most sought-after 4×4 models on the market.

4) Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Originally designed as a military vehicle in the 1970s, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has evolved into one of the most luxurious yet capable 4×4 models available today. With its iconic boxy design and state-of-the-art technology like three locking differentials and adjustable ride height control, this vehicle can handle both city streets and rough terrain effortlessly.

5) Land Rover Defender: The Land Rover Defender is another classic 4×4 model that has stood the test of time. With its rugged exterior and advanced off-road features like Terrain Response 2, this vehicle is a favorite among adventure seekers and has been used in various expeditions around the world.

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