Ford F-150/F-250: How to Make Your 2WD Perform Like a 4WD

Did you buy a 2WD Ford F-150 or Super Duty but now you wish you bought the 4WD? There are ways you can make your F150 or SUper Duty perform very close to the 4WD.

By Pizzaman711 - October 8, 2014

This article applies to the Ford F-150 (2004-2014) and F-250 Super Duty (2005-2014).

Having a 2WD truck can really limit what you can do and where you can go both on and off the road. While you’ll never be able to completely match the performance of a 4WD truck, there is some things you can do to help your F-150 or Super Duty truck keep up.

Step 1 - Weight

4WD offers two advantages you don’t have: two extra tires spinning and weight over the front tires to help with traction. Since your front tires aren’t powered, I recommend keeping the weight up front to a minimum. This means passing on those huge replacement bumpers and brush guards. Less weight up front means less chance the front end will just sink down.

For the rear end, 150-250 pounds of weight centered over the rear axle can greatly improve the rear end traction. This weight will help the rear end grab and will only cost you a couple dollars for some 50 pound bags of sand.

Step 2 - Lift kits

Ground clearance is key off road. Ground clearance allows you to avoid damaging components underneath your truck, avoid high-centering, and drive through deeper water. To gain clearance you’ll need to fit larger tires and to fit the tires you’ll need to add a lift kit.

Lift kits come in two varieties, body lifts and suspension lifts, with the latter being the best option. Body lifts do what they say, they only lift the body. This can be a cheap way to fit larger tires but still leaves the frame and anything attached to it hanging lower. Suspension lifts correct this issue by moving everything up that’s attached to the frame. They also come in larger sizes allowing for bigger tires.

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Step 3 - Tires

Tires will gain you ground clearance. Remember the clearance you gain is equal to the difference in new tire size minus the old tire size, then divided by two. For example, you had 30” tires, you switch to 35” tires, this will yield an increase of (35-30)/2 = 5/2 = 2.5”. On top of gaining ground clearance, tires can give you traction due to their tread pattern. I recommend getting tires suited for what you do. You can find tires specifically for mud, snow, rocks, sand, etc. Make sure you always read tire reviews when you're purchasing, this way you could learn exactly what conditions they were designed for.

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Step 4 - Re-gearing the rear axle

Re-gearing the rear axle can help you achieve a lower gear ratio to give you a better crawling gear. A crawling gear may be a little extreme for most drivers, but overall a lower ratio allows you to put more power to the rear tires with them spinning slower allowing you to maintain better traction. Depending on your factory gear ratio, re-gearing is a must for those who are changing tire sizes to retain power.

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Step 5 - Locking rear differential

A locking differential is the last main thing you can add to improve off road performance. What this will do is allow both tires to spin at the same time at the same speed. Most 2WD trucks will come with an open differential from factory which means both tires will spin until one tire starts to see load (aka stuck in the mud) and it will divert all power to the free wheel. Basically this means if your high centered at an angle and one rear tire is off the ground, all power will go to the wheel off the ground, which does you no good to get you unstuck.

Locking differentials come in a few different varieties including:

  • Limited Slip
    • These are great for the average daily driver.
    • It will stay unlocked until a wheel starts to lose traction, and then will lock itself to help distribute the power.
    • Will not provide 100% lockup under extreme load.
  • Manual Locking
    • Great for daily drivers as well due to being able to decide when to lock the rear axle.
    • Same concept as the limited slip, but you’ll have a button, lever, etc to use to decide when to lock the rear axle.
    • Provides 100% lockup under extreme load.
  • Automatic Locking
    • Similar to the limited slip, these require no interaction for them to engage.
    • Usually uses an electronic sensor to decide when to lock/unlock the rear axle.
    • Provides 100% lockup under extreme load.
  • Spool
    • Not recommend for road use or for making lots of turns.
    • Full time locked rear differential, sharp turns can cause the rear differential to break.

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