View Full Version : Importance of 4x4 for towing/camping?

09-14-2006, 11:35 AM
Hi - How important is it to have a 4x4 when camping/towing in a BigHorn? I plan to buy a new F250 and BigHorn, and my only remaining decision is whether to get a 4x4 or 4x2. I've never even been in a campground before! Do most campgrounds have paved or well graveled roads and camp sites, or are some of them "mud pits" (after a rain)? I doubt I'll ever get "too" adventurous by driving into very challenging areas. But I would like to be able to travel to Alaska/Canada and camp in national/state parks as well as commercial places.

My pride could probably handle getting stuck once every 3 years, but I definitely don't want to worry about it all the time. I don't mind spending the extra money for a 4x4, but am concerned from the standpoint of the extra weight (thus lower towing capacity), lower fuel mileage and more potential maintenance issues (I've never owned a 4x4 before, much less an RV). Also, I'm assuming they fit under a 7 ft garage door (noticed the heights of Ford 4x4 are only 2-3 inches shy of 7 ft - hopefully those heights are precise). I'm interested in other people's opinions.


09-14-2006, 01:05 PM
Hi Gary,

You should get plenty of feedback on this one and I will give you mine. All the points you made seem valid to me. But in the end, your decision may be driven by many factors.

I went with a 4x2. Here were my reasons:

- 6" lower to the ground for door entry. Important for my wife.
- Less items to maintain (transfer case etc.)

That said, I do love 4x4s and have had many of them. And they come in real handy in a campground when parking on grass after it has rained a lot. And there are many other reasons to have a 4x4 outside of using it with an RV.

Still, I have no regrets with my 4x2 decision. Depending on the market that I sell the truck in down the road, I could take a value hit by not being 4x4 but I'll fret over that in a few years.


09-14-2006, 01:33 PM
Hi Gary

Just a few thoughts on a 4x4. We have a 1997 Dodge diesel Ram 2500 4x4. Had it before we got our 3500 RL Bighorn. Pulled a 30' travel trailer before the BH. It is a little high to get into, but step on your truck helps a lot. Anyway we have used the 4x4 a couple of times when we got into an unexpected snowstorm with ice, as well as parking at a couple campgrounds when you are backing up hill especially.
As for fuel mileage we are more than pleased. We tow our unit at about 55 to 60 mph (have more time than money) and we get between 12 and 14 mpg. The worst we got was just a hair over 11 mpg. To date we have pulled our 5fer about 6600 miles and will be leaving for in 4 weeks for our 5 month snowbirding.
Hope this helps
Steve and Sharon Vondracek

09-14-2006, 02:00 PM
Jim and Steve

Thanks for the feedback. Can you give me a rough idea of the "fuel mileage penalty" I will have with a 4x4 versus 4x2 (all other things equal)? For instance, 20-30% less mpg? I'm sure it depends on many things, I'm only looking for a rough-order-magnitude estimate.


09-14-2006, 03:34 PM
Hello GaryB,

Our Trip to Alaska wasn't towing our Fifth Wheel but was with a 9 1/2 Foot Silde in Truck Camper. We drove over 15,000 miles on that trip. Our trip took us through Canada and the beautiful parks of Banff and Jasper. We then drove through Yukon and over the "Top of the World Highway" going into Alaska. We spend all of July and half of August in Alaska. Never once did I find the need for a 4X4 truck. Never once was there a question of getting stuck.

Our truck is a 02' Chevy Duramax Diesel, extended cab 4X2. We tow full time a 31 foot Fifth Wheel. We camp when we can in Army corp. Parks or National Forest Camp Grounds. We have spend time in the desert of Arizona far off the paved road... never once did we wish we had a 4X4.

I bought this truck with the thought.... if I need a 4X4... I'm camping in the wrong Place !!

Smokey (Marv) Bare

09-14-2006, 04:01 PM
You'll probably get by with the 4x2:) . Although I will say this a 4x4 is sure nice when you need it:D . The difference in fuel milage will be 1-2 mpg's.


09-14-2006, 04:53 PM
I have 4wd, but have never really needed it when camping. I do have a sort of steep driveway I back the trailer into, and I use Low lock 4wd for that. We also tow a 30 foot snowmobile trailer in the winter, so I wouldn't be without it!

09-14-2006, 06:58 PM
We have a 4x4 because we go to motorcycle rallies with our Cyclone and camp out in fields alot. But we do not have to use 4 wheel very often.

09-14-2006, 07:04 PM
One big reason for the 4X4 is the low range. I have free spin front hubs (built like full floating rears, nice and beefy) (the original hubs on the new trucks are very light duty, however this is good for another discussion) back to this topic, so with the free spin hubs, I can pull in low range 2 wheel drive. This is great for backing, the truck creeps, and I mean creeps. Just this last weekend, I needed 4 wheel drive to get out of the campground. Again low range is real nice to creep out of the site and up steep hill. I like to camp were there is no black top!

09-14-2006, 07:06 PM
We recently spent 12 days in Upper Michigan camping with our Bighorn 3055RL mostly in State parks. In two parks we did need 4WD to get out of the camp sites. They had heavy rain a few days before we came and the ground was grass over clay.....very slick plus it was an uphill tow to get out of the sites. I tried 2WD in both cases and merely spun both the rear wheels. Slipped into 4WD Low range and waltzed out with no problem. As others might have said it depends where you are camping, most State Parks in Michigan are grass/dirt sites and when dry, probably you may not have a problem. To us the added expense of 4WD isn't that great and we can and will use it year round. The lower(?) fuel mileage is insignificant. In all the 4WD trucks I've had over the years, I've NEVER had a power train problem because it was a 4WD drive vehicle. Additional maintenance needed because the truck is 4WD is really negligable.....mainly transfer case fluid level check and change when needed.

Another plus with a 4WD drive vehicle here where we live is they sell easier and will bring you more value on sale or trade.

Oh....one bad thing if you have 4WD is being asked to pull people out from being stuck.


Tom of Ypsi
09-14-2006, 08:13 PM
I have four wheel drive because I need it. I own 40 acres in northern lower Michigan on a two track 9/10 of a mile off of any type of road. Tough going during most deer seasons and just wanting to get away. I have used 4x4 twice while camping, once on a wet grassy surface and once to help someone else. Fuel milage difference is not that significant, 1 - 2 miles per gallon on the open road.

09-14-2006, 08:26 PM
With the lockout (free spin hubs) the fuel mileage is the same as 2x4. The front drive train is not spinning. The best of both worlds. :)

09-14-2006, 08:29 PM
I have a 4x4 duramax, and have had to use it few times over the last two years. But it will be your decision as to what you think you need. One good point would be if you have it and you need it than all is right. I do not know what the fuel mileage difference is because I have always had a 4x43 when pulling a trailer.

09-15-2006, 07:31 AM
I have to agree with fireflipper, dieselengineer and Tom. We have 72 acres in Oklahoma and when you need it you have it, sure beats a come-along or waiting on a tow truck. One thing about Oklahoma when it snows, they use road graders to clear the snow. When they decide to clear it. *L* That wet grass will get you every time like Tom posted! Good luck on your choice! :)

09-16-2006, 11:08 AM
I have had 2 4X2's and was a strong advocate of not needing a 4X4, but twice in the last year I needed it. Once I got out OK but the second time I needed a little tow from my neighbor who had a 4X4. Next time I would probably go with the 4X4. I had a devil of a time selling my first truck, (trade would have been brutal), I sold it privately but came down a lot. Everybody wants a 4X4. Now I would say go for the 4X4..../Doug

09-16-2006, 03:17 PM
DieselEngineer - can you explain what you mean by "lockout" ("free spin") hubs which give as good of mpg mileage as 4x2? I've not heard of them before (then again I've never owned a 4x4 before). Are they also called something else? I'm trying to match that terminology to some available option or feature to see if it's available on the Ford F250.


09-16-2006, 07:08 PM
My Ford 350 has them. With Ford's system, if you have a switch on the dash to engage 4wd, you have pneumatic hubs, and they don't free wheel very well. (and have had some reliability problems)

You want to find a Ford that has the shift lever on the floor for 4wd, 2wd, 4wd low. This drive train has the "fully unlocking" hubs

09-16-2006, 08:37 PM
Thanks Kognito!

So do I understand correctly that "fully unlocking" hubs are the ones with no mileage penalty? Are they the ones that are currently proivded on the 2006/2007 Ford F250? Iíve done some research so far, but havenít run across that terminology at all as far as whatís on the window sticker. Hopefully theyíve not had any major problems.

Thanks again

09-17-2006, 08:13 AM
Gary, this is what I found when I was searching dealer lots for fords. All fords have adjustable hubs. On the trucks that have the knob on the dash for "electronic shift on fly" (185 dollars on the sticker) the hubs are labeled "locked and auto"

On trucks that have the free running hubs, you have the shift level on the floor. No extra charge of the window sticker, and the hubs are labeled "free and locked"

A ford service writer told me that there have been some problems with the Automatic hubs. The problem is with the pneumatic system that does the automatic locking and unlocking hanging up, and then requires a rebuild or replacement. It is not a huge problem, but it does happen.

So I guess you have to answer two questions. . . do I need 4X4 and do I want shift on fly. 4X2 and manual 4X4 can save you some fuel, and 185 dollars. (actually 4X2 will save you much more than 185 dollars)


09-17-2006, 07:46 PM
My choice ,that is if I had a choice . would be the 4x4 with the manual hubs.You can allways engage (manually) the hubs ahead of time and then use the stick inside the cab to do the 'shift on the fly' or if on wet grass or some unforseen circumstance ,just get out of the truck and rotate the hub knob. Ford is the only one to offer the manual hubs and they are almost bullet proof..

09-17-2006, 08:11 PM
Thanks alot for the advice. Sorry to sound dense, but I have never owned a 4x4 before and know very little about them (although I'm learning thanks to these posts).

Last question - if I simply order a 4x4 Ford F250 without the "electronic shift on fly" option, does that mean that I'll receive the manual hubs? Or is there more to ordering manual hubs than that?


09-17-2006, 09:12 PM
I would not let the hub thing scare you away from the auto hubs. I am on Ford #5 with this style of hub and only had one problem, a vacuum seal go that cost $150cdn to repair, and am constantly using 4x4 and driving on rough / bush roads.

Ken Washington
09-17-2006, 09:18 PM
Let me see if I can start something here! If you were to buy a Chevy you would have no problems! Just kidding Ford owners!!!!!!!

09-17-2006, 09:45 PM
I kinda agree with Ken--but it should be a GMC! Seriously though, I have had 0 problems with mine, use 4 wheel drive every day up the road to my house, 90K miles on it. One of my builders has an 01 like mine, uses 4 wheel drive every day, and 170K on it, again 0 problems. It is probably as bad not to ever use it as it is to abuse it. I wouldn't have a PU without 4WD.

09-18-2006, 06:24 AM
Before you purchase any truck, I would do research on the vehicle that you are going to buy, like you are doing on your future 5er. I would go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Note: They are unbiased! You will be able to look up Consumer Complaints, Recalls, Technical Service Bulletins, safety recalls and Defect Investigations. Here is the website and good luck on your reasearch!