We're an affiliate.
We hope you love the products/services we recommend on Just Van Life! So you know, there is the possibility we will collect a commission should you make a purchase via any of our links. This will in no way affect the purchase price. Thank you for your support, we really appreciate it!
When it comes to our vans, many of us treat them as an extension of our family. There is nothing we wouldn’t do to treat our vans well and give them the finest luxuries life has to offer.
But often put our vans to test as if we are ignoring Top Gear’s don’t try this at-home warning and seeing just what our vans can do. Whether it’s for camping, working, or driving on a range of terrains, many of us have been sitting in our vans wondering wouldn’t it be easier with the 4-wheel drive?
Usually reserved for cars and trucks, thousands of us feel left out, neglected, and wondering, is there a van with the 4-wheel drive? Well, it’s what we are here to find out! We will track down any vans with a four-wheel drive and investigate if you can convert your van to a four-wheel-drive too! Without further ado, let’s get into it!
What is 4-Wheel Drive?
For those in the room that needs a recap, a four-wheel drive refers to a two-axle vehicle. Four-wheel drive has enough torque to deliver to all of its wheels simultaneously. Four-wheel drive can be used all the time or on-demand depending on the functions on the gear stick or the transfer case fitted in the vehicle.
Four-wheel drives are often used for off-road driving, as they are powerful enough to conquer a range of terrain without putting pressure on the driver or the rest of the vehicle. You might also hear four-wheel drive referred to as all-wheel drive, where enough torque is supplied to both axles simultaneously.
There is little difference between the two, but generally speaking, four-wheel drive refers to the components and functions intended for off-road application rather than the vehicle in general.
Now that we are thoroughly refreshed let’s get onto the hunt for vans with four-wheel drive!
Do any Vans have 4-Wheel Drive?
Yes, there are vans out there with four-wheel drive, but they are few and far between. As it stands, Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer of a four-wheel drive (4WD) van, their Sprinter.
While the choice is limited at the moment, that looks set to change! Ford has recently released their AWD (all-wheel drive) Ford Transit. While it is technically not a 4WD, you can still enjoy the torque on both axles and achieve the off-road drive you’ve been craving.
These vans aren’t too expensive either; they don’t cost much more than the representative stock models, so if you want a new van, why not look at these models? With these models being some of the most popular for camper vans, you are sure to be pleased with your selection and find it suits your needs.
Now, you might be wondering what the difference is between 4WD and AWD. We touched on it a little earlier, but there is a little more to it that can be helpful when deciding between a 4WD and AWD.
A four-wheel drive, as we have seen, can be driven with two wheels but has the option to switch over the 4WD when you need that extra torque. Not only is it great for off-road driving, but driving up steep inclines, snow, or gravel too.
On the other hand, the all-wheel drive uses four wheels to propel the car, van, or truck at all times. There is no choice; the four-wheel drive is continually running. While this means you never need to worry about switching over, using a four-wheel drive continually does result in higher gas consumption. It’s worth weighing up these factors before making your decision.
What about minivans?
You might be wondering, now that we have covered vans, what about minivans? Well, at present, there aren’t any minivans on the market that offer 4WD or AWD. That could change in the future, but you will have to be mindful of any tricky driving areas until that time.
Thankfully, there are some alternatives you can explore that will allow you to enhance your off-road driving game! While it might not seem that way, there are a few ways you can drive on a range of terrains without using 4WD. It’s all in your slow drive, grip, and paying attention to your surroundings. Keep reading to find out how you can do this!
What effects offroad Driving?
As we have mentioned, 4WD makes off-road driving a breeze. You’ve got the torque to tackle tougher terrains or adverse weather conditions without causing any unnecessary pressure to your vehicle.
But that doesn’t mean you can drive as normal! You can cause serious mechanical damage to your vehicle if you are not taking the necessary precautions when driving off-road or in adverse weather conditions.
Most vehicles aren’t designed for off-road driving, and that includes vans. So what happens when we go off-road and how can we reduce any impact on our vehicle?
When driving off-road, our suspension can take a bashing. Just like when you hit a speed bump too fast, you need to take care of your speed to avoid causing expensive damage to your suspension. The same applies when your tires lift off the ground; damage to your suspension can be caused, don’t forget to keep focused and drop the speed needed!
Speaking of tires, when you are driving off-road, you need the right tire for the job. Typically, wider and taller tires are used for 4WD or off-road driving. These tires should have a deeper tread that will offer a better grip to help with rough terrains or adverse weather conditions. If you are unsure what tires you need for your vehicle, it’s best to consult a mechanic.
Ground clearance is another factor that you need to be aware of. If your vehicle is high off the ground, you are less likely to scrape against rocks or other debris on the ground. When it comes to off-road driving, higher clearance is best.
You will also want to keep your gears low, just like driving in the snow. Low and slow applies to off-road driving. The lower your gear is, the more control you will have over the vehicle and avoid accidents when driving on uneven surfaces.
Even when all four tires propel the vehicle, you still need to keep these factors in mind for a smooth and safe driving experience. Without using all four wheels, these factors will also be helpful and keep your van on the ground.
It’s worth mentioning that vans aren’t built for off-road driving, and you should take care to avoid causing damage. Even with a conversion kit and following all the above suggestions, your van will not perform the same way a truck will.
Can I convert my van to 4-Wheel Drive?
You can convert your van to 4WD! There are conversion kits you can purchase to adjust your vehicle so that all four wheels will propel the van compared to the standard two. These kits can be very expensive, though, and you will need to ensure you have the make, model, and specifications of your van correct to avoid purchasing an incorrect kit.
It’s not a cheap option, but one some van users opt for if they drive in snow, mud, sand, or gravel frequently. The four-wheel drive will give you the extra torque that makes driving in these scenarios easier.
For those that don’t want to part with a hefty chunk of their hard-earned cash, we have some alternative solutions that we think you will love! Save yourself some cash and take a look at these options.
Alternatives to Converting Your Van
You can try out some alternatives for those that don’t want to fork out for a 4WD conversion. You can try these with the suggestions we mentioned earlier for driving or incorporate some with the alternatives below.
It might take a few different combinations to find the method of off-road driving that suits you and your van. Be sure to remain safe when driving off-road and consult a mechanic if you make changes to your van and need some assistance.
You can begin by changing the tires if needed to get more control and traction. As we mentioned earlier, you can consult your mechanic for advice on the ones that will best fit your van and its existing suspension. Changing the tires can make a considerable difference when driving through snow or on slippery or icy surfaces. Often, for those looking for more control in adverse weather conditions, this change can be enough.
If not, we have some fantastic choices for you below!
Snow chains are common addition owners make to their vans. These are handy for everyone, whether you live in adverse weather locations or not. Especially in the winter, you will be grateful for the set of snow chains in your trunk!
Generally, snow chains are an affordable purchase and widely available too. We recommend making this one of your first changes and noting the difference when driving in snow.
Tire socks are another fantastic option that you can consider. Similar to snow chains, tire socks wrap around your tire and provide far more traction than regular tires. Tire socks have a snug fit than snow chains, lowering the sound, so they aren’t as noticeable as snow chains. They are an option those after a quieter drive often pursue.
Another option to consider are tire claws. They aren’t as common and don’t last as long as the other options we have mentioned, but users report fantastic results with them! They are quick and easy to put on, saving you time if you have to put them on the roadside last minute!
It’s worth weighing these factors and selecting the best alternative for you if you consider any of these.
And just like that, we have reached the end of our article today! As you will have seen, 4WD has its uses when driving off-road, but it is not the be-all and end-all. There are several options you can pursue to enhance your vans off-road game.
As always, be sure to take care when driving, and remember to consult a mechanic if you are making any structural changes to your van.