Just bought a 2012 Nissan Pathfinder LE. I live in Colorado where the weather can be pretty random and very location specific. This creates areas of the town where snow may be covered in some areas and areas have completely dry pavement.

Normally on my drive to work (30 minutes) on a snow day, I could be driving maybe 15 minutes over ice and snow and 15 over normal dry pavement. Alternates between maybe 2 minutes ice, 1 minute dry, 1 minute snow, etc. Pretty random depending on street I am on.

I've heard that putting my car in 4wd in dry pavements is bad but obviously changing every 2 minutes isn't ideal… Definitely a noob question but would this cause issues to my drive train or vehicle in general, driving in 4wd with these various road conditions?

1 Answer 1


That's an unfortunate scenario. While it's not the end of the world to use 4wd on pavement in your case, you would want to keep the speed low, and avoid tight turns--turn off 4wd if you are going to be going fast or turning tight.

But yeah, you are going to be wearing our parts of your drive train (I think transfer case in particular) using it like this. Ideally you should only be using 4wd in low traction scenarios. Honestly, an AWD system makes more sense for the conditions you describe; 4wd just isn't meant to be used in the way you're using it (always on, engage when necessary).

Edit: asker mentioned in comments that an 'auto' mode is available on his car, which is essentially a 'auto-engage 4wd upon slip detection' mode, which makes the most sense for his described use case.

  • Thank you for the response. Pretty much try to stay in 2wd unless the conditions presented are bad enough? First 4wd car so I am still figuring out the do's and don'ts. Follow up question based on your answer if I may, when you state tight turns, do you mean like a turn around a corner (45 degree turn?)?
    – IT_User
    Nov 29, 2016 at 14:47
  • Yeah, exactly. Basically, make your turns as wide as possible, if you must turn while in 4wd on pavement... But really try not to. Basically, you don't want the wheels turning at different speeds while in 4wd--you're binding their movement together at the transfer case, instead of letting a differential allow wheels to turn at different speeds. When there is a low traction situation, that's fine, they sort themselves out by spinning on the dirt/snow/whatever. On pavement, they just load up and apply back pressure and that's no bueno.
    – Kyle Baker
    Nov 29, 2016 at 16:23
  • Thank for, that definitely clears this up a considerable amount. As my car has "2wd, 4wd hi, 4wd lo, and auto", would "auto" be considered AWD in a sense and I should use this during the random weather around town? Sorry for the multiple questions, just trying not to destroy my newish car.
    – IT_User
    Nov 29, 2016 at 16:30
  • 1
    Ah! If you have an auto mode, use that. Some quick research shows on your model that it's not the same as AWD, but is essentially 'always 2wd, but if slip is detected, engages 4wd temporarily, then switches back to 2wd when stable again'. See awdwiki.com/en/nissan/#Pathfinder__2009_ &
    – Kyle Baker
    Nov 29, 2016 at 17:17
  • Have to disagree with the first part. If a 4x4 does not have a "full time" or automatic 4wd mode you should not use it at all on dry pavement. There is no going slow or avoiding turns. (I realize the OP doesn't have this issue)
    – agentp
    Dec 18, 2017 at 19:09

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