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This is Why Jeeps Have Two Shifters

This is Why Jeeps Have Two Shifters

The dual shift levers in the floor are as much a part of the Jeep model as the Wrangler body style or removable canvas top. They might be a bit off-putting for those who have never driven a Jeep, but they are essential parts of what makes it such an excellent vehicle for towing and driving off-road. So why do Jeeps have two shifters?

The two shifters in the Jeep work the transmission and engage the four-wheel-drive modes. Jeep has high and low functioning gears for making the trips up and downhills. The smaller shifter operates the gears while the larger engages the transmission.

Why do Jeeps Have Two Shifters?

The Jeep was designed to move troops around in areas that might be hard to navigate on foot. That means that it must be able to climb steep hills while also being able to get back down those same hills. That means that it must switch from high to low gear modes without leaving the vehicle.

The secondary handle is responsible for making the shift from low to high geared modes of four-wheel drive. Each allows the Jeep to create the torque needed for extra footing on roads covered with snow or rocks.

The Modes of Four-Wheel Drive Serve Different Purposes

Some people see the modes on the shifter switch and could be confounded by which modes to use at the appropriate times. This is understandable as some modern cars have a full-time four-wheel-drive that requires no driver’s special operations.

The modes of four-wheel drive are:

  • 4H (High)
  • 4L (Low)
  • Automatic

Each mode serves a purpose that allows the driver to get around obstacles or plow through patches of ice while keeping their footing.

Speed is a huge determining factor in which modes you use. So be prepared to stop and allow for the 4×4 to engage before tearing out on your next trail.

4H is a High Gear Used for Moving at Greater Speed

When folks see the 4H label on their indicator switch, they automatically think it is for moving at higher speeds, partly right. However, most auto manufacturers agree that you should not go faster than 55mph while the 4H mode is engaged.

  • The 4H is used for those areas where the ground could have a slick surface, making it hard for the Jeep to get traction.
  • This mode is great for roads that could be covered with winter snow and ice or for areas with little to grab onto.

Using 4L Allows for Climbing and Hauling.

When you need that serious moving power, you should lock your Jeep into 4L or 4 Low. For example, if you are hauling your sizeable 5th wheel camper around some scenic campground, you could need to use 4L to get the beast of a trailer on site.

  • The Jeeps you see bogged down in the mud are also using 4L.
  • You can’t travel that fast in Low as the gears are so strong that they concentrate on moving the vehicle steadily and slowly instead of rapidly.
  • However, the extra power from 4L is tons of fun to play around with, and you can even climb rocks with certain low geared Jeeps.

Automatic Mode adds an Electronic Component to the Four-Wheel Drive System.

Automatic four-wheel drive communicates with the vehicle to create a mode that is both two and four-wheel drive. This makes it easier for people who could be unfamiliar with how 4WD works.

The mode is going to be a healthy mix of all types of traction. It relies on the slip detection in the wheels to engage the appropriate 4×4 mode.

While automatic isn’t going to be the first choice for those familiar with 4WD, there are tons of people who depend on the mode to keep their Jeep from sliding off the side of a snow mountain during winter or to cross a flooded creek in the springtime.

Different Modes of Four-Wheel Drive Offered by Jeep

One of the great things about the merger between Chrysler and Daimler was that innovation from Mercedes made its way into the design of the Jeep. For example, in the early 2000s, they began to offer several different modes of four-wheel drive that might not have been available on the model since its inception.

Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive is a Top Draw for Some Jeep Buyers

Full-time four-wheel drive is an option that most Jeep buyers search for. It gives them the safety of all-wheel traction while also giving a top-notch performance on the highway. The full-time option takes any guesswork out of driving and powers the suspension as needed to overcome any obstacle it could encounter.

One of the biggest downfalls of this type of Jeep is that there isn’t a 4L or Four Low modes. That means that driving will work great for rough road conditions but could fall short if you need to climb a mountain or get yourself out of a dried-up creek bed.

Maintenance for the Two Shifters on Your Jeep

Even if you never intend to take your Jeep off-road, you should occasionally check the shifters to ensure they are in proper working condition. There aren’t many tools involved in the process, but you might want to check with a Jeep-certified mechanic to get the kinks ironed out if there are issues.

Some ways to check the shifters are:

  • Pull the Lever – Before you start the vehicle, you should move the 4×4 lever to see if it has any grinding or is hard to force into place. Any problems could mean that the four-wheel-drive doesn’t engage, and you could be stuck.
  • Engage the Drive – Once you have determined that the lever will move freely, you should crank the vehicle and shift it into the four-wheel-drive modes. Drive a few feet, forward and back, to ensure that the tires pull and the gearing is lowered.

Doing a regular maintenance check is going to extend the life of your Jeep. One of the bad things about owning the model is that it can take a beating and require constant repair. So get out ahead of it by checking the shifters and all other equipment inside the vehicle.


There are two shifters in the Jeep to control the transmission and engage the vehicle into four-wheel drive mode. These modes help the driver travel through any type of terrain in any kind of weather or conditions.

Some of the modes offered by Jeep can make the 4×4 function without the aid of a second shifter. Check the levers for functionality regularly to ensure that the 4×4 continues to operate at peak capacity.

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