Can A 2wd Go Off-Road?

People throw the term off-roading around very freely. It conjures images of traveling up mountains, through narrow forest paths, across flowing rivers, and into the wide-open spaces. Most 4×4 vehicles are rarely driven in harsh off-road conditions. The question is, can a 2wd vehicle still go off-road?

2wd vehicles with sufficient ride height are surprisingly capable. They can travel over mud puddles, grassy fields, rocks, steep hills, dunes, and other surfaces that qualify as offroad conditions. If you have locking differentials, the times when a competent 4X4 vehicle is required are rare.

can a 2wd go off road

Unless you have the budget to buy numerous vehicles, choosing a suitable car means making compromises and requires a balance of capabilities. Choosing between a four-wheel-drive truck or SUV and its two-wheel-drive sibling will generally be a cost consideration. However, you do not have to compromise too much.

Two Wheel Drive Vehicles Can Be Used For Off-Roading

Interestingly, most four-wheel-drive vehicles are never used for genuine off-road activities. Let’s be honest the most challenging off-road situations thrown at the average four-wheel-drive car are mounting a curb or pavement during the school run or at the local mall to park as closely as possible.

More important than having each wheel connected to the gearbox is having a vehicle with sufficient clearance, good approach, and departure angles, with tires capable of traction on loose surfaces.

Most two-wheel-drive trucks have a differential locking capability that locks the differential. Both drive wheels move in concert.

Suitably set up, a two-wheel-drive vehicle with good off-roader attributes can be a capable machine. Even if you own a regular two-wheel-driven sedan car, you don’t need to shy away from having an adventure and creating a lifetime of memories. 

Just look at the example of the three drinking buddies in the United Kingdom. They, in 2011, decided to drive a London taxicab around the world. That vehicle, designed for pure about town driving, went to places and faced conditions that most four-wheel-drive cars will never meet.

What Would Be The Ideal 2WD Off-Road Vehicle?

Besides adding a four-wheel drive capability to the vehicle, the following are some suggested modifications that will create an excellent 2WD vehicle with impressive ability.

Tires, It’s All About The Tires Baby

The better grip the tires can exert, the better the vehicle’s off-road capabilities. Fitting appropriate tires will make all the difference.

There are four types of off-road tires that you can consider

  1. All-terrain tires
  2. Mud Tires
  3. Rock Tires
  4. Snow Tires

All-Terrain Tires are the most versatile for use off-road. They handle many different off-road environments but can also be used regularly in everyday situations on paved roads.

Mud Terrain Tires are part of a group of specialist off-road tires. They have wide track blocks with deep gulleys between the tread, which help them achieve traction in the muddiest conditions. Most mud tires actively clean themselves of any mud caught in the track.

Rock Tires are another tire category firmly in the specialist off-road tire group; Rock tires are rugged and designed around their abilities rather than their looks. Rock tires are often a multi-ply (or cross-ply) design.

They are very well reinforced, so they won’t easily puncture on sharp rock edges.

When you are using rock tires, you may be starting to enter the arena into the ambit of four-wheel drive.

The  Snow Tires name speaks for itself. They are only used in icy or snowy conditions.

Whatever you choose, suitable tires will materially change the off-road characteristics of your vehicle.

You Need Air, So Buy A Compressor

If you need traction, reducing air or increasing air pressure is what you need.

If you intend to travel on soft sand, reducing (air down) the tire pressure makes a huge difference. Reducing the air pressure to 5-7 psi increase the tire’s tread footprint. You will be surprised by the amount of grip you can achieve with the correct tire pressure. 

You will pass four-wheel drive vehicles that haven’t aired down. 

It’s never too late to air down, and even when the car is down on its axles, reducing the pressures may make the difference and allow you to drive out of the predicament.

To air down efficiently, you need to install a compressor on your vehicle.

Make Sure You Can Get Out Of The Muck

In the back of every well-equipped off-road vehicle should be the following items.

  1. A set recovery boards can be put under the tires to create some traction.
  2. recovery strap is essential; you can attach it to a fellow traveler’s vehicle, and with a couple of fast accelerating dramatic snaps, your vehicle will probably be set free.
  3. No one should go off-road with a shovel. The shovel is the most critical piece of the puzzle, and no self-respecting off-road traveler should be seen without one.

A Differential Locking Capability Is Very Useful

differential lockers

Whether you travel through sand, snow, mud, or anywhere else, the ability to lock the differential and stop the one wheel spinning ineffectively by itself is a massive help.

Differential locking kits are available that a competent DIY mechanic can install. 

You may not have access to a low-range gear – which is a pity – but the reality is that most 4X4 owners never use their low-range gears in anger.

A locking differential goes part way to fill in for this missing capability. 

Practice Makes Perfect

The difference between a competent off-road driver is practice and experience. 

A driver who has the requisite experience and skills will traverse surfaces in a 2WD vehicle, trap a less experienced driver in a competent four-wheel-drive car.

Go down to your local 4X4 club and ask for some help to obtain the skills you will need. There are even commercially available courses that you can join.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a 2WD go through mud?

Although not ideal this could be mucked with a 2wd. But it would require special vehicles that are not suitable to travel. The Mud of 2WD vehicles requires very aggressive Mud Terrain tires.

Can you drive on sand with 2WD?

You can drive 2 wheel-drive vehicles on sand. If the sand is soft, you’ll want to make sure you have your shovel and recovery boards on hand just in case.

Can I make my 2WD into a 4WD?

Yes 4WD will be possible to add to the truck produced initially with a 2WD drivetrain. There’s a significant amount of work involved to turn a 4 wheel-drive into a 2 wheel-drive. Depending on your situation, you may just want to buy something that is 4wd out of the gate.


Having a 2WD vehicle doesn’t mean that you cant go off-road. Most 2WD cars can closely match their 4WD siblings in most off-road activities even in a standard form.

A 2WD vehicle will never match the capabilities of a dedicated four-wheel drive-off-road machine, tackling brutal rock climbing exercises or similar. Still, it is improbable that the average owner will ever experience these conditions. For the rest, a 2WD vehicle with a decent ride height will equip itself well.

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.