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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've read though many previous posts about the Transit AWD benefits, particularly on the road in snowy conditions. These are usually compared to experiences with the open differential RWD transit. I'd like to get a slightly different take.

After reading various blog posts and watching youtube videos I've tried to get a keyboard warrior perspective on limitations of AWD drive and how far you can push a 2WD vehicle off road. After seeing videos and posts of the conditions that can get the AWD Transit stuck, I'm not convinced that it offers a huge difference in traction over a locked rear. In fact, after watching several youtube videos of 2WD trucks showing the capability of putting the differential in lock mode, I wonder if this offers a slight edge over a full time AWD system. This comes from watching videos of stuck AWD vehicles with one wheel spinning on each axle. I compare this to videos showing a stuck 2WD truck with one rear wheel spinning before engaging the locker and with two wheels moving on the on the same axel, the truck gets unstuck pretty quick.

I get the advantages of the automatic AWD with better traction on wet paved roads, etc, but I'm curious more about other peoples thoughts on the scenario above.

As an aside, I'm conflicted because the techy side of me wants to justify spending the extra money on a new AWD Transit, but the pragmatic side finds it very tempting to pick up a used van and drop a pneumatic or electronic locking differential in it.

Thanks!
 

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2019 T-350 HR 148 Extended 3.5 EB, Full time 2 person build, Chinese Heater, Victron, 525 AH Lithium
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I’m curious for folks opinions here. I like your challenge to the status quo belief here. Lockers make a massive difference but as you clearly stated are going to be limited to off-road scenarios. You laid a very specific scenario - there are a lot of tangentially relevant factors around the edges here that could be a factor too. A few that coins make a big difference in the comparison:
-How many wheels are in contact with the ground?
-How much ground clearance do you have? (Is that why your stuck?
-Are approach or departure angles a relevant factor? (Especially with the longer transits)
-Winches and associated recovery gear

Great discussion.
 

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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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Of course, if you ordered an AWD, you'd order it /with/ LSD. Since that's what I'm running, I have no comparison. But it's been amazingly solid on snow and ice so far. Two sets of cables have stayed in the van - not on the wheels - so far.
 

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Lockers are great in hardcore off road action (read walking speed, very low traction) and when you get stuck.

However, in almost every other situation AWD or even RWD with LSD is far, far better. Lockers interfere with things like turning and you can actually damage a locker by driving with them locked when there is a lot of traction.

If you go with a locker, you will use it 1% of the time. Maybe 2% if you off road a lot. A LSD will be there whenever you need it; ice, snow, rain, greasy roads, mud, or whatever. No switch to flip, no worries making a u turn, it's always there and ready. Additionally, with many LSDs, (not Ford, but Eaton for example) you can simulate a locker by using your handbrake if one wheel is spinning. This will slow the spinning wheel and activate the LSD to try to spin the wheel that has traction.

Lockers have their place, and they're unbeatable for what they do. But they're not for general driving purposes.
 

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I'm all about challenging the norm, and thinking creatively. I mention the locker/traction device option in this "Suspension lifts...why are they the first mod considered for off-road use? (an apples & oranges comparison)" thread.

Without knowing your location, and how your van will be driven, it's a bit hard to say. I'm from Michigan, and am plenty comfortable driving a 2WD vehicle through winters, whether that be FWD or RWD. Results may vary, given your locale and driving conditions. I did drive an AWD Honda Element for the last few years, and it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that my teenage daughter, who now owns the Element, has AWD. I wasn't ridiculously impressed with the "value add" for an experienced driver, though, at least with the Honda AWD system. Suburus seem to have the AWD systems down, though.

So the question is, all things equal, what is the upcharge for AWD on a Transit vs. a 2WD plus the installed traction device cost? From an availability standpoint, I wouldn't hesitate a bit to look for a RWD Transit, and modify it to suit your needs. I'm convinced that 80% of the people who are all hot to get an AWD don't really need AWD. Just my $0.02.

Craig
 

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Lockers are great in hardcore off road action (read walking speed, very low traction) and when you get stuck.

However, in almost every other situation AWD or even RWD with LSD is far, far better. Lockers interfere with things like turning and you can actually damage a locker by driving with them locked when there is a lot of traction.
While that can be true, it isn't necessarily so, given the limited information mentioned by the OP.

jtx73, there's a great 2WD overlanding thread on expeditionportal.com. I think you'll find split opinions on the topic wherever you go. There are definitely trade-offs, and every application is somewhat unique depending on the driver, and intended use.

Craig
 

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I spent a lot of time researching lockers vs trutrac on the overland forums. The consensus was that for a transit van a trutrac was the way to go. The van would be limited by departure angle, clearance, stability etc... before it got in a situation where a locker would provide something the trutrac couldn't. Also, there is something about how the traction control system would help automatically activate the trutrac eliminating the need for the old e brake trick. I'm firmly in the trutrac over locker camp now and curious about the original posters questiom with regards to AWD.
 

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In the last 2 weeks I've driven up fully iced mountain roads that were stopping 2WD vehicles and out of a fully plowed in parking lot trough 18 inches of snow.

AWD w/ Slippery Mode for the win. Never a doubt.
 

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Lifted AWD with LSD 265/75/16 AT's in mud/rut mode (automatically disables tcs) is golden on very long sections of very deep sand going uphill. Also drives great on highway and only requires a button click to put it back into intelligent AWD.

With LSD in mud/rut and tcs off I get a minimum of three powered wheels in all conditions, four most of the time assuming you have even a little momentum, and it's all covered under manufacturer warranty.

No way I'd buy RWD. Resale value alone will probably cover half the cost someday.

See last post in link in my signature for documented sand traversing. Will document mud next time I encounter it.

Cheers.
 

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The original question was performance in mud. So spare us the snow, ice, number of wheels on the ground responses. Does anyone have experience in mud?
 

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Why would anyone order a AWD/4x4 without LSD? What has this world come to?
 

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The original question was performance in mud. So spare us the snow, ice, number of wheels on the ground responses. Does anyone have experience in mud?
IME, in anything soft, such as mud, sand, deep snow etc.... awd/4wd is superior than 2wd with a locker.

Without the front having some drive, it just sinks, is dead weight and now you are trying to plow the front of the vehicle through. Having some drive front and rear in these situations makes a huge difference.

The only situation the 2wd with locker is better is on level to uphill where you lift a wheel on relatively hard pack dirt, over rock etc.....

Basically, when you have decent traction and get crossed up lifting wheels, the locker works great.

Factory awd comes with rear lsd.
 

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The AWD is an impressive snow vehicle. I've used mine as a daily driver I work at 5 am every morning. with the stock tires it does very well in up to 8 inches of snow.
That being said this is about mud. There is no way that the 2wd is better in mud until you are getting into very low traction and wheelspin is helping u make it across. If you cannot make it where you are going in the awd. Its probably not best to take your transit through there. Maybe a full 4x4 conversion or overlanding is what you are looking for.
If money is the problem and you are dead set on the awd isn't worth it, I feel like the thread wont change your mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for all the great replies. Per my interest in buying a Transit I disappeared into the wilderness just after posting this Friday. I should fill in some perspective regarding this:

Without knowing your location, and how your van will be driven, it's a bit hard to say...

So the question is, all things equal, what is the upcharge for AWD on a Transit vs. a 2WD plus the installed traction device cost?
Craig
I'm in South Carolina so our adventures (family of four) have taken us down to the everglades and up through Appalachia.

On paved road I don't expect to be driving through any adverse conditions such as sleet/snow, mudslide or lava flows. I lived most of my life in Wisconsin so I am well aware of the challenges of winter driving. I sold my winter tires/wheels, snowblower and shovel assortment before moving to the south.

My FWD Mitsubishi Outlander has made it through the sandy-soil forest roads of the pine forests in this region but luck has been on my side and it's been relatively dry going in and out. There have been some patches were I know if we encountered any substantial rain I'd be in trouble with a weighed-down FWD SUV. My first vehicle at 16 was RWD '85 Suburban and I know that beast would become useless on anything but dry pavement so I'd expect similar limitation with an open differential RWD Transit. Even in dry conditions I would not bring such a vehicle down the roads I've encountered thus far.

The capability I'm aiming for is to have the ability to step-up the traction when conditions get dicey. I'd want a major improvement over a RWD open diff with just a slight improvement over my FWD SUV. Basically, any driving condition where one would engage a part-time 4WD system. This is why I'm considering a locker. If an LSD like the Eaton Truetrac or G80 MLocker that I've started to research would get me there I'd be open to that route too. In my region, on paved roads, the RWD/open diff would be fine, but I wouldn't regret an additional benefit of something like the Truetrac for wet conditions.

So why not just go with AWD? It's really a cost issue. There are many RWD Transits on the used market with <50k miles at the $25k price point. With AWD being new in 2020, it's looking like a $40k-$50k cost to play. I'm not necessarily against this jump to AWD but I just want to do some critical research since it would be a lot cheaper to buy used even after getting a customized differential, better tires and even a lift.
 

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The AWD gives a lot of people peace of mind and that’s what sales and marketing departments make people believe they need if they want to go anywhere. But in my opinion all-terrain tires with a locking diff such as a truetrac and on onboard compressor so the tires can be aired down will do just as well or better than a stock awd system, and with the OEM tires. This is my setup and I’ve gone on some gnarly trails where the biggest problems I had was cutting tree branches from the trail because it’s not to often large vehicles like mine go through some of these trails. That being said I would like to install a 4wd kit so that I could have a low gear for going up some of the really steep stuff (the stock awd doesn’t have a low gear). I often encounter really step stuff going to some paragliding launch sites, but now I just hike instead.
 
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