Tips for 4WD and diff lock use

Have you ever been on the farm or bush and confronted with a massive bog hole or gnarly tree-rooted clay-ridden rutted ascent? Without appropriate traction you’ll be performing a U-turn post haste – but then tell your mates around the campfire later that night how you beat the odds with sheer driving perfection…


Unless you’re a magician or believe in miracles, two-wheel drive (2WD) isn’t going to get you too far in clutch situations – and that’s when traction control systems like all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) come into play.


Without getting too simplistic, AWD has more of an on-road focus, with the bulk of the ‘tactical’ input left to the car’s computers metering out appropriate power – and by extension, traction – to each wheel.




Meanwhile, the remit of 4WD is more about maximising traction in off-road settings, and with a greater reliance on the operator to make the right calls in terms of activation and mechanical sympathy.


Kymco UTVs and ATVs are equipped with 4WD and, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the technology, focussing not only on the do’s and don’ts but some other issues to consider.


Firstly, what happens when 4WD is engaged? Kymco 4WD engagement works with the use of a gear motor that is controlled electronically. The gear motor moves a sleeve with an internal spline connecting two shafts with external splines. This action locks the two shafts, resulting in the front wheels to drive. Differential (aka diff) lock activation works in the same way, using the same gear motor.


Kymco has a very user-friendly system to toggle between 2WD, 4WD and diff lock, and it’s important to only switch between the modes when the vehicle is stationary. If the wheels are rotating, the splines on the above-mentioned shafts could misalign, causing damage to the internals of the gear motor.


For best results for changing between drive modes, follow these instructions:

• 2WD to 4WD: stop the vehicle. Turn the switch from left to middle. The 4WD indicator on the dashboard lights up;
• 4WD to 2WD: stop the vehicle. Turn the switch from middle to left. The 2WD indicator on the dashboard lights up; and
• 4WD-LOCK: stop the vehicle. Turn the switch from middle to right. The 2WD/4WD diff lock on the dashboard lights up. If the indicator light continues to flash, turning the steering left and right will help the front gear locking mechanism to engage.


Diff lock is a particularly useful feature on a 4WD. Kymco recommends it’s engaged in very steep terrain and slippery riding conditions. Also, you will notice the steering becomes difficult when the front diff lock is engaged. That’s because both front wheels are driving together, fighting the steering and trying to pull the wheels into a straight position.


Overuse of the front diff locks can cause unwanted wear to the internals and electronic power steering components. For this reason, and for driver/rider safety, the vehicle speed is limited to 20km/h (12mph) when the front diff lock is engaged.


There you go. Like our previous tech article on CVT transmissions, the likelihood of component failure increases if it’s not shown appropriate love and care – premature wear being a major one this time around if diff lock is overused.


If you have any questions about 4WD mode in your Kymco ATV or UTV, contact your local Kymco dealer.


Happy riding or driving!


Kymco ATV range
Kymco UTV range