Hello everyone! I figured it was past time an off-road guide was written specific to the Gen 2 Raptor. I’m using BlueSVT’s excellent post as my inspiration – if you haven’t read it, you should do so now. This guide is meant to expand upon the information there, highlighting the handling and operating differences between the two generations of Raptors. The main area I want to focus on is his second post. Note that (as far as I'm concerned) the mods listed as necessary/very important for the Gen 1 do not apply to the Gen 2. Will some of them help performance? Sure. But the Gen 2 is a very capable truck in its stock form, and you should have no qualms in pushing it within its design constraints. If you have not read your Raptor Supplement and Quick Reference Card, I really encourage you to take a moment and read those now as well. It won’t take long, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there. I’ll cover a portion of it here, but many, many of the questions I answer each month are clearly explained in the manuals. There’s a lot of key operating parameters most people don’t know about simply because they couldn’t be bothered to RTFM. Don’t be one of those people! I don't have as many offroad miles as some here, tho I wish that were the case. That said, I’ve been an avid fan of this vehicle since the first teaser video back in 2009. Being a senior in high school at the time, and therefore not able to own a Raptor for many years, I spent my time reading all the information I could in anticipation for the day I'd get one. This proved very helpful, as I was able to immediately put into practice the knowledge I had learned from Blue’s guide and others when I got my 2017. I’ve studied the documentation for both gens extensively, queried any expert I could find on how things were designed and function, logged feedback from people who drive these trucks hard in all conditions, and most importantly, tested out every parameter on this truck I could think of. While I’ve never gotten to drive a Gen 1, I’ve ridden with (and driven) several friends who have won in RaptorX competitions in the past, which has allowed me to confirm many of my hypotheses on the differences between the two trucks. My goal here is to highlight the unique performance characteristics of the Gen 2, so that you can safely push your truck (and your driving skills) to the limit off-road. With that said, let’s start with the hardware your G2 comes with. Transfer Case and Drivetrain Settings The Raptor has always had a beefed up t-case compared to regular F150s. The Gen 2 Raptor has an even better one now tho, as Ford has finally adopted 4Auto function. This is one of the bigger updates the Raptor received, in my opinion. I’ve had it on my wife’s 06 Trailblazer for quite some time, and it is a great feature. In addition to 4A, a locking rear differential (electronic locking diff, ELD) comes standard, and for those of us with an 802a, the front torsen limited slip differential also comes standard. 801 and below trucks have the torsen available as an option. Your truck has 4 transfer case settings: 2H, 4A, 4H, and 4L. 2H – The default mode. RWD, this provides the best gas mileage and can provide quite a bit of fun on slippery surfaces. Given how much torque our truck has, coupled with the light aluminum bed, means that the back end likes to break loose very quickly. This can be good or bad depending on what you want. We’ll get into this more later. 4A: Also known as 4Auto, this is an AWD-like mode designed to be used any time on any surface. The front hubs are locked in, slightly decreasing fuel economy, but power is only directed to the front wheels as the truck deems necessary (via clutch packs). This means it is safe to use on hard pack surfaces (ie all the time), and I use it for sport mode or when the roads get wet. 4A has different tuning depending on what mode you are in. From my experience, this tuning affects when the computer sends power to the front wheels – weather mode nearly always has power sent forwards, whereas as normal is more reactionary. Sport mode 4A is pretty preemptive when power is getting put down. Weather mode defaults to 4A. 4H: Classic 4WD, this will probably be what you spend most of your time in off-road. Mud/Sand and Baja mode automatically switch to 4H. Do NOT use on pavement or hard pack surfaces, as you risk damaging your drivetrain. 4L: This changes your gear ratio to provide more torque and control for low speed crawling, while of course engaging all four wheels. You might wonder why you’d need this, but it allows for more finite control in situations where small pedal adjustments can make a big difference in driving results. This provides a lot more engine braking as well. However, it also limits your top speed, so keep that in mind. Shifting into 4L requires you to be between 0-3 mph, and switch into neutral. Rock/Crawl mode unsurprisingly prompts you to shift into 4L. Locking rear differential (ELD): This forces both rear wheels to travel at the same speed. Normally when a diff is open the power goes to the wheel with the least traction. In cases where one wheel has no traction, this mean no power is going to the wheel that does, causing you to get stuck. A locking rear solves this. Ronny Dahl has a great video demonstrating this. The locker is engaged automatically by the Mud/Sand and Rock/Crawl modes, and can be engaged manually by pressing in on the t-case shifter button. Never use your locker on hard pack surfaces. The Gen 2 does not allow you to lock the diff in 2H. I think this is a smart decision for several reasons, but this is an extremely controversial subject. We’ll touch on this more later. Torsen limited slip: Think of this as a mix between an open diff and a locked one, because that’s more or less what it is. Engineering explained touches on how it works here. In short, you get the benefits of an open system, while still getting some power transfer if one of your front wheels start to slip. Note that if you have no traction on one wheel, the Torsen has no power to multiply, and therefore nothing to transfer to the wheel with traction. You can solve this problem by applying some resistance via the brakes – this is the old school way of making traction, back when everyone had open diffs. Jeep guys will tell you a dedicated lock up front is better, but I think they are wrong, especially in our case. The LSD is much better for high speed off-roading and general driving. I think it is safe to say no one reading this will ever encounter a situation where they’d be better served by a dedicated front locker. Because the limited slip sends power to the other wheel in case of slippage, you will notice torque steer at times, especially in 4A on wet roads. This is normal behavior. An important note from the manual regarding t-case shifting: Momentarily releasing the accelerator pedal while a shift in progress message displays will improve engagement/disengagement performance. Do not perform this operation if the rear wheels are slipping or while applying the accelerator pedal. I suspect some, if not many, IWE check valve failures are related to shifting on the fly. I was told by the instructors at Raptor Assault that mode selection ensures it is safe to switch the t-case prior to automatic shift, but I’ve found no evidence that this claim is true. It will let you switch to 4H on the highway, so I’m inclined to believe they are mistaken. Just stay off the gas when you are shifting the t-case, whether it be manually or via mode selection. Traction Control Before we go into detail on the driving modes, let’s talk about the traction control button. Each mode automatically adjusts the traction control settings (see the Quick Reference Card), but system interference can be reduced by hitting the button once, and even further reduced by holding it for 5 seconds. It can never be turned fully off. For clarity throughout this guide, I’ll refer to a single TC press as the ‘Veteran’ setting, and the press + hold as the ‘Expert’ setting. This means each driving mode has three TC settings (Baja Normal, Baja Veteran, Baja Expert). They are not equal across the board. The manual isn’t clear on this, nor have I found anyone that knows any details about it, so I’ve resorted to figuring it out myself. I’ve also documented what settings people find themselves using to corroborate my findings. The offroad default TC settings are looser than the on-road Veteran settings - Baja normal is less restrictive than Normal Veteran, for example. To my surprise, the Veteran and Expert settings DO in fact make a difference in the offroad modes, and TC parameters differ even between the offroad modes. It seems that the settings more or less correspond to the Gen 1 parameters. For most drivers, BlueSVT recommends using the Veteran settings. While I generally agree, I think it is best to use the most restrictive settings possible that don’t interfere with your driving. So if you are in Baja mode going up a hill, and you find yourself fighting TC, then hit the button and eliminate that problem. But if you don’t have TC fighting you, don’t just jump straight into Expert mode just because you can. I was screwing around in weather mode one rainy day, and used Weather Expert to see what it was like. I floored it around a corner and slid a full lane over (don’t worry, I had anticipated this happening, and made sure it was clear before I tried it). The system is designed to keep you and your truck safe. Don’t be afraid to dial in back as necessary, but in most cases you won’t need to. I’ll talk more about my personal recommendations in the driving mode section. Driving Modes This will make up the majority of this guide, as it is a primary feature of the Gen 2 trucks and a major change between the two gens. Ford put a lot of thought into the Gen 1 electronics, but it debuted back in 2010, and it was Ford’s first attempt. The system was clever, but far from perfect, requiring a chart in the manual to properly calibrate your truck to the terrain. What happened in practice was that most people got frustrated with trying to set up the truck, and either didn’t bother with it, got it wrong, or decided they liked a different setting more and stuck with that. This led to the gen 1 mentality of ‘find whatever setting you like and stick with it’ - to this day my gen 1 friends always struggle with the electronics on a run. Ford noted this behavior during G2 development, and it was the main reason Ford created the driving modes. Unfortunately, despite this brilliant solution, people still aren't getting the drive modes right. I couldn't help but laugh about a year ago, when I saw a youtube video of a guy claiming Baja mode was so much faster on the pavement - even tho his time was several seconds longer than a normal mode sprint. If you get only one thing from this guide, it should be that the driving modes on the Gen 2 are well-calibrated, and you should use them. John Williams (lead instructor at Raptor Assault) mentioned he had a ‘Gen 1 mindset’ with the Gen 2, until Greg Foutz (the guy that drove both Raptor-Rs in the Baja 1000) told him to trust the driving modes. Since doing so, he’s found the truck works a lot better, and he now emphasizes this point at the school. Excerpts from the manual will be in italics. On-road Modes: These are designed for pavement use, and not recommended for offroad use. Normal Mode: Normal mode is a perfect balance of excitement, comfort, and convenience. I agree with this wholeheartedly. It can be a bit lethagic at times, but shifts are smooth, fuel economy is maximized, and in most situations, you still have more power on tap than you can use. In order to meet EPA requirements, this is the default mode when you start your truck. The t-case setting will be remembered, but you will have to re-select your driving mode (note this may shift your t-case too). Main thing to remember here is that the traction control is in its second most restrictive state when you turn on your vehicle, so you’ll want to switch modes or hit the TC button as appropriate. For normal driving, the default TC setting is good. It will let you slide a little bit but quickly kills it, useful when hitting wet spots you didn’t anticipate. Sport Mode: Sport mode increases throttle response, provides a sportier shifting feel, and shifts quicker. The transmission holds gears longer, helping your vehicle accelerate faster when shifting. The baja mode for tarmac, this switches your steering feel to sport, and loosens up traction control while adjusting all parameters for speed on pavement. If you are seriously playing around in this mode, you’ll want to use 4A, else you’ll constantly break your back tires loose. The shifting starts out somewhat rough – let it learn your style, however, and it will get much better. Sport mode moves the throttle bite forward significantly, meaning even just a little toe-in will result in high power demand. If you go past ~70%, it will greatly increase the time the mode holds gears, anticipating a quick demand for more power. This is major complaint people have with this mode. If you don’t floor it every time however, you can learn the cutoff point, and it will instead up-shift much quicker, more akin to normal mode. Some people claim Expert Sport Mode 4A + locked rear is the ideal off-road mode. I’ve not gotten enough video evidence to definitively put this to bed, but I want to make a very important point here: Sport mode calibrates braking for pavement. This means you’ll stop MUCH slower offroad than if you were in an offroad mode. They demonstrate this at Raptor Assault with the braking zone – it is roughly 1.5x the stopping distance of Baja mode. It may feel more fun, and may seem faster, but you absolutely will not stop as quick. Keep that in mind when selecting modes. Now, I will grant Veteran Sport mode + 4A is best when flying down a mix of dirt, gravel, and hard pack roads. The 4A will make sure you don’t mess up your driveline while ensuring max grip, and the sport mode of course provides plenty of grunt. But if you know you aren’t going to see pavement, Baja mode is preferable. Weather Mode: Weather mode inspires confidence without taking away driving pleasure. Weather mode automatically engages 4x4 Auto, lowers throttle response and optimizes shifting for slippery surfaces. I’m pretty sure it also cranks up TC. When you need this mode, you’ll find it is very well tuned, as other forum members here have attested. However in less slippery conditions you may find the lowered throttle response annoying, and in that case I instead recommend using Normal 4A. Play around with both - and you’ll find when to use which one. Also, I wouldn’t touch the TC button here. If it is bad enough for this mode you’ll find the computer aid very helpful. Off-road modes: Now we’re getting to the good stuff. As the name implies, these are not designed for road use. Not only do you risk damaging your drive line, but the throttle response, shifting patterns, and braking settings are all tailed for dirt, not hard pack. Baja mode is NOT faster than Sport mode on pavement, I assure you – nor is it as safe. Mud/Sand Mode: For navigating tight trails and over obstacle. Mud/Sand mode automatically engages 4H and the rear locker for improved off-road capability, and provides a more comfortable steering feel. I really like this mode. Think of it as the ‘normal’ mode for offroad. Actually, for the first year of ownership, I found this mode to be a lot better than Baja mode, and the majority of my offroad miles are using this mode. Mud/Sand also turns on the front camera, very useful on the trails. You can wash the camera using the windshield washer button if it gets muddy/dusty. Throttle response will be similar to normal mode, but a bit more linear, and (I think) moved back a bit. This gives you more control over just how much power you want to put down, perfect for slippery conditions. Grunt is right where you want it to be, allowing for quick running whenever you want it, while making sure you don’t sink in if you don’t want to. You might ask why/when this mode is better than Baja mode. The answer lies with the shifting patterns and throttle response. In mud or sand, you don’t want to dig in. You avoid digging in by steady, controlled acceleration, and Mud/Sand mode is designed with this in mind. One time I hit the grass in Baja thinking it was dry, and immediately begin to sink in and go nowhere – I swapped to Mud/Sand and I was easily able to walk my way out of what turned out to be pretty deep mud. In slippery conditions, you’ll find that Mud/Sand is actually faster than Baja mode, because it spins the tires less. If you don’t believe me, check out my Raptor Assault footage. Time my laps and you’ll note I managed to go around 2 seconds faster in Mud/Sand over Baja, because the track was muddy (it rains every time I go offroad). The ELD will default ON in this mode. You’ll get a traction boost, and paired with the throttle response, I find it perfect for maintaining control while allowing you to slide the rear end as much as you like. I have never had the TC interfere with me in this mode, even in the default settings, even intentionally trying to set it off. It seems less restrictive than Baja Veteran, honestly. I have not seen the need to press the TC button in Mud/Sand, so I would say don’t do so unless you encounter a problem area. Rock/Crawl Mode: For optimum rock-climbing ability. Rock mode prompts you to put your vehicle in 4x4 Low and automatically engages the ELD. Rock Crawl mode optimizes the throttle and transmission response to provide you additional control of your vehicle. Of all the driving modes, I’ve the least amount of time in this mode. However, it does set steering to comfort, and further improves the low-speed control you have over your truck by muting the initial throttle response. Generally if you are going to crawling, this is the mode you’d want. It also engages the front camera to assist in seeing where you are going. Don’t underestimate how great the camera is – there’s a reason Ford added it as mid-year cycle upgrade on the Gen 1. Keep in mind many aftermarket bumpers substantially block the camera view. Baja Mode: Best for last, huh? For high-speed off-road driving. Baja mode automatically engages 4x4 High and optimizes the throttle for more power to give you improved control of your vehicle. The fanstatic linear throttle-response introduced with Off Road mode in the Gen 1 makes a return in baja mode. I can’t say enough great things about this. It may not be exactly the same as the Gen 1, but from my experience it seems pretty close. BlueSVT covers this really well: “The pedal position is directly related to the speed you are travelling. The logic will HOLD the speed at a set pedal position. Meaning if you’re in 2nd gear with the pedal pressed half-way down at 35 MPH… the truck will HOLD the speed of 35 MPH even though you’re pressing the pedal half-way! It will only increase speed as you press the pedal further down. Eventually, as you make your way to the last 20% of pedal travel, this is when the truck applies full power, and will eventually upshift when you approach red-line. What does this mean? This allows you very fine control of the trucks behavior and power. There are no surprise shifts… no surprise engine revs… you have full control over the power going to the ground, and you can fully predict how small pedal movements will affect the trucks power output. This is invaluable in high speed corners, when a sudden shift or change in power could make the truck suddenly unstable, and unpredictable.” The throttle response is my favorite part of my Baja mode. But that’s not all! Baja mode does the same things sport mode does (anti-lag, doesn’t upshift much, shifts quickly) but in a manner more suited for loose terrain. This means it will put the power down more effectively off-road than Sport mode will, while also greatly reducing stopping distance. This is a critical safety benefit when you are tearing up the dirt, and should be no small factor in your mode selection when offroading (note the other offroad modes feature improved offroad braking as well, it isn’t baja specific). Baja mode allows 4H, 4H with ELD on, and 2H (no ELD). This has been a point of major contention, and I initially wondered why the mode didn’t have the locker on by default. However, due to how easy it is to swing around the back end of the truck even in 4H unlocked, I think Ford choose well with the default settings. Honestly, if you are using proper left-foot braking on your corners, having the locker on in 4H is not only unnecessary, it is detrimental, causing you to fishtail when you don’t want to (ie trying to accelerate). Baja 2H is even worse – while it is great for making tight corners on a UTV course, you can’t put nearly any power down without the truck bed stepping out. Ultimately, my conclusion is the same as John’s: play around with this mode a while, and if you think you want to be able to step out the rear axle more, then turn on the locker. Otherwise, leave it off. Early on, I heard people complaining TC was interfering with them in Baja mode, mainly when climbing sand dunes. I thought this strange, but noted it for testing (I’ve still not made it to the dunes, yet). At TRR, my wife was able to trigger it after she intentionally fishtailed the truck three times back and forth in quick succession. I was impressed how cleanly the truck straightened itself out. However, at Rally Ready I was running Baja with default TC and noticed that it cut power on me climbing a loose hill, which corroborated what others had been saying. For me, hitting the TC button once was enough to eradicate interference, but the dune runners usually hold down the button. This is perhaps the only mode (other than sport mode) where I recommend you at least hit the button. Best to practice with it on, especially if you don’t have a lot of room to make mistakes, but the uphill behavior is puzzling and frustrating. One last note of interest. Greg Foutz used Baja mode the entirety of the Baja 1000. He alternated between 4H and 2H as desired for the race. In summary, stick with the proper mode for the terrain you are on. If you are on-road, normal, sport, or weather mode is the ticket. Off-road, Baja if you can, Mud/Sand if you need it, and Rock/Crawl if you’re taking the scenic route. Truck handling Weight and Cornering The Gen 2 is significantly lighter than the Gen 1, and most of the weight loss was in the rear of the truck. Not only that, but the torque is higher, meaning it is much easier to step out the back end in all modes. Lots of people will claim 2H, locked diff is the fastest way to go. Maybe it is for the Gen 1 (tho I don’t think so). It definitely isn’t for the Gen 2. It may feel like the fastest way to go, but quite frankly, you need the front tires to grab and help pull the truck forward even on the road, let alone the dirt. Because of the weight loss and torque increase, even in 4H the rear will swing around, rally-style, with proper driving. Not only is this fun, but it is the fastest way to go around the track. This video shows you how to left foot brake to effectively slide your truck around a corner. Turning on the locker will make it easier to break the rear end loose, while turning it off will settle the rear down some. It is up to you to determine what you want for the conditions you are in. Momentum and pedal position will also make a big impact on your truck’s handling– come in hot, and you can start a slide without much effort. Similarly, Baja + EBD will step out more easily than Mud/Sand + EBD, just because of the power profiles. Airing Down I’m a bit surprised that Blue didn’t mention airing down the tires, as it is a fundamental practice when off-roading. Airing down increases your tire footprint, increasing traction while improving ride comfort. Go down too low and you can rip a bead, tho, and if you get back on the highway with low tires you’re likely to cook them. I run 36 front and 33 rear on my stock tires for road use, and drop them down around 5 psi or so for offroad events. Raptor Assault now runs something like 32f and 28r, and at several press events the trucks were running 28f and 23r, to settle down the rear end of the truck. The psi you use will depend on numerous factors, such as which tire you are running, the terrain, and speed at which you’ll be going. The slower you are going, or the boggier the terrain, the lower you’ll want to go. Beadlocks allow for extremely low pressures (like 5psi) without debeading, but are a PITA to keep maintained. I don’t personally think they are worth it, but some people will swear by them. Manual Shifting 10 gears is a lot to manage, and the transmission does a great job of handling them most of the time. That said, I have done about 30 miles of offroading in Baja mode with just the paddles. Given that you stay within the first five gears anyway, it becomes more manageable, and I saw increased fuel economy (just barely made it to the gas station) and got fantastic engine braking (my wife has vetoed this when she's riding now - it is rough on the passenger). That said, it is A LOT to keep track of, so make sure you are familiar with the territory or are running slower to compensate. If you've used the paddles, you have probably noticed the shifting is sluggish at times. I've heard the different modes effect how quickly it shifts, but I - like several others - have bounced off the rev limiter when the engine didn't shift as expected. Keep this in mind. Manual selection can be useful for other things, such as dune crawling, water crossings, and the like. I've not had the opportunity to do so yet, so I'll refrain from saying more at this time. Other items Remember to let off the brake before you hit an obstacle, so you don’t compress the suspension while hitting the obstacle. 2019+ owners won’t have this problem as the shocks will take care of this themselves, but for the rest of us peasants, brake hard before the obstacle then let off/gas it right before impact. Prerun the course if at all possible. Slowly increase speed until you sense that it you went too fast, and then dial it back. Better yet, let everyone else find the breaking point so you don’t have to. That’s what I do B) Don’t floor it over rough terrain, ease into the throttle. Not only will this cut down on wheel hop/axle wrap, but also it will keep you from shredding your tires. Although if you are like me and tired of the BFGs, this is an easy way to finish them… As they tell you in Raptor assault, your vehicle can only give 100%. If you are attempting a maneuver and the truck just isn’t doing it, you’re ‘over 100%’ and need to dial something else back to compensate. For example, if you are braking and turning hard, and the truck isn’t going where you want to, straighten out the wheel a bit and/or adjust your braking. Bed covers are great; I have a Bakflip MX4. While my cover will hold up to offroad abuse, it is hard on the rubber and latches. Many a cover have turned into kitesails at events. If you can take it off, you should. The more rigid the cover, the more likely it is to jam/break on you. One of the many reasons I got the MX4 is because it is easy to remove, but I’ve heard great things about the Truxedo, too. On a similar note, make sure you secure everything inside and outside the vehicle before taking off – otherwise you’ll have a mess to clean up. The Element Fire Extinguisher stick is pretty small, cheap, and handy. Harry’s LapTimer app for your phone is fanstastic for timing yourself and putting speedometer overlays on your track footage. This $20 app, coupled with a $20 phone mount, saved me from spending $400 on a gopro or garmin. I highly advise PDP mud flaps for the front of your truck. This will cut down on tire sling, especially rock chips. On that note, if you want to prevent trail damage, Trakktape is useful and relatively cheap. Not the easiest thing to use on our trucks, but it does well.