Knowing the difference between four-wheel-drive, 4WD, and all-wheel-drive, AWD has been a confusing issue for a lot of vehicle buyers.
With the rise in demand for SUVs and pickup trucks, more people are buying vehicles with the AWD or 4WD. AWD and 4WD vehicles, send power from the engine to all four wheels. Unlike two-wheel-drive vehicles that have all power sent to either the front or rear wheels only.
The major difference between these two systems is that 4WD powers all 4 tires at the same time and power. However, AWD depending on the road condition smartly allocates power to the wheel that needs it the most so you can glide through slippery or swampy roads without losing control or getting stuck.
Simply put, AWD is great for all-weather conditions and everyday driving and has little off-road capabilities and performance driving, While 4WD is great if you have to take on a heavy workload and if you are into adventures and traveling on more challenging roads.
Different vehicle models may have different types of 4WD systems – in some models, the driver has to engage the 4WD, while some models have the 4WD always engaged.
Let us now delve deeper into their differences…
All-Wheel-Drive vs Four-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)
4WD is the more traditional system that pops into the minds of people when they think about vehicles that make use of all four wheels. It is not only found in trucks as a lot of people might assume but can also be found in modern-day luxurious and comfortable rides.
The 4WD system allocates torque to the wheels and transfer cases and coupling that allows the vehicle to utilize maximum traction in extreme road situations.
4WD is better in extreme situations where the tires may sometimes experience loss of traction. The 4WD provides traction that is on a different level from AWD, it sends an equal amount of power to both the front and rear wheels.
Some vehicles with 4WD require the driver to activate and deactivate the 4WD system while some are permanently engaged, and if you are driving on a dry platform, the 4WD cannot be used for a long period of time as it will severely impact your fuel consumption.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
Drivers who live in regions with heavy snow and rain will have better traction on the road with AWD. AWD sends power to both the front and rear wheel, then distributes the power between wheels using the vehicle’s computer system.
Without the driver’s effort, the computer system then decides which of the wheels (front or rear) need traction or power. AWD is activated when needed like in mud or sand and deactivates when not needed.
There are two types of AWD, the full-time AWD which drives both front and rear wheels at the same time, and the part-time AWD which sends torque to two wheels at a time, either the front or rear.
Full-time AWD gives you better handling and makes sure there is enough torque on the road when driving dry pavement, and provides additional traction on slippery and wet roads. Part-time AWD activates two wheels, either front or rear when the road demands more traction.
AWD is popular in SUVs and crossovers. It comes in handy for drivers who move people and cargo in unpleasant driving situations. AWD has better fuel economy in systems that can disengage the drivetrain when it is not needed, thanks to its ability to allocate power to and traction.
How are 4WD and AWD Similar?
Both help with better traction which helps the driver to be on their way and stay on the road. They, however, don’t help to stop the vehicle. Fuel economy is another drawback for both 4WD and AWD due to the heavy and mechanical resistance required to turn all four wheels. With models with better fuel economy, the mileage is usually small but could be added up over time.
Due to how expensive complicated drivetrains could be, a lot of manufacturers offer 4WD and AWD as an option. They don’t come as standard equipment. Having the right tires in extreme weather conditions can help your AWD or 4WD have better traction and handling.
Should I Choose the AWD or 4WD?
The simplest answer to this question is – it depends on the driver; where you live, your driving conditions, driving style, personal taste, and budget. Both AWD and 4WD give the driver more traction than any two-wheel drive vehicle in extreme weather conditions.
If you are living in a remote area, need to drive in bizarre conditions, or love off-road adventures, then 4WD is for you.
They offer better handling in snow, rocky terrain, and steep grades. They are usually found in trucks and SUVs with high ground clearance. 4WD also comes in handy when hauling or towing heavy cargo, and the driver has control over how and when to allocate the power.
AWD is found in vehicles of all sizes, offering you a wide range of options to choose from. In normal winter conditions, it delivers enough traction, with light off-roading and little fuel economy on dry roads.
It also has the option of powering all wheels continuously or which wheel gets the torque. This decision-making process is handled by the vehicle’s computerized system, taking the responsibility off the driver’s hands.
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