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AWD vs 4WD: What’s The Difference?

Driving Off Road

Most automobile buyers confuse a Four-Wheel Drive with an All-Wheel Drive. The two terms are often used interchangeably, adding to the confusion. However, there are some crucial distinctions. Amidst all the chaos, here is how to differentiate a 4WD vs. AWD vehicle. Learn how each system works and the advantages of choosing either vehicle.

What Is An All-Wheel Drive?

An All-Wheel Drive is a recent innovation and has become an accepted description for cars that drive on all wheels. This car automatically sends torque to all four wheels when there is extra traction. For example, a slippery surface will force the AWD system to initiate extra friction. Most high-performance applications integrate AWD and torque vectoring capabilities to boost steering position.

How Does The All-Wheel Drive Work?

The All-Wheel Drive system operates without input from the driver. It uses sensors to choose which wheel or axle is powered most. The system also uses the differentials approach to divide torque and determine the amount of power for each wheel. The clutch packs then distribute power to optimize traction in the mud or snow.

All-Wheel Drive systems are available as part-time or full-time systems. In a full-time system, the engine continuously powers the four wheels. The system helps a vehicle handle better on dry pavement and ensures that full power gets to the road. It also provides additional traction in slippery conditions for more consistent traction and confident handling.

The part-time AWD sends torque to two-driven wheels, either the front or rear. It will alternate until in situations that demand more traction. In most cases, the AWD system only works part-time through a viscous coupling or electromagnetic clutch.

With AWD, the system automatically allocates torque to the wheels. The driver doesn't have to engage it to maintain traction. Since it is computer-controlled, it makes quick decisions that make a journey comfortable. However, this system only deals with light off-roading. It also has lower fuel economy ratings than a 2WD setup.

What Is A Four-Wheel Drive?

A Four-Wheel Drive vehicle is a system that evenly delivers torque to all four wheels. The engine sends equal power to all wheels at 25%. The system is common on large SUV vehicles that need extra traction in off-road situations.

You'll find a four-wheel low-range and high-range state. The low-range state is when you use a low gear ratio on all four wheels. This primarily applies to soft surfaces or when driving up steep hills. The Four-Wheel Drive high range offers more traction to drive on firm ground like gravel or dirt roads. The existence of low-range and high-range Four-Wheel Drive systems provides some flexibility.

How Does Four-Wheel Drive Work?

Using a two-speed transfer case, the 4WD system transfers power to all wheels equally. You can either sustain the power flow to the rear axle or choose to send some torque to the front wheels. This transfer case allows you to select between low-range and high-range gearing.

A Four-Wheel Drive system can change the way the vehicle behaves. It inspires confidence when driving in rough terrain with increased grip, traction, and power. This system makes vehicles perfect for driving off-road or towing heavy loads. It is ideal for rugged terrain and severe weather as it offers more pulling power when required.

The drawbacks of a Four-Wheel Drive are the uncomfortable ride due to the heavy-duty suspension. The system also uses more fuel as it needs the extra power to push all wheels.

So, What's The Difference Between AWD And 4WD?

The engine in a Four-Wheel Drive vehicle sends power to all four wheels equally. This is different in an All-Wheel Drive, where the engine can send different power levels to each wheel. These differences translate to how you can use the vehicles.

The All-Wheel Drive vehicles are ideal for everyday all-weather, light off-roading, and performance driving. The flexibility makes it easy to adapt to each condition quickly. A 4WD system is better for taking heavy workloads and traveling along challenging terrains. It is also more robust than AWD setups and can handle higher towing and hauling.

Next time you're looking to buy a vehicle, think about your driving requirements. It will help you decide between an All-Wheel Drive vs. a Four-Wheel Drive vehicle. Your lifestyle also impacts whether to invest in a Four-Wheel Drive or an All-Wheel Drive vehicle.

An All-Wheel Drive car works best if you need extra traction through severe weather. However, choose the 4WD if you want a rugged car. It gives you control over powering the wheels while driving.

Find The Best Car Deals

Knowing how to maintain your vehicle when driving in rugged terrain and severe weather is crucial. Whether you choose a 4WD or AWD, Oak Motors offers quality vehicles with a safety inspection to give you affordable and dependable transportation. Our vehicles come with a 36,000-mile limited warranty to keep you on the road. Contact us for more details on our vehicles.

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