4WD vs AWD: What’s the Difference?

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4WD vs AWD: What’s the Difference?

4WD vs AWD

The auto industry is full of misinformation, and nowhere is this more evident than with information regarding drivetrain. Front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), all-wheel drive (AWD), and four-wheel drive (4WD) are the four types of drivetrains. Each option has advantages and disadvantages which should be understood before shopping for a vehicle. While most shoppers understand the difference between front and rear-wheel drive, the distinction between 4WD vs AWD can trip up even savvy car buyers.

4WD vs AWD: What’s the Difference?

What do I need to know??

Let’s discuss why these drivetrain options exist. The main reason is traction. Whether it is a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive system, the point is to improve traction during acceleration.

On a performance car, such as an Audi, all-wheel drive helps the car accelerate faster. This is done by sending power to all four wheels, therefore, reducing spin and strain on any single wheel.

On an off-road vehicle, like a Jeep, four-wheel drive ensures the vehicle will be able to pull itself out of trouble if one tire loses traction in the mud, or if a wheel isn’t touching the ground.

4WD vs AWD: Vehicle Types

All-Wheel Drive – Cars and Crossover SUVs

With all-wheel-drive vehicles, all four wheels are getting power all the time. However, not in equal amounts. Some all-wheel-drive systems send more power to the front wheels, and some send more to the rear wheels. Modern all-wheel-drive systems with torque vary the amount of power sent to each wheel as they respond to the road and driver. All-wheel drive also tends to be cheaper, lighter, and less complicated to operate than four-wheel drive. As a result, it is popular on family vehicles like crossover SUVs.

Four-Wheel Drive – Trucks and Off-Roading Vehicles

Four-wheel drive is best known for off-road vehicles such as a Jeep Wrangler. 4WD systems are most common in vehicles built for rough terrain. The biggest advantage of four-wheel-drive systems is that it sends power to all four wheels equally. Having equal power across all four wheels makes low-traction situations, easier to navigate.

There are two main types of four-wheel drive: part-time and full-time. Part-time four-wheel drive gives you the option to drive all four wheels. However, the vehicle normally operates in two-wheel drive to save gas. Full-time four-wheel-drive systems distribute the engine’s power to each of the wheels all the time.

Another advantage to 4WD vehicles is the skid plates underneath the vehicle to protect the underbody from rocks, stumps, and other rough features.

4WD vs AWD: Driving in the Snow

When it comes to driving in the snow, it is possible to lose traction and spin out no matter which drivetrain option you choose. Your speed and the tires you choose are the biggest factors in whether you stay on the road during snowstorms.

All four wheels spin continuously with all-wheel drive systems to keep your vehicle steady under slippery road conditions. Some all-wheel drive systems can change the amount of torque automatically, making sure your tires don’t spin and lose traction in slippery conditions.

Four-wheel drive is better for deep patches of snow or rugged, icy terrain than all-wheel drive.

The Bottom Line

If you want all four wheels to be driven, all-wheel drive is a great option. AWD systems are available on more vehicles, cheaper, less complicated, and easier on your gas budget. Unless you need serious off-roading power, a four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t necessary.

If you have any questions or want Great Plains Auto Body to get your car ready for winter, call Mike at Great Plains Auto Body & Car Care or stop in and see him; 4103 Leavenworth Street, 402-551-6000.

Additional Reading: 10 Best AWD Cars for 2021

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