Many SUVs, truck, and car drivers are often confused by the difference between an all-wheel-drive (AWD) and a four-wheel-drive (FWD). The AWD and 4WD terms may be challenging to understand for some, mainly because different manufacturers use these terms in different ways. 4WD systems have become more complex, and AWD systems have grown more robust, blurring the lines between the two even more.
What exactly is the distinction between 4WD and AWD? Which one is best suited for you? Read more to find out.
What is an all-wheel-drive (AWD)?
As the name implies, an all-wheel drive is a car whose system distributes power to both the front and rear wheels. There are two different types of all-wheel-drive systems to consider. The first system is referred to as full-time all-time AWD, which constantly drives all four wheels. The second system, often known as part-time all-wheel-drive or automated AWD, only engages AWD when essential.
How does an all-wheel-drive operate?
Both part-time and full-time AWD systems usually run without input from the driver, but some selectable modes offer the driver choice over where power should be distributed. Through a set of multi-plate clutches, differentials, torque, and viscous coupling, power is distributed to all four wheels, allowing the vehicle’s traction to be maximized. Under typical circumstances, the car continues to operate well.
Part-time AWD Systems
Part-time AWD delivers torque to two driven wheels in regular operation, either the rear wheels or the front wheels, based on the car brand and model. When the driving conditions require more traction, the technology automatically activates the other two wheels. Contemporary part-time AWD systems rely on a network of electronic sensors to provide data to a computer, which regulates the level of power sent to each wheel.
Full-time AWD Systems
Both the rear and front axles are in operation all of the time in a full-time AWD. A full-time AWD can assist the car to operate better on dry roads and guarantee that maximum power is delivered to the road. It also provides more traction in slick conditions like ice, snow, or mud, allowing for safer, more competent handling.
What is a four-wheel drive (4WD)?
4WD systems employ a set of the front, middle, and rear differentials and transfer cases and couplings to deliver torque to all four wheels and are often driven by a mechanical link. Four-wheel-drive is a much more traditional system for driving all four wheels that is more commonly used in pickup trucks and big SUVs. Many classical 4WD systems are controlled through a floor-mounted lever which appears like a second gear shifter. The 4WD systems are becoming more complex over the years, enabling the connection and disconnection of 4WD through the use of buttons and knobs.
How does a four-wheel-drive operate?
4WDs are designed to convey torque to all four wheels of a vehicle. However, 4WD systems tend to be more durable than AWD systems and can handle more severe terrain. They, too, are divided into two categories: full-time and part-time. Most 4WD systems also include low or high ranges that the driver may activate using an electrical switch or a mechanical lever on the floor. In an off-road situation, the low setting offers the most traction, whereas the high setting is beneficial in slick on-road conditions like on compacted snow, gravel, ice, or loose sand.
Full-time 4WD Systems
Full-time 4WD works similarly to a full-time AWD system, having power sent to all four wheels continually. Selectable modes may allow the driver to adjust how power is distributed between the rear and front axles in some designs.
Part-time 4WD Systems
This is the true traditionalist of four-wheel drive and is most commonly seen on SUVs and trucks built to drive and operate in more severe circumstances. The vehicle is usually driven by two wheels, which are usually at the back. When 4WD is required, the driver can decide whether to engage it by pressing a button or shifting a lever. In harsh off-road situations, some systems additionally allow the driver to lock the vehicle’s differentials for more traction.
Should you get an AWD or a 4WD?
The location of your residence and the types of road conditions you face on a day-to-day basis should be the first consideration when deciding whether to purchase a car with 4WD or AWD. Personal choice is also taken into account.
Various-wheel-drive is available on trucks, cars, and SUVs of almost all sizes. If you pick AWD, you will have a large selection of automobiles to choose from. These cars will give more excellent traction in ordinary adverse road conditions and can even moderate off-roading, depending on the car. These cars are excellent all-rounders that make the fewest trade-offs for riding comfort and fuel efficiency while driving all four wheels.
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