4WD vs AWD – What’s The Difference?
People generally have questions in mind when it comes to AWD and 4WD vehicles. This blog will tell you what they are, their fundamental differences, and how you can make the right choice.
Generally speaking, AWD and 4WD are similar in a lot of senses. However, one must know some critical differences to make an informed decision. AWD, an acronym for All-wheel drive, is a system in which all four vehicle wheels can gain traction independently.
Similarly, a 4WD or a four-wheel drive is a system for heavy-duty vehicles used for hauling or towing. This system is typically found in a truck or larger SUV as it helps correctly balance the inside and outside wheels.
AWD and 4WD offer more traction while accelerating, but neither aids in stopping or turning. To understand the difference between 4WD vs. AWD, a user must know what they want and how they will use the car. The AWD system is typically always on, while in 4WD, the driver can toggle between 4WD and off.
One needs a 4WD system if they intend to use their vehicle for off-roading or if they need extra power for hauling. On the other hand, one can opt for an AWD system for more traction if driving in icy or rainy conditions.
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Let us now talk about 4WD vs AWD in detail:
What is All-Wheel Drive(AWD)?
Car terminologies can be confusing for most people. But as the name suggests, a wheel drive or AWD powers both the front and rear wheels. Driving on public roads is the primary function of an all-wheel drive. Whether voyaging on rocky terrain or a muddy road, an AWD can provide you with better traction. In other words, regardless of the type of road surface or the application, an AWD vehicle uses all four wheels to move forward.
Vehicles like the Honda Passport provide pre-programmed driving modes to optimize power delivery in adverse conditions. Since AWD is an automated system, it runs without the driver having to turn it on or off.
When there is a need for more traction, the AWD systems can automatically deliver power to the front or rear. Like the front- or rear-wheel drive cars. AWD is a common feature in many SUVs and crossovers as it comes in handy when driving in unfavorable road conditions. The ability of this system to distribute torque front and back and to discontinue the torque when not needed can maintain the fuel economy of your vehicle. The AWD stabilizes the vehicle during rough turns at higher speeds in high-performance automobiles.
Here, we also need to understand another essential terminology seldom used to describe the power of vehicles. One such term is the rear-wheel-drive (RWD). As we know that an all-wheel drive vehicle is generally understood to supply torque to all four wheels. A rear-wheel drive car only uses two of its four wheels to generate forward motion. This indicates that AWD vehicles have twice as much grip available to transfer driving forces as an RWD car with equal weight and tyre configuration.
Since the AWD vehicles have twice the grip compared to RWD, it offers a better safety benefit. When moving forward, the finest AWD cars have higher stability and driver control levels than the greatest RWD cars. For instance, during takeoff at a road junction on a slippery road, where the amount of traction between the tyre and the road is minimal, AWD exhibits better safety. So that’s the complete explanation of AWD from the 4WD vs AWD, let’s take a at 4WD now!
What is Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)?
On the other hand, a four-wheel drive uses the driver-selectable mechanism. Wherein it mechanically transfers the power between all four wheels. In a 4WD system, when the driver transfers power to the vehicle’s rear wheels, the rear wheels drive the vehicle while the front wheels spin or function freely.
As mentioned, heavy-duty vehicles mostly come with a 4WD or four-wheel drive. Some contemporary cars come with a 4WD system, in which the driver has to push a button or pull a lever to activate the 4WD system.
Like all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive is made for off-road driving or challenging conditions when one or more tyres could lose traction. Strong trucks and SUVs are often associated with 4WD. This is because it predates the development of more contemporary AWD systems.
Both AWD and 4WD systems deliver power and traction in different ways. While in AWD, both the front and rear axles get power, a 4WD system is somewhat more complicated and relies on the driver to transfer the power between the front and rear wheels. However, it is also important to note that four-wheel drives are not ideal for usage on dry roads.
4WD vehicles generally come with two axles, with two wheels attached to one axle. These two wheels need to turn at a different speed when the vehicle takes a turn because the wheel located on the curve’s inner side travels less distance than the other wheel. Two axles in 4WD systems allow the wheels to turn at different speeds. This setup delivers torque to at least one front and one rear wheel, enabling the car to navigate rugged terrain or slick weather (Additionally, this explains how 4WD cars may drive with one tyre off the ground.)
These two axles distribute the available torque to both wheels, thereby improving the power distribution. Locking differentials, or “lockers,” causes both wheels to spin at the same speed. However, this trait renders 4WD vehicles unsuitable for traveling on dry roads. Due to the drivetrain design of the 4WD vehicles, these vehicles do not perform well on high traction surfaces like dry pavements. It is better to use such vehicles on slippery and low traction roads.
Jeep Wrangler, the new Ford Bronco, and light-duty pickups like Chevrolet Silverado come with a 4WD drive.
Let us now understand which system works better between 4WD vs. AWD.
Which is better, AWD or 4WD?
You must have heard about this question about 4WD vs AWD. This is a user-dependent question. Drivers can choose the most significant solution based on their driving habits, geography, budget, and principal use of the vehicle (weekend excursions or daily commuting). In most normal driving conditions during winter, AWD and 4WD will offer more traction than two-wheel drive vehicles.
Oversized vehicles and SUVs have 4WD over AWD and are excellent for towing and moving huge cargo. So, 4WD should be an option for buyers who need to tow large weights. AWD is standard and preferred by most drivers who don’t use their vehicles for heavy towing and off-roading.
When is AWD better?
AWD-equipped cars are more secure and have superior traction on wet, snowy, and icy roads. AWD systems assist vehicles in starting on slick roads and even prevent a tyre slip.
The AWD technology uses an automated system to track each tyre’s traction. Compared to a human driver, it can be faster and more precise. Even though some AWD cars can manage themselves well off-road, they are not ideal for off-roading. For driving on challenging terrain, the constant transfer of power between the wheels is not optimal in AWD. The most AWD systems aren’t as reliable or durable as a 4WD setup for such terrains.
When is 4WD better?
Deep snow, mud, rocky or uneven terrain, and abrupt inclinations or descents require a 4WD system. 4WD vehicles can withstand more abuse and power because of their durability. The driver can adjust the power and torque delivery to get the best traction possible for the situation by using the low- and high-range settings. Access to a 4WD vehicle is also a smart option for drivers who live in remote places.
While AWD and 4WD cars deliver torque to all wheels of vehicles, there might be situations where one is better than the other. Choosing between AWD and 4WD would mainly depend on the type of road conditions you encounter and the main reason behind buying the vehicle. Your personal preference would also play a significant role.
When choosing an all-wheel drive, one can choose from various options. Most of the cars, trucks, and SUVs are AWD. AWD vehicles provide increased traction on winter roads. These vehicles show an all-around performance and are also suitable for light off-loading. There are no compromises in terms of quality and fuel efficiency.
You will save money by using less fuel and spending less on repairs when you choose a professional mobile autocare shop for 4WD repairs. So this was the complete analysis of 4WD vs AWD.
However, if you reside in a remote area and face extreme weather regularly, 4WD can be the right system for you. If you enjoy off-road adventures or are looking for an added driver’s control over power delivery, 4WD would be your probable choice.
Where 4WD systems are more robust and can handle rugged terrains better than AWD systems, AWD is ideal when driving on snowy or icy roads.
Also Read – Top 10 Best 4WD Cars in Australia