We define how all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive systems (FWD) operate, how they can be confused, and how they illustrate their similarities and differences.
Here’s a descriptive comparison to explain the all-wheel drive (AWD) and four wheel drive (4WD) – their similarities and their differences: Coca Cola is to Malibu what all-wheel drive is to four-wheel drive. Both are a means to an end, but while alcoholic drinks and all-wheel drive are acceptable for everyday use and consumption (never, together of course, nor at the same time) but you catch my drift. Am I even making sense, I’m not sure but hey, here’s everything you need to know and more about AWD systems and everything related and compared, so you know everything that we do and more.
How Does AWD Work?
AWD is optimized for on-road use. It has the capacity to send the power of the engine all the time to all four tires. It will help keep the car going along on snow-covered or rain-slicked roads better than front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive helps pass the engine’s torque to the ground in high-performance vehicles when going around a corner at speed or when originating from rest to full power with the full oomph of the engine. Many all-wheel-drive systems smoothly shuffle torque as required between the front and rear tires and turn to two-wheel drive automatically when necessary to boost fuel economy. All-wheel drive can be used with no adverse impact on the road since it is designed to allow each tire to rotate in turns at its own speed. In-board tires rotate slower in corners, so the all-wheel drive is a safer device for the average driver seeking bad weather protection than four-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is what you’ll find in most modern SUVs and passenger cars for this purpose. In pickup trucks, the long-time domain of four-wheel drive, it is now increasingly offered.
How Do Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Systems Work?
4WD is a part-time device designed only for use off-road or on highly slippery surfaces, meaning that by turning a knob, pressing a button, or yanking a lever, the driver must change into and out of the four-wheel drive. The front and rear driveshafts are kind of locked together in this way, holding the front and rear axles spinning at the same rpm. This ensures that engine torque is always at least sent to at least one front and one rear wheel in sand, mud and snow, without depending on computers to anticipate or detect wheel slips. And that implies that in ultra slippery environments, more power is put on the ground to get you moving and keep you going. But four-wheel drive is not intended for use on paved roads and is reserved for vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator and pickups such as the Ford F-150 Raptor and Chevrolet Colorado Bison with extreme off-road capability.
Restrictions on Four-Wheel Drive Use
In a curve, the four wheels of a vehicle all spin at varying speeds. You see this in the tracks left when a vehicle turns through fresh snow as each wheel traces a distinctive arc with a slightly different length. All-wheel-drive systems use either a centre differential or a clutch-pack coupling between the front and rear axles to allow the front and rear tires to spin at various speeds. In our overview of all-wheel-drive systems, we’ve covered the complexities and nuances of common hardware.
The four-wheel-drive mechanism locks the front and rear driveshafts together, so they spin at the same rate and receive equal quantities of torque. In a close circle with engaged four-wheel drive, attempt to drive on dry pavement, and you can both feel and hear an unnerving shake as the driveline ties together. Your front tires might also hop and chirp sometimes. This binding stresses the driveline and, when four-wheel drive is regularly used on paved roads, will cause the tires to wear unevenly. More crucially, it can be dangerous to use the four-wheel-drive on the road, as the locked driveline can make it difficult to turn. On low-grip surfaces such as snow, ice, gravel, or mud, binding is not a concern, because the tyres will slide freely over the surface to reconcile the locked driveshafts with the need for each tyre to trace a specific arc.
Best of Both Worlds – Locking Front And Rear Axles
It’s entirely possible to buy a vehicle with both an all-wheel drive and a four-wheel-drive system, just the same as you can order. These systems allow the driver to choose an all-wheel drive with Auto or 4Auto mode and four-wheel drive with the 4High setting, which are optional in many modern full-size pickup trucks. A Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, for instance, acts like an all-wheel-drive vehicle until you lock its front and rear axles together, this is the point at which point it becomes a four-wheel-drive truck. (These types of vehicles typically also have a rear-wheel-drive 2High mode and low-range 4Low mode too.)
Auto manufacturers do not make it easy for customers to decipher the technology behind their cars. In fact, many cars with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive split torque asymmetrically between the front and rear axles. If you are talking about an Audi A3, an A4, or an A4 Allroad, Audi’s Quattro system means three different things. The four-wheel-drive Chevrolet brands its all-wheel-drive trucks, while four-wheel-drive models are four-by-fours. To describe its many all-wheel-drive SUVs, Ford also insists on using four-wheel drive. Cracking open the owner’s manual is one of the easiest ways to know if your vehicle has all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. You have four-wheel drive if it warns against activating the system on dry pavement. Barring that, all-wheel drive is probably the system. And if you’re considering a new vehicle, then before you buy, you’ll want to know these distinctions. Nor, as shown in this video, do all-wheel-drive systems from different manufacturers perform exactly the same.
4WD VS AWD In Ice and Snow
Some drivers become convinced they need a vehicle with AWD or 4WD after getting stuck or losing control in slippery conditions. Not necessarily true, that is. Since all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive transmit power to all four wheels, instead of two, they have nearly twice as much traction as a two-wheel-drive vehicle to accelerate in slippery conditions.
However, these systems only help to accelerate the vehicle on snow-covered or icy roads. In those circumstances, they do nothing to assist you in turning or stopping better. Whether in a car with two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive, your tires provide the same traction in slippery turns. Brakes always work to slow the vehicle on all four wheels, regardless of whether two or all four wheels are used for acceleration.
By installing a decent set of winter tyres, you would also be best served if you want to improve your vehicle’s ability to corner and brake as well as accelerate in adverse winter weather.
We hope you found this post useful and hope you learnt about AWD systems as well as four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive. To learn more about different systems, tyres, space savers and wheels for your vehicle in general then take a look at the rest of our blog posts on our site, you never know, you might find something useful.