How Does AWD Differ From 4WD?

Four-wheel-drive locks both axles together for improved traction and torque off-road, while all-wheel-drive distributes engine power to all wheels as needed based on traction and wheel slippage. All-wheel-drive is great for everyday use, while four-wheel-drive is better for specialized heavy-duty use. With so many car options available here in Swansea, MA, it can get confusing to find the right system for you. Here's a brief look at four-wheel-drive vs all-wheel-drive:

What Is All-Wheel-Drive?

Most vehicles with all-wheel-drive (AWD) route engine power to all four wheels at all times. Modern all-wheel-drive systems calculate where you need the most torque and automatically send your front and rear axles the power they need when they need it.

If your rear wheels are on an ice patch, it can put more power into the front wheels, and if your front wheels are stuck, it can send it to the rear wheels. Modern all-wheel-drive systems integrate with your vehicle's Anti-Lock Braking System, traction control system, and other systems to optimize performance and control.

Your all-wheel-drive vehicle handles the power distribution automatically, so you don't have to worry about shifting or activating different systems for different conditions. However, some systems do have selectable all-wheel-drive drive modes which are optimized for different situations, like ice, rain, snow, sand, and mud.

What Is Four-Wheel-Drive?

4WD vehicles, also known as 4x4s, give you greater control over your drive wheels. While in two-wheel-drive mode (2WD), your engine only sends power to one set of wheels. You'll spend most of your driving time in 2WD. 2WD is best for driving around town and on the highway. In most cases, if there's a road, 2WD mode is what you want.

When you shift into 4WD, your vehicle engages all wheels and locks both axles together, distributing power evenly front and rear full-time. It will not automatically adjust power distribution based on traction. If you have locking differentials, you can lock both wheels on an axle to the same power as well, giving you more traction to work with off-road.

You may have multiple four-wheel-drive gears to choose from, each designed for different conditions. Dropping your 4x4 into low-gear will give you more torque and more traction, helping you on tough inclines and in rough conditions at low speeds.

Four-wheel-drive is good for crawling through mud, snow, and dirt at low speeds, but it can damage your vehicle if you're driving at high speed, on pavement, or while turning at speed. Some newer, more-advanced 4x4 vehicles have an all-wheel-drive mode for every day driving. It's extremely important to make sure your four-wheel-drive vehicle is in the right gear for the conditions you're driving in.

Do I Need 4WD or AWD?

If you drive mostly on paved, dirt, and gravel roads, AWD is best, but if you drive off-road, in deep snow or mud, or enjoy rock-crawling, you want 4WD. There are many different all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive systems to choose from, so whether you head out to campsites, drive through rough weather, blaze your own trails, or just want more confidence and control on the pavement, there's a system that will suit your driving needs.