Navigating Tough Terrain – The Battle Between AWD and 4WD

Autos & TrucksCars

  • Author Laura Ginn
  • Published February 24, 2013
  • Word count 508

Four-wheel drive, or 4WD for short, was the way to navigate rough terrain in your sport utility vehicle for many years, but all-wheel drive, also known as AWD for short, seems to have taken over the market and has become available even on midsize sedans as well as SUVs. Though some people think that they are the same type of vehicle feature, they are, in fact, quite different.

Because so many people are still confused or unclear about the main differences between 4WD and AWD, it is important to clear the air so that consumers can make more informed decisions when they are ready to make a new car purchase.

The Basics

All cars basically operate on 2-wheel drive, or 2WD for short. This means that only two of the tires, either the front tires or the back tires depending upon the model, are powered to make the car move in whatever direction you want it to go. This is efficient enough to navigate basic road conditions, including dry conditions as well as rainy conditions. With care, these vehicles can also navigate harsher conditions like ice and snow, but these cars would have a lot of trouble getting up a snow-covered hill or getting over a snow mound because there simply is not enough power in only using two wheels.

4WD and AWD both make use of all four wheels of a car, giving it more power to get through tough terrain and harsh weather conditions.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of All-Wheel Drive

A car that comes with an AWD feature can automatically detect when all four wheels need to be engaged. The driver does not even need to think about it nor flick a switch in the car to turn AWD on. Whenever the vehicle senses itself slipping, it will send power to the four wheels to get itself back on track.

AWD requires more power and weight, which means that, when it is engaged, it causes more wear on the car’s tires and uses more gas. It is also not as good in extreme conditions or on very difficult terrain, like deep snow, as 4WD. However, in any condition that requires the car to handle the road better, AWD is better than standard 2WD.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Four-Wheel Drive

In a 4WD vehicle, the driver is in total control over when to turn the extra power on. This means that if the car is slipping, the vehicle will not turn the power onto all four wheels automatically, so it is a bit riskier.

Like AWD, 4WD uses more gas because it needs more power. However, it is definitely advantageous in extreme conditions. You can drive up an icy, snow-covered hill quite easily if your vehicle has 4WD engaged. Therefore, these vehicles are perfect for those people who live in areas that receive very harsh weather conditions, especially in the winter. They are also great at driving in off-road conditions for those individuals who like to go on mountains for camping, skiing, hiking, etc.

Laura enjoys educating others about vehicle safety features, such as 4WD and AWD, as well as the best car insurance options available, including cheaper plans for those that are on a tight budget but still need ample coverage. She uses to get all the information and pricing she needs to make informed decisions.

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