To help our customers understand the differences Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood offers this helpful guide, Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 1. There are a number of things the average driver probably doesn’t know, so for this 2-part series, we start with an explanation of how each of the drive types functions. We hope this will be helpful in choosing the right drive type for your needs the next time you buy a new car.
Before we begin discussing the drive types, it will be helpful for you to understand the function of a car part called the differential. Think about two wheels on an axle. Every time those two wheels are not going in a straight line, one must travel a longer distance than the other. Thus the one that has to go farther has to rotate faster than the other. That is where the differential comes into play. It is a device with gears that allows for one wheel to go quicker than the other and keep the car moving evenly.
Rear Wheel Drive
Rear wheel drive has been the drive type of choice for many years. This kind of drive is simple, easy to manufacture and provides a robust and reliable function. The setup is comprised of an engine in the front of the car with the transmission and a drive shaft transferring power to the rear wheel axle and thus the rear wheels. Though the power comes from the back, the front wheels handle the steering, effectively dividing the labor.
The advantages of rear wheel drive are, it is strong and durable, and therefore this drive type is used in almost all trucks (with the exception of some light-duty models) and also luxury and racing car models. As a car accelerates, weight transfers to the rear wheels as a natural byproduct of acceleration. Driving from the heavier-weighted rear wheels offers better and faster acceleration. Hence, all true sports cars and racing models come with rear wheel drive.
Front Wheel Drive
Front wheel drive, logically enough, keeps everything at the front of the car. The engine, transmission, drive gears, and differential are all there together at the front of the car. This type is popular in modern sedans in the middle to lower price ranges for two fundamental reasons, fuel economy and space efficiency.
Front wheel drive cars can be made lighter and afford more room inside the car without the addition of the drive shaft and other parts needed for rear wheel drive. All minivans are front wheel drive for this reason. Though front wheel drive can never compete with the performance capabilities of rear wheel drive, it does do a better job in slippery conditions, making it a popular choice for drivers that live in snowy areas like Colorado.
From all of us here at Key Transmission and Gears, we hope this guide, Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 1, has helped you understand some key differences. Watch for our next article to find out the advantages and disadvantages of AWD and 4WD. And as always feel free to bring your car to our experts here in Englewood if you need help with any drive type.