Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2

Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2In today’s article from Key Transmission and Gears, we’re comparing front and rear wheel drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2. Last time we talked about front wheel and rear wheel drive to help our customers understand the differences between these two types. This article will now explain the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

From just the names of these two types of drives, you may be wondering what the difference is. Logically, since most vehicles consist of four wheels, all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive kind of sound like the same thing. However, they do function differently, and each serves a slightly different purpose.

Four Wheel Drive

In the last article, we explained the purpose of a differential. If you didn’t catch it, here’s what you need to know. Any time that your wheels are not going in a totally straight line (a turn) one wheel must travel farther than the other. Therefore, the wheels should have the ability to turn at a different speed from each other. The same is also true when all 4 wheels are providing driving force. Front and back, as well as side to side, needs the capability to turn at just the right speed to move the vehicle without breaking anything on the drivetrain.

So, now that we’ve got that explanation out of the way, let’s talk about the typical four-wheel drive system. Most of the time the vehicle operates in two-wheel drive (usually the rear wheels) and the front wheels are only engaged when the four-wheel drive system is locked in.

Four-wheel drive systems are designed for use on low-traction surfaces (snow, ice, loose rock, etc.). The slippage provided by these surfaces allow for the wheels to rotate at the right speeds without breaking anything on the drivetrain. This means that if you try to use four-wheel drive on a good surface, you could possibly damage or break something on either the tires or the drive train and have to bring it to our shop for immediate car repairs. 

All Wheel Drive

And that’s where all wheel drive comes in. There are a variety of all-wheel drive systems available, but the basic premise of each is to allow power to be sent to all four wheels and give each wheel the ability to rotate at the exact speed necessary to provide the driving force to the wheel without harming the tire or the drivetrain.

The benefit of these types of systems is that it is on all the time and the driver doesn’t have to worry about locking anything in to be in four-wheel drive. However, if your purpose is for heavy duty off-roading and you need rugged four-wheel drive, you should opt for an actual four-wheel drive system.

We hope this article comparing front and rear wheel drive, AWD & 4WD, part 2 has been helpful to you. For the front and rear wheel comparison, be sure to check out the first article we posted. We here at Key Transmission and Gears, simply want for our customers to have the best driving experience possible and sometimes a little extra car knowledge comes in handy.

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