Whats The Difference Between AWD and 4WD?
August 11, 2021
You’ve probably heard people contemplate whether or not they want an all-wheel-drive vehicle (AWD) or a four-wheel-drive vehicle (4WD). How do you know which one to choose? Well, we’re going to highlight some of the key differences between AWD and 4WD and how to determine which is the better fit for you.
What is All-Wheel Drive?
Before we get into what all-wheel drive is, we want to mention there are two different types of AWD systems, full-time AWD and part-time AWD. With that being said, both AWD systems allow all the wheels to get torque that helps distribute power to each wheel in order to optimize traction.
In a full-time AWD vehicle, the front and rear axles are driven all the time. When it’s rainy, snowy, or muddy, it helps by adding traction and deliver better handling. However, when you’re driving in good conditions, full-time AWD ensures you’re getting the most power you can on the road.
In part-time AWD, torque is only sent to two wheels, the front or back. However, when conditions demand extra traction, the part-time AWD system will automatically engage the other two wheels through a series of electronic sensors that controls how much power should be directed to a wheel based on the need. Since your vehicle isn’t constantly in AWD at all times, this ends up saving some gas in the end.
The assumption is that AWD vehicles won’t work for off-roading. Honestly, they will work just fine in moderate off-roading situations. They still provide good overall traction during acceleration and can handle harsher terrain and weather conditions than a 2WD vehicle, but it’s pretty standard for most off-roading rigs to be 4WD. AWD vehicles are mainly geared toward on-road driving because of their ability to handle heavy seasonal weather.
What is Four-Wheel Drive?
When referencing a system that powers all four of a vehicle’s wheels, people most commonly think of four-wheel drive. The difference between 4WD and AWD is that 4WD systems are more robust and can handle more rugged terrain. Just like AWD systems, 4WD vehicles come in full-time and part-time systems. 4WD systems use front and rear differentials, transfer cases, and couplings to provide torque to all the wheels.
If you have a full-time 4WD system, then your wheels will receive power on a continuous basis. Depending on what type of vehicle you have, you might have the option to choose what proportion of power you want to send to the front versus the back wheels.
If your truck is for work and play, a part-time 4WD system might be the best fit for you. Like in AWD, only two wheels will be engaged. You will need to “activate” 4WD when you need it. This may come in the form of pushing a button or pulling a lever to engage in 4WD for maximum traction.
If you often find yourself off-roading, climbing hills, or ripping through deep water, 4WD might be your best option to ensure your vehicle has what it takes to perform how you need it to. However, 4WD is not meant for driving long distances on dry pavement, so it’s important to shift out of it for this.
Is All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive Better?
When it comes to which is better, there isn’t really a clear winner. Both provide functionality in terms of delivering increased traction in certain situations like snow and icy conditions. AWD and 4WD are both significantly better options than 2WD in conditions like that. Generally, 4WD is the better option for trying to navigate through deeper snow, however.
2WD vehicles are cheaper to manufacture, so naturally, 4WD and AWD vehicles will cost more initially. Also, be prepared to trade fuel economy for extra traction due to how heavy the systems are.
Another thing to consider if you’re looking for a way to maximize your rig’s traction capabilities is picking out the best tires for your off-roading adventure. When you’re ready to snag a set of tires from TrailBuilt, remember that our partnership with Affirm allows you to make easy monthly payments so you can hit the ground running right away.
Plus, if you decide to bundle your tires together with a set of wheels, you’ll receive a package-rate discount and free mounting, balancing, and shipping. Plus, we know you need to hit the trails, so good thing your wheel and tire package could be at your door in as little as 7 days.