Four-wheel drive. All-wheel drive. What’s the difference, right? In the jumble of automotive jargon these terms getting used interchangeable quite often. In reality however, these two terms actually describe very different systems.

So how do you know which is the right system for you? Luckily we’ve done all the hard work for you. Keep as we break down of the standard four-wheel drive system. Then check back next week as we examine all-wheel drive and help you decide which is the best option for you.

Four-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive, Four by Four, 4WD or 4x4, all describe the system most frequently found on vehicles used for off-roading or al leave vehicles with off-road pretensions. In a 4WD system, power is sent from the transmission to what is known as the transfer case. From there power is divided between the front and rear axles so that maximum torque is going to each wheel. When power is split evenly between the two axles, it ensures each wheel turns at the same speed. While this is great for getting your vehicle over a big pile of rocks, it doesn’t work as well in situations that require precise turning.

When a vehicle turns, the inside wheel has to turn more slowly that the outside wheel, which is covering more ground. If a 4WD system is making all four wheels turn the same speed, the inside wheel loses traction and spins freely. This lose of traction and free spin is not great for moving forward efficiently.

However, an advantage to 4WD systems is that they can be turned off when not needed. Activated by a mechanical lever or an electronic button, allows you to enjoy 4WD at low speeds in the snow or mud, but the drivability of a regular two-wheel drive system in normal conditions.

Four-Wheel Drive Pros:

  • Best traction for off-road driving
  • Can be turned off to improve fuel efficiency
  • Time-tested technology

Four-Wheel Drive Cons:

  • Doesn’t allow for precision driving
  • Adds weight and complexity cars
  • More expensive that standard two-wheel drive models

Check back next week as we explain the ins and outs of the All-Wheel Drive system and help you decide which is best for you.

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