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Cars have become a primary source of transportation for millions around the world. Since the simple, early models, vehicles have undergone massive changes. Some are centered around user performance, while others focus on performance. One of such changes is introducing all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) mechanisms. Although both are the same in theory, subtle differences make them different. If you are looking to buy your next car and don’t know the differences between AWD vs 4WD vehicles, this article is for you.
1. AWD vs. 4WD
AWD vehicles power the front and back wheels at all times. As a result, they provide greater traction while on the road making the car safe over any terrain. Normally, AWD is activated while driving; however, new models have given more control to the driver. Full-time AWD runs continuously without the driver’s input, whereas part-time or automatic AWD lets the driver control the power distributed to the wheels.
4WD is commonly a feature of heavy vehicles such as trucks, jeeps, and off-roaders. Since these vehicles are heavy, it needs more power in the wheels. This is also why many off-roaders and jeeps are equipped with this mechanism, as it offers more speed, power, and reliability to the vehicle. As mentioned, this feature was only reserved for heavy vehicles, but newer luxury models are using this mechanism for a better user experience.
Both AWD and 4WD are made to offer extra grip on the road. However, there are some notable differences in their mechanisms. AWD systems are generally automatic and don’t need much input from the driver. Viscous couplings and multi-plate clutches are responsible for activating AWD in vehicles. Depending on the terrain, the torque is distributed among all four wheels in a continuous AWD. No matter the surface, an AWD of the car will adjust itself according to the conditions.
Like AWD, 4WD is designed to offer greater traction on the road under severe conditions. In addition, 4WD is generally considered more powerful and can handle more rough terrain than an AWD. There are two settings to a 4WD, low and high range, which the driver can manually adjust through a secondary gearbox. Low range is ideal for off-roading and rugged terrain, whereas high range is excellent to navigate icy or slippery roads.
3. Weather Conditions
Weather conditions are the perfect scenarios to judge the performance of both these mechanisms. AWD is considered best in snowy and rainy conditions since they don’t require any input from the driver. The system, through sensors, sends the information to the chip, which in turn tunes the AWD to adjust according to the road conditions.
A 4WD requires some effort from its driver to perform efficiently under such conditions. This is why such vehicles are ideally suited to heavy snow and extreme weather conditions. Nevertheless, 4WD requires accurate input from the driver, making it difficult for many to operate.
No matter what the differences are, your usability will dictate the choice of your vehicle. Choose a vehicle depending on your local terrain and weather conditions for maximum comfortability and reliability.