Unless you’re an avid fan of automobiles, you likely aren’t aware of the difference between four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD). Although many people believe the two terms are interchangeable, they’re actually quite different, and knowing these differences can help you significantly on your next car buying hunt.
4WD is designed for the vehicle to go over uneven terrain, such as mud, dirt, gravel, etc. If you live in a remote area with a lot of unpaved roads, 4×4 may be your best bet, especially if you have to go up and down a lot of hills.
Four-wheel drive is at its best when you’re driving forward, since it does an excellent job propelling the car forward. However, it’s not as effective when you need to turn.
In a proper turn, the inside wheel needs to move slower than the outside wheel, since it doesn’t need to cover as much ground. Since 4WD distributes power evenly, you could lose traction during a sharp turn, so it’s important to turn your four-wheel drive off when you’re driving on even terrain.
Although 4WD can be very beneficial, you’ll have to pay for the added value at the pump. Since your vehicle will be heavier, the added weight will cause your car to work harder, thus putting a damper on your fuel economy.
Finally, since 4WD is really only optimal for off-road conditions, you probably don’t want to bother with it if you live in the city, as it may just end up costing you more money. In this case, you can go with two-wheel drive or AWD instead.
While four-wheel drive is intended for off-road use, AWD is the exact opposite.
Like 4WD, all-wheel Drive provides power to all four tires. However, unlike four-wheel drive, many AWD systems deliver power to a set of wheels, instead of distributing it evenly among all four. If the car detects that the vehicle is slipping, it will compensate by shifting its power to the opposite axle, in hopes of finding traction.
The disbursement of power between axles depends on the vehicle, but all AWD systems work to shift the power when slippage occurs. If you’re unfortunate enough to start skidding on a cold, icy day, all-wheel drive can kick in to help save you from a serious collision.
It’s sometimes very difficult to clearly see ice on the road during the winter, especially at night. While you’ll obviously still need to drive with caution, all-wheel drive can help to keep you safe when you most need it.
Lastly, all-wheel drive isn’t just useful during winter. It’s helpful whenever the roads are slippery, which means you may still need it during the rest of the year when it’s raining out.
Which is Better?
While 4WD can be useful for drivers who live in a rural, temperate area, Canadians who do a lot of their driving on paved roads should purchase all-wheel drive when the option is possible.
AWD will help you to grip the icy roads much better, and the superior weight distribution will make turning much easier. Since it is great in all weather conditions, you can feel more comfortable every time you buckle up.
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