AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?

AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference? - TopLift Pros

When it comes to four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, people tend to use them interchangeably. What many people may not realize, though, is that there are actually some key differences between the two types of drivetrain. When it comes to discussing the topic of Jeep AWD versus 4WD, you’ll need to take a look at the main differences and when you might want one type of drivetrain over the other.

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Jeep AWD vs. 4WD Basics

When you get down to it, all-wheel drive cars send power to each wheel all of the time. No matter what the situation, the engine is providing power to each individual wheel all day every day. While the amount of power that is delivered to each wheel varies in different vehicles, as long as each wheel is allotted some energy at any given time, it can be considered all-wheel drive. 

A four-wheel drive vehicle can be swapped between sending power to all of the wheels or just two. Typically, the driver needs to manually tell the car to enter four-wheel drive mode and, depending on the vehicle, this can take some time and you may have to stop your vehicle. Even vehicles that automatically switch to powering all four wheels when a loss of grip is detected is still considered a four-wheel drive vehicle rather than an all-wheel drive vehicle because all of the wheels only receive power in certain situations. 

Why You Might Want 4WD

There are certain advantages and disadvantages to both a four-wheel drivetrain and an all-wheel drivetrain. Four-wheel drive vehicles are often more gas efficient and give you the flexibility to choose when you want to have all four wheels being powered rather than just the two front or the two back wheels. However, when you engage four-wheel drive mode, oftentimes the surface you are driving on needs to allow for some slip since all the wheels must rotate at the same speed when four-wheel mode is engaged. This is very helpful and useful for off-roading, but isn’t functional on roads unless the road is snowy, slick, or is made of loose gravel. 

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Why You Might Want AWD

As we mentioned previously, all-wheel drive vehicles provide power to each wheel all day every day. This is great for everyday driving situations where road conditions are less than ideal. Instead of deciding whether or not it is a good time to switch over to four-wheel drive, the grip and traction you need will always be available to you. Some all-wheel drive cars even distribute power accordingly depending on how much traction each wheel is getting in real-time. All-wheel drive vehicles are typically great for everyday use and very light off-roading, but less great for off-road enthusiasts. Additionally, the fuel efficiency of AWD vehicles is lower on average than that four-wheel drive vehicles have.

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