The Difference Between AWD and 4WD
When taking on the most rugged trails with minimal traction, two-wheel-drive often doesn’t cut it. Instead, most avid off-roaders will either drive an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle. If you’re in the market for a new off-roading vehicle, the question of whether to opt for AWD or 4WD is likely weighing on your mind. To better understand the difference between AWD and 4WD and make the most informed decision possible, continue reading.
What Is AWD?
All-wheel-drive refers to the ability of a vehicle to send power to both the front and rear wheels at the same time. This drivetrain configuration operates by directing torque from the engine through differentials so that it reaches the front and rear axles and allows all four wheels to spin.
There are two main types of AWD which are known as full-time AWD and part-time AWD. Full-time AWD constantly sends torque to the front and rear axles, while part-time AWD only sends torque to both axles when extra traction is needed, otherwise it operates in two-wheel-drive mode.
What Is 4WD?
Four-wheel-drive vehicles have a traditional drivetrain that sends power to the front and rear axles. In addition, four-wheel-drive vehicles can send a specific amount of torque from the engine to the left and right wheels specifically. Like all-wheel-drive vehicles, four-wheel-drive vehicles also come in two primary types: full-time and part-time.
The Key Difference Between AWD and 4WD
The main difference between AWD and 4WD vehicles is that four-wheel-drive vehicles can direct power between the left and right wheels rather than just the front and rear wheels. Such a capability generally provides four-wheel-drive vehicles with more control and traction to handle particularly rugged surfaces.
Essentially, all-wheel-drive is beneficial if you simply want more traction when driving on paved roads. However, if you’re planning on off-roading, four-wheel-drive is the best option for optimal traction that will allow you to handle tough obstacles. As such, many vehicles known for their optimal off-road capabilities such as the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator are equipped with four-wheel-drive.
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