What’s The Difference Between AWD and 4WD?

All Wheel Drive vs. Four Wheel Drive

With the steadily rising popularity of SUVs and CUVs, many drivers want either all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). While they both provide great traction and control, AWD and 4WD are often mistaken for each other despite their differences. Still, it’s important to understand their differences because using the correct one could impact your safety out on the road. Find a vehicle equipped with AWD or 4WD now at Mike Anderson Chevy!

What Is All-Wheel Drive? 

An All-Wheel Drive system delivers power from your vehicle to all four wheels at the same time for the entire time you are driving your car. However, with active AWD, the amount of torque allocated to each wheel varies across time. Active AWD will typically operate with either a front or rear bias. The AWD system directs power to your vehicle’s axle when traction is needed at one or more of the other wheels. It also typically uses a center differential (there are many different types) that enables the front and rear wheels to operate at different speeds. 

AWD systems are generally front biased or rear biased. The difference is simple. Front biased AWD means the vehicle distributes more torque to the vehicle’s front wheels than rear wheels, while rear biased AWD distributes more torque to the rear wheels and the front wheels. 

What Is Four-Wheel Drive? 

Developed to maintain optimal traction when manually selected, Four-Wheel Drive means the front and rear driveshafts can be locked together to move at the same speed and distribute the same amount of torque to all four of your vehicle’s wheels. In general, it is intended for off-road use and on very slippery surfaces, such as inclement weather. There are also several different types of 4WD: 

  • Part Time 4WD: The most traditional and best type of 4WD system, this operates on two-wheel drive unless manually or automatically switched to four-wheel drive.
  • Full-time 4WD: Sometimes called permanent 4WD or automatic 4WD, this system sends an equal twenty-five percent of power to each wheel all of the time, but a clutch pack or center differential enables the front and rear driveshafts to operate at different speeds. 
  • On-demand 4WD: This system operates in 2WD and automatically activates other wheels when traction is needed. 

Difference Between AWD And 4WD

When comparing AWD vs 4WD, you should know that the major difference between them is that they utilize different parts of a vehicle. All-Wheel Drive typically uses more components: an engine, a torque converter (or clutch), a transmission, a center differential, a clutch pack, a rear differential, and a front differential. Other AWD systems use unique technology such as hybrid electric. Meanwhile, Four-Wheel Drive often only uses an engine, a torque converter (or clutch), a transmission, a transfer case, a rear differential, and a front differential. 

How They Work In Snow 

Another important difference between AWD and 4WD is that they perform differently when driving in inclement weather like snow. However, it really depends on how much snow there is and the setting of the drive.  While AWD is better for driving on a snowy highway, 4WD is best for driving over a snow-covered flat field. Which one is right for you will depend on what setting you typically drive in. 

Visit Mike Anderson Chevy Chicago!

Looking for a Chevy dealership in Chicago? At Mike Anderson Chevrolet of Chicago, we are one of the area’s premier Chevrolet dealerships with a huge selection of Chevy cars, trucks, and SUVs for you to choose from. Founded in 1969 by Bob Anderson, Mike Anderson Chevy Chicago is proud to continue to serve the community. We have a great selection of vehicles and top-notch customer service to everyone who walks through our doors. Visit our Chevy Service Center to learn more about AWD vs 4WD, Chevy parts, and more!