Four-Wheel Drive vs. All-wheel Drive

4WD? 4×4? AWD? What do they mean and what’s the main differences? We’re going to try to help make sense of all these letters and numbers.

Four-wheel drive or 4WD or 4×4 – Four wheel drive systems are most commonly found on trucks or larger SUV’s that are built on truck frames. During day-to-day normal driving, only the rear wheels are actively providing the power to move the vehicle forward. In adverse weather such as ice, rain or snow, the front wheels can be activated by pushing a button, flipping a switch or moving a lever. The front wheels then join in on the fun of moving things along … over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Of course, having trucks or rugged SUV’s with higher ground clearance and more specialized suspension also helps make the difference. Many serious off-roaders prefer the manual locking front wheel hubs that used to be common on older four wheel drive vehicles. This required the driver to exit the driver’s seat and twist/turn the knob on the front hubs to “lock” into four wheel drive.

Four-wheel drive is also the system of choice for serious off-road travel. Those folks dedicated to traveling out and about on forest trails, hilltop ridges and muddy ruts need the advantages that come with a four wheel drive system.

For information on 4×4 Ram Trucks –

For information on 4×4 Chevy Trucks –

For more information on Toyota 4×4 Trucks –

Jeeps are a bit unique in that they feature somewhat more sophisticated 4×4 systems.  A control knob allows the driver to choose various travel conditions that they may face … sand, gravel, snow, mud or rock. The mechanical, electronic or brake-assisted differentials on the various Jeep models help to maximize power delivery as required.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

For more information on Jeep’s –

One last note, four-wheel drive is not intended to be used all the time. These vehicles can have some “squirrelly” habits when driven in 4WD on dry pavement. It seriously effects handling and can cause damage if used for extended periods when not necessary.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive systems brought all-weather accessibility to your daily drive. Dad’s driving car pool … Mom’s heading off on her work commute … Older drivers looking for a vehicle that earns their confidence … All can feel comfortable knowing that all-wheel drive systems are waiting and ready for you. There are generally no switches to touch. Electronic sensors and the vehicle’s computer monitor what is happening at each wheel. When wet, snowy or icy conditions prevail, the AWD system adapts and distributes the power evenly to all four wheels, so you have maximum drive traction, with little-to-no chance of wheel spin. All-wheel drive systems are now found in a wide assortment of vehicle models, four-door sedans, hatchbacks, station wagons, SUV’s of all sizes and even some minivans boast of their all-wheel drive capabilities.

For more information on Buick AWD SUV’s –

For more information on Chevy AWD SUV’s – http://

For more information on Chrysler / Dodge AWD –

Most, but not all, AWD systems are on standard front-wheel drive vehicles that engage the rear wheels when additional traction is required. While some are still driven by shaft systems with transaxle units shared with the front wheels, many now have independent electronic rear wheel drive systems where all components are right there at the rear axle assembly. This eliminates the traditional front-to-rear drive shaft and related weight to help overall vehicle efficiency. Most drivers will not even be aware that their ride is moving along nicely using all-wheel drive. The systems all work together smoothly to make the transition to and from AWD nearly unnoticeable.

For more information on Toyota AWD vehicles –

n comparison, Two-wheel drive vehicles are less complex than those with AWD or 4WD, and their simpler drive trains can mean improved fuel economy in the long run. So in general, cars equipped with 2WD may get better gas mileage than models with AWD or 4WD. But more and more drivers are willing to sacrifice some fuel efficiency to gain the on road confidence of all-wheel or 4-wheel driving.

Coming Spring 2020 – the All-Wheel Drive Toyota Camry