What You Need to Know About All-Wheel Drive Vehicles

What You Need to Know About All-Wheel Drive Vehicles

Many people believe all-drive-vehicles are the safest cars to drive. In addition, people frequently get four-wheel-drive (4WD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) confused. Below, we’ve listed some important information about all-wheel-drive vehicles, how they work and what you can expect from them.

The Difference Between 4WD and AWD

4WD and AWD have the same working principle with only a slight difference. Both systems provide power to all four wheels. The only difference is that in AWD, the drivetrain directs power to all four wheels all the time. In 4WD, the power is directed to one set of wheels most of the time. The other set of wheels are provided power only when additional traction is needed, like on slippery roads. 

Types of All-Wheel-Drive Systems

There are two types of all-wheel-drive systems: 

  • Full-time All-Wheel-Drive: In a full-time all-wheel-drive system, the torque is permanently split between front and rear axle. In other words, all four wheels are receiving power when the vehicle is in motion. 

  • Automatic All-Wheel-Drive: In an automatic AWD system, an electromagnetic device controls the multi-disc clutch. Most of the time, a vehicle with an automatic AWD system runs like a front-wheel-drive vehicle. The AWD mode is activated on demand and based on road conditions. The driver has the option to lock the clutch for permanent AWD capability. In Auto mode, electromagnetic device makes the decision. 

AWD Systems Result In Lower Gas Mileage 

As mentioned earlier, the AWD drivetrain directs power to all four wheels. This causes the engine to burn more fuel in order to provide power to both sets of wheels. 

Make Sure You Use Right Type of Tires

While it’s true that AWD is safer to drive in less optimal road conditions, like snow-covered roads or mud, this largely depends on the type of tires used. You need the right types of tires for better handling and braking performance. For example, you should avoid using summer tires in the winter. If you live in an area where the roads are covered with snow during colder months, you need to get winter tires for safety and better handling. 

Acceptable Tread Depth Difference 

The tire diameter is an important aspect of an AWD vehicle. According to tire experts, you should not mismatch the tires in AWD vehicles, otherwise, you risk damaging the AWD system. The acceptable tread depth difference is 3/32 of an inch. If one of the tires needs replacement, you need to replace all four tires. 

Car manufacturers provide important information about tire replacement in the car owner’s manual. If the car owner’s manual mentions that you need to replace all four tires at once, you need to follow the recommendation to prevent damaging your AWD system. The reason is that if there is a circumference difference between the tires, the tires with a smaller circumference have to rotate more than the tires with a larger circumference. This can result in serious damage to the vehicle. 

The information given above should help clear any misunderstandings about all-wheel-drive vehicles and help you take proper care of an AWD vehicle or decide whether or not all-wheel drive is right for you.