What Are the Differences Between AWD and 4WD Vehicles?

If you are on the search for a new car, you might be thinking about getting a model that engages all four wheels to get optimized traction in adverse driving situations. The all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) systems have become more and more popular, as about 45 percent of new vehicles sold in the US are equipped with either one or the other. But when it comes to defining them, there is a blurred line. Do you want to find out the differences between AWD and 4WD vehicles? Keep reading.

Read more:  Learn How To Avoid and Correct a Slide on Snow and Ice

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

AWD powers both the front and rear wheels all the time. Torque is distributed to all four wheels through a series of centered differentials, viscous couplings and clutches, which can actively send more power to the wheel that needs it most. There are two types of AWD: the full and the part-time. Full-time AWD provides power to all the wheels continuously. Part-time AWD, on the other hand, operates most of the time in two-wheel-drive mode, either the front or the rear, only sending power to all four wheels when conditions require more traction.

  • The system generally operates automatically, so the driver doesn’t need to make any decisions about engaging the system.
  • Works well under a variety of situations, like rain or snow.
  • It can be found on a wide range of vehicles, from sedans to SUVs to trucks of all sizes.
  • Not the best choice to go off-road. Adventurous drivers still prefer to decide for themselves when to engage four-wheel drive.
  • It can lead to a false sense of security and encourage dangerous driving.

class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-2999″ />

Four Wheel Drive (4WD)

4WD is the traditional drivetrain system. Like AWD, it sends power to all four wheels. However, this system is more vigorous and can handle rougher surfaces better, since it sends a fixed amount of power to each tire. 4WD delivers torque to wheels through a series of front, rear and center differentials, transfer cases and couplings. 4WD also has a full-time and part-time mode, both operating the same way as with AWD. The only difference is that in part-time mode, it is the driver who must decide when to engage the second axle.


  • A good option to handle difficult terrain or enjoy off-road adventuring.
  • Well-suited to work in extreme weather conditions.
  • It gives the driver control over where and how the power is delivered.
  • Not easy to find in all vehicle’s models but predominantly in trucks.
  • In unexpected situations, non-automatic control can make safer handling more difficult.
  • It makes on-road cornering more difficult.

Read more:  Top 5 Reasons To Buy a Used Car or Truck

Choosing the adequate drivetrain depends not only on where you live and what kinds of driving conditions you encounter but on your personal taste as well. Now that you know the main differences between AWD and 4WD, contact us at The Car Lot etc. to learn more about the models we offer.