Car terminology can be particularly tricky for new car owners. Many people make the mistake of thinking 4WD (4 wheel drive) and AWD (All wheel Drive) refer to the same thing. Technically speaking, it is not incorrect since both types of vehicles use power to run all the four wheels. However, the difference between these engine types is a tad complicated and has a definitive impact on your petrol mileage and how far off-road you can venture.
A 4WD mechanism is generally found in SUVs and larger vehicles like trucks and are ideal for off-road terrains. Be it rocky dirt roads, steep mountainous roads, low rivers or the beach, a good 4WD will help you maintain a smooth ride. On the other hand, AWD vehicles are good for slippery, wet roads where extra traction is necessary.
How does a 4WD mechanism work?
A 4WD engine engages all four wheels to provide traction to safely navigate on steep or craggy terrain. In most cars, you have to manually select the 4WD mode. Once you do that, the power is evenly divided between the front and the rear axles of the car. Larger cars like SUVs and trucks have bigger wheels designed for off-road driving. Once the 4WD driveline is selected and locked, it means there is no mechanical link between the front and the rear axles and hence there is no difference in their number of rotations.
Equal distribution of power to all four wheels means each wheel spins at the same constant rate. This works perfectly for manoeuvring through tough roads. However, if the 4X4 mode is selected while driving through normal roads at a low speed, the axles and the propeller shaft that make the driveline will be stressed if you take a corner. This results in your car getting locked in a ‘wind up’. Hence it is advisable to drive your 4WD car in a two-wheel drive when on normal road conditions.
How is an AWD different from 4WD?
An AWD vehicle generally consists of a slip differential that drives all four wheels at all times with a rotational difference between the front and rear axles. These vehicles are computer driven with the traction and speed being constantly monitored by sensors on each wheel. This makes them great for driving on slippery roads with maximum traction being provided at all times. An AWD vehicle needs no input from the driver whatsoever, they are fully automated. When the engine detects a loss of traction the power is transferred away from the slipping wheels making your ride smoother.
The newest innovations in AWD mechanism makes them much more user-friendly and definitely allows for a better fuel economy.
Which one should you pick?
This depends entirely on your needs and usage. If you plan on making adventurous trips into the bush you should go for a durable and strong 4WD engine found on the bigger SUVs and off-road utes. However, for most people, an AWD works fine in all weather conditions. They have a better weight distribution system, they save mileage and perform particularly well with improved traction.
We service both 4WDs and AWDs, so you can drop in, or drop us a line anytime you need a service. For more assistance, do not hesitate to call on (07) 3353 6939 for all service matters.