Guide to AWD and 4WD
There are many different types of All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) systems, but they are similar in that all of them use all four wheels to drive the vehicle.
AWD and 4WD vehicles provide increased traction and better overall acceleration. This provides better grip in adverse driving conditions such as ice, snow, and off-road terrain. AWD uses adaptive technology to power the wheels that need it most, allowing for extra grip, particularly in slippery conditions such as rain, snow, and ice. 4WD is great for off-road conditions because it provides power to all four wheels, allowing for aggressive grip in very harsh driving conditions.
However, AWD and 4WD systems do not make vehicles invincible. While they provide increased traction and forward momentum, you should still follow the best practices for adverse weather and rough terrain. Most of the systems are not designed to provide better cornering or braking and do not enhance stopping or handling abilities.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
An AWD system is designed to power all four wheels at the same time. These systems typically use sensors to tell when tires are slipping, or are spinning at different rates. When slippage is detected, power is reallocated to the wheel or wheels that need it most. Most AWD systems are not designed for rugged off-road usage, but rather for pavement and particularly for bad weather such as heavy rain, snow, and ice.
Full Time 4WD
Full time 4WD is like a combination of an AWD system and a part time 4WD system. Like AWD, it runs constantly and can be safely used on pavement. However, the combined use of a differential and a transfer case make a full time 4WD system more rugged and durable than AWD. Full time 4WD can be found on larger SUVs and some trucks. Most of these vehicles can be manually switched from 4WD high to 4WD low, depending on the driving conditions you encounter. 4WD high is for use on pavement or in moderate weather conditions. 4WD low is only for off-road use or in the very worst weather conditions, such as heavy snow or ice.
Part Time 4WD
Vehicles with part time 4WD are typically designed for hard work and off-road enthusiasts. It is called part time 4WD because these systems can be switched between 2WD, 4WD high, and 4WD low. When driven on pavement, 2WD should be used. Serious mechanical damage can occur if a part time 4WD system is driven in 4WD mode on pavement. As with full time 4WD, the 4WD high setting is for light off-road duty, such as dirt or gravel roads and moderate rough weather. 4WD low is designed for severe weather such as ice or heavy snow and aggressive, rugged off-road driving. It is important to remember to put the vehicle back into 2WD before getting back on the pavement.
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