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What's the difference between All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive?

Posted by Shabana Motors - 23 June, 2023

Difference between AWD and 4WD

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) are systems that send power to all four wheels in a vehicle, but they have some key differences. To learn what’s the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD), we’ve highlighted key features that will teach you the pros and cons of each system.


What is All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is a drivetrain system designed to distribute power to all four wheels of a vehicle, which could be full-time or on-demand. Unlike traditional two-wheel drive vehicles, AWD simultaneously transfers power to both the front and rear axles. This distribution is achieved with a center differential, which automatically distributes torque between the axles. AWD is more suitable for cars and SUVs.

Two Types of All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
  • Full-time AWD: A full-time AWD engages all 4-wheels full-time, meaning it powers all wheels continuously. The benefit of full-time AWD is a smoother ride on dry and flat roads. It also provides better traction and safer handling of the gear when driving on ice, snow, or muddy terrain.
  • On-demand AWD: The other AWD system powers all four wheels when needed. This on-demand AWD system runs in two-wheel drive mode and automatically occupies the other two wheels only when sensors detect the ones operating begin to slip. The benefit of on-demand AWD is a more fuel-efficient ride as it only engages all 4-wheels when needed.

The type of AWD in a car depends on the make and model of your vehicle. Rather that is full-time or on-demand, AWD provides stability and control while driving, especially around corners or uneven terrain as it adapts to various driving conditions. This system tends to be more fuel-efficient and is found in sedans, crossovers, and luxury cars.

What is Four-Wheel Drive (4WD or 4x4)

As with AWD, the 4WD or 4x4 (as referred to by many) is a drivetrain system that sends power to all four wheels at the same time to help increase traction when needed. The difference from AWD is that 4WD is a system that the driver applies when additional traction is required. Also, 4WD tends to be a stronger system than AWD, which is why it’s seen more on large cars. Unlike the AWD which operates automatically, the 4WD operates when the driver manually engages or disengages the system depending on the driving conditions.

The 4WD is a system that can also operate full-time or part-time. Note the differences between the two.


Two Types of 4-Wheel Drive (4WD)
  • Full-time 4WD: To apply the full-time 4WD, the driver must select this by manually pressing a button on the dashboard or using a lever to engage this operation. With a full-time system, the driver is locked into it while driving and cannot shift between two-wheel drive and 4WD.
  • Part-time 4WD: This system acts as a part-time AWD sending power to one axle which most times is sent to the rear wheels. This system works by using what is known as a transfer case and sends the power where it’s needed most.

4WD systems are often found in larger SUVs, trucks, and all-terrain vehicles that need extra traction. This system comes with high or low-range settings, which can be engaged based on road conditions. For instance, the high range is ideal for winter weather while driving on slippery roads with snow, ice, sand, and gravel. The low range is ideal for off-road situations due to its ability to overcome obstacles on challenging terrains, such as rocky paths, steep inclines, or muddy surfaces. 4WD systems are also well-suited for towing boats, trailers, or other large items.

Should I Buy a Car with AWD or 4WD?

When deciding between AWD and 4WD, consider your driving requirements and preferences. If you primarily drive on paved roads and seek enhanced stability and traction, AWD is an excellent choice. This may be the case if you live in Houston where roads tend to be flat and paved.

On the other hand, if you frequently engage in off-road situations, the 4WD is your best option.

Finding a Used Car in Houston

When it comes to purchasing a used car, factors such as reliability, performance, and handling are of utmost importance. For customers visiting Shabana Motors, the best-used car dealership in Houston TX, making an informed decision is crucial. The distinction between All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) is often a subject of confusion, but we at Shabana Motors are here to help you understand their benefits and make an informed choice for your next vehicle purchase.

We are a trustworthy used car dealership in Houston serving Houston residents for over 40 years at the same location. Don’t worry if you have bad credit or no credit. Shabana Motors offers in-house financing to help you get to where you need. With our buy-here pay-here options, we will ensure you drive out of our lot with the car that best suits you.

Contact us today to learn more about our inventory and how we can help you find your ideal car.


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Topics: Car Financing, Used Cars, in house auto financing, pay here used car dealership, Best Used Cars with Warranty in Houston, Shabana Motors, used cars on sale near me, best used car dealership houston, bad credit no problem

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