725 S Garfield Ave
Traverse City Mi 49686
Garfield Auto Service Center
725 S Garfield Ave
Traverse City Mi 49686
Ph. 231.929.3862
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AWD vs. 4WD: What's The Difference?

March 3, 2020, 12:00 am

You might be looking at a new or used car and debated between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. You might even drive an AWD or 4WD vehicle now, but have you ever wondered what the real difference is?

Believe it or not, many people don’t realize there is a somewhat important difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. That difference only comes up in some pretty specific situations, but especially if you’re in the market, it’s a good thing to know, and understand, and decide what might be better for your driving habits. 

First up, four-wheel drive. 4WD has a ‘static’ powertrain, which simply means that there is power going to all four wheels, all the time. That power doesn’t change or adjust based on conditions. 4WD was a go-to option on trucks, jeeps, SUVs and other vehicles with a penchant for getting dirty, and for a good reason. 4WD is the most efficient drivetrain for off-roading, and that’s why you see ‘mud trucks’ and jeeps all still come with it as standard. 

Alternatively, all-wheel drive offers a smarter way to distribute power. Using computer sensors that can essentially feel, read, and process changes in traction, AWD can distribute horsepower where it does the most good. This offers more efficient use of power and also adds a substantial benefit of safety in snowy, icy, or wet conditions. AWD has become more and more popular as technology has improved and you’ll find it on a number of cars, station wagons, cross-overs, and SUVs. The only real drawback to AWD is that the system is inherently more complex and slightly heavier, which is why you don’t see it on performance or race cars, which still value weight savings in the pursuit of speed. 

Which is best for you? Unless you spend your weekends on sandy two-tracks, AWD makes the most sense. Both AWD and 4WD see very regional popularity. States like Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and of course Michigan, all see over 50% of vehicles with AWD or 4WD engines. The state with the lowest? It shouldn't be too hard to guess. Just 17% of vehicles in Florida have power from more than two wheels. 

So, do you need either? In northern Michigan, driving conditions are marginal for several months out of the year, and the benefits are certainly enough to make the slightly lower fuel efficiency to be safe. The next time you’re at a Traverse City intersection, take a look around and make note of how many AWD vehicles are out on the road...it’s a lot!

Posted by Garfield Auto at 12:00 am
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