three stacks of tires at a tire store

All-Wheel Drive vs Four-Wheel Drive, what is a drivetrain?

When shopping for an SUV or truck, you will notice that they have either all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). These are different drivetrain options for a vehicle. You may be wondering a few things right now. What is the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive? What is a drivetrain? Today, we will be covering what a drivetrain is, and comparing AWD and 4WD.

What is a drivetrain?

Before we compare AWD and 4WD, you need to know what a drivetrain is and what its purpose is. The drivetrain is a group of components that deliver power to the driving wheels. The purpose of the drivetrain is to provide power to the driving wheels using mechanical power to rotate the axle.

All-Wheel Drive vs Four-Wheel Drive

close up on tire of car driving

Now that you know what a drivetrain is, let’s talk about all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. All-wheel drive provides to power to the front and rear wheels all the time. All-wheel drive provides torque to the wheels using a series of differentials, viscous couplings and/or multiplate clutches. There are two types of all-wheel drive: full-time and part-time. Full-time all-wheel drive has both the front and rear axles driven all the time. Part-time AWD gives torque to two driven wheels and the automatically engages the other two when conditions demand more traction.  

Four-wheel drive, like AWD, sends torque to all four wheels. However, this system is more robust and can handle rough terrain. Like AWD, four-wheel drive also has two types: full-time and part-time. Full-time 4WD provides power to all four wheels on a continuous basis. In part-time 4WD, the vehicle is driven by two wheels and the driver must decide when to engage 4WD.

Read more: What is an Automobile’s Trim Level or Grade?

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