When you are selecting a car, you must look at certain features like the engine power, mileage, dashboard, etc. But many people skip over one of the most important factors, the drivetrain. A car’s drivetrain determines which wheels will be actuated by the engine at a particular time. Cars can feature a 2-wheel drive (2WD), 4-wheel drive (4WD) or an all-wheel drive (AWD).
It is important to know the differences between 2WD, 4WD, and AWD because they can determine how well your car will run on different terrains. They can also determine how much fuel will be used. To understand all the differences between them, we must look at each type of drivetrain individually.
In a Two Wheel Drive vehicle, the drivetrain only sends the power to the two front or back wheels. If it delivers the power to the front two wheels, it’s called a Front Wheel Drive or FWD, whereas if the power is delivered to the back wheels, it’s called a Real Wheel Drive or RWD.
Most passenger vehicles feature FWD because they are cheaper to manufacture and safer to drive. They also benefit from better traction while climbing a steep elevation or driving on a slippery road. On the other hand, RWD is usually seen in sports cars, as they allow the car to gain high speeds. Smaller trucks also feature RWD because it allows the truck to carry heavy items on it.
If you live in hilly terrain or a city with smooth roads, then a car with 2WD is ideal. 2WD cars consume the least amount of fuel as well, making them ideal for daily use.
- 4 Wheel Drive
Four-wheel drive is when the drivetrain sends power to all four wheels at once. This type of vehicle is great for off-roading and driving on rough roads. 4WD is also seen in cars used for extreme sports.
Most four-wheel-drive vehicles can switch between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Modern 4WD vehicles can be full-time, automatic, or part-time. If the car is full-time, all four wheels will get power at all times. An automatic car will automatically switch between 2WD and 4WD, depending on how much power it needs. But if it’s part-time, you can manually switch between 2WD and 4WD depending on your need.
4WD allows a car to have better traction and stability while driving on uneven terrain or lifting a heavy load. So, 4WD is typically seen in pickup trucks and heavy-duty trucks. When a car is in 4WD mode, it uses a lot of fuel, and the tires wear out faster. So, 4WD vehicles are not ideal for driving on a normal road.
- All Wheel Drive
Although 4WD and AWD sound like the same thing, they are quite different in practice. AWD vehicles feature a drivetrain that automatically delivers the correct amount of power to all four wheels of the car. Modern AWD drivetrains can control each wheel separately to allow for better traction and stability.
While 4WD vehicles are suited for off-roading and driving on rough terrains, AWD vehicles can better handle slippery roads and snow. If any of the wheels start to slip, the computer will automatically send more power to the wheel to stabilize it. Therefore, 4WD vehicles are safer for driving in adverse weather conditions.
AWD vehicles use more fuel than a 2WD car, but it does not need nearly as much fuel as a 4WD car. They are also typically more expensive since the manufacturing process is more difficult. But if you live in an area with adverse weather conditions or bad roads, an AWD vehicle is much safer than a 2WD vehicle.
While there are several technical differences between 2WD, 4WD and AWD, the practical difference is how they work in different terrains. Most passenger cars feature a front-wheel 2WD because it provides enough power to drive the car on smooth roads. However, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, an AWD car is better because you can easily control how much power each wheel will get.
4WD is usually only seen in pickup trucks and heavy-duty trucks because they need more traction to drive on rough terrain and pull heavy loads. If a car has four-wheel drive, it will also consume a lot more fuel, so it’s not ideal for passenger cars.
Which drivetrain you choose will depend entirely on the area you live in. Knowing the differences between different types of drivetrains makes it much easier to choose a car.