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Difference Between AWD and 4WD

toyota-4wdGenerally, the terms 4WD( Four-Wheel Drive) and AWD ( All Wheel Drive) both describe vehicles in which engine power is transmitted to all four wheels, unlike normal vehicles in which only two wheels receive torque from the engine.

Although 4WD and AWD sounds similar, there are some functional and design differences between both systems. The term 4WD describes a drive system in which the engine’s power can be switched between two speed ranges and transmitted to all four wheels. AWD drive system lacks the two speed transfer feature. By having this  feature 4WD is considered superior to AWD.

Another key difference found between today’s AWD and 4WD vehicles is, how  engine power is shared between front and rear wheels. Under normal driving, AWD vehicles deliver 90 percent of its engine power to the front wheels. Additional engine power is diverted to rear wheels via viscous coupling, only when the front wheels start to slip. On the other hand, usually a 4WD transmits almost all of its engine power to the rear wheels. The second speed option available in 4WD allows to split the engine power equally between front and rear wheels.

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  1. AWD is not developed for ideal off-road use because they don’t have a standard 2-speed transfer case or 4-wheel drive low range gearing that are normally found in any 4WD models.

  2. I’m not too familiar with AWD systems, but I do know that power delivery to all four wheels at the same time on a 4WD system is a common misconception. It is possible by purchasing a locking differential or buying a vehicle that includes the pricey components, such as the Jeep Rubicon or Dodge Power Wagon. These provide, at significant cost optional front and rear locking differentials, enabling delivery of power to all four wheels. Other models such as the Toyota Tacoma and FJ Cruiser offer an option for a rear-only locking differential. The point is the majority of of 4WD systems only deliver power to one wheel per axle. I suspect the same applies to AWD systems, but they use traction control and their ABS system to stop a spinning wheel, sending power to the opposite wheel.

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