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What Is The Difference Between A 4X2, 4X4 And AWD?

It may seem that 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive are simple – after all, you just push a button, and your car can go on a bad road or an off-road. In reality, though, you’ll find that 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive have a number of differences and there again, all-wheel drive is different from both. The 2-wheel drive uses a drive system that transmits power to either the front wheels or the rear wheels. A 4-wheel-drive, has power delivered to all four wheels, via a transfer case. Let’s take a look at each system:

Rear Two-Wheel DriveMost cars throughout automotive history have been 2-wheel drive cars, and there are many advantages to 2-wheel drive. Rear wheel drive powers a vehicle that is more balanced and has better weight distribution that is closer to the ideal 50-50 ratio. The job of the tires is also balanced. The front wheels provide steering, while the rear wheels provide power. However, the rear wheel drive vehicle is limited because it provides drive only on smooth roads, while four-wheel drive can provide traction on rugged terrain.

Front Two-Wheel Drive

Although front-wheel drive has been around since the 1920’s, it didn’t fit with the typical American car that is powerful and well-proportioned. However, with the fuel shortages that occurred in the 1970’s, more efficient cars were needed and required building cars with front-wheel drive that put engine and transmission at the front of the car. By putting the engine and transmission in the front of the car, the driveshaft to the rear was eliminated. Front wheel drive was also more passenger efficient, meaning more interior room.

Four-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive sends power to all four wheels. A two-speed transfer case facilitates this. The two-wheel drive transfer case can drop into a lower gear to allow navigation through winding, uneven trails, rough desert terrain or heavy snow. It should be noted, however, that four-wheel drive can be just as bad as two-wheel drive if both front and rear right or left side wheels are in ice and the other two are in dry pavement. In such case, the wheels in ice will just spin – unless each axle uses a limited slip differential.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive, or AWD, as the name implies, delivers power to all four wheels. This can be with more power going to the rear wheels or it can be with more power towards the front. Generally, AWD uses more gas, but it is helpful in wet pavement roads and ice, as it provides superior traction. AWD is not suited for off-road gymnastics.



  1. stephanie (Reply) on Monday 7, 2011

    Its amazing what vehicles can go threw in certain situations.