Four Wheel Drive – Five Important FAQs

Sat, 07/23/2016 - 15:46

During the recent record breaking heavy winter snow storm that struck the east coast, I was among the stranded travelers in a small regional airport of New York. As a last available option, I decided to take the Amtrak to Wilmington DE where I was picked up by my family.

That day, it has snowed almost 18 inches and the roads were in a terrible condition. As we passed near the stranded cars near the highway, my father talked wildly about his incredible four-wheel drive SUV and said that a 4WD is an essential vehicle for anyone who lives in areas with terrible winter weather.


The question that comes to one’s mind is what 4WD is and how it exactly works. For a long time I had assumed that it was a feature on heavy duty cars specially designed for those who were crazy of off-road driving and not something that was needed by an everyday driver. However, after some more research, I came to know that I was misguided.

A lot of people think that 4WD means that all four wheels are driven at the same time but this is not necessarily true.

Whether one has a four wheel drive or not, it is not bad to know how exactly a 4WD works and when it is used, especially when there is a snow storm or considering to buy a new car.

Following are five FAQs about 4WDs;

1. What is a 4WD four-wheel drive?

A 4WD allows all the four wheels to simultaneously receive power from the engine. It is usually meant for only using in low traction conditions like off-road, ice or snow.

2. How does 4WD work?

Traditional cars have two axles, one is for the front tires and the second one is for the rear tires. When 4WD mode is engaged, at least one wheel on each axle can be driven as the front and rear axles get locked. This means that during dangerous road conditions, 4WD drivers have more control and traction of their cars.

3. What is the meaning of 4×4?

4×4 means a vehicle having four-wheel drive. The figure ‘4’ refers to a number of wheels and the second figure ‘4’ refers to the number of wheels that receive the engine power. This means that 4×2 means a car whose engine power is only transmitted to two wheels.

4. What is all-wheel drive (AWD)?

Some cars come equipped with all-wheel drive which is also known as full-time four-wheel drive. This is not like 4WD because AWD is designed to function in all conditions and cannot be normally switched off.

5. Should I buy a 4WD car?

It depends on the area in which a person is living. If you live in an area where there is no need for off-road driving 4WD is not necessary. It is a good option for those areas that have severe winter conditions. It should be kept in mind that 4WD cars are sometimes more expensive. It can be a good idea to discuss this option with a trusted auto mechanic before making a decision to buy one.

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