All-Wheel and Four-Wheel – Nice for Snow and Ice

Dear Tracy,

What is the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive? Are these systems better than two-wheel drive?

Larry K

Dear Larry,

All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are different, but similar types of systems. The drivetrain of an all-wheel drive vehicle has a front, rear, and center differential to provide power to all four wheels. The four-wheel drive vehicle’s drivetrain has two differentials and a transfer case to supply power to all four wheels. The systems are similar in that they both can enhance acceleration in wet or icy conditions and improve handling in some driving situations. Cars and crossovers will feature all-wheel drive, while trucks and sport utility vehicles tend to have four-wheel drive.

Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive can offer significant advantages, depending on the type of driving you do and the climate in which you do your driving. If you encounter a great deal of rain, snow, and ice, four-wheel drive can be a life-saver.  A-wheel drive or four wheel drive also provide superior traction with towing and add to the resale value of a vehicle.

On the down side, all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles tend to have lower fuel economy and require more maintenance than standard vehicles. Both consume more gas, but four-wheel drive, unlike all-wheel drive,  can be turned off so there is the option to only use it, and the extra gas, when you need it.