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Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Different Types Of Wheel Drives In Automobiles

Every day while enjoying some flashy car cutting its way into the
Magnificent oblivion in a TV commercial,
We see some hard to understand car jargon appearing on the screen. While one can brush it away terming it only for the car freaks,
It is always good to know what you are driving/going to drive and,
How its specifications will affect your driving style.

One of the technical terms we see most often is,
Type of wheel drive the car offers.
So what in the name of hot silencers, this even is?

Automobiles of all types are meant to act differently on various surfaces,
And this depends on the type of Wheel Drive they offer.
We all know that all automobiles must have wheels,
But how their drive is different from each other is quite interesting and useful,
If you want to get the max out of your vehicle.

Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)

This most common drive system found in today’s vehicles is FWD. As the name implies, these vehicles channel their power to the front wheels.
Front-wheel drive is often employed,
Because it is a very compact system and uses very little space inside the cabin.
The majority of the weight is located over the front wheels,
Thus allowing good road traction at all times, especially when it is slippery.
The economy is also a factor, as building an FWD car is a lot cheaper.
It is also more responsive to steering movement as the final drive is directly connected to it.
It has some problems, like being nose-heavy,
And fragile due to half shafts and CV joints and the problem of Torque steer,
But these are usually negligible when compared with the advantages.

Image Credits: vehicleaccessoryreviews

Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD)

Rear-wheel drives used to be very popular,
Until the advent of its nemesis FWD in the early 80s. However,
RWD vehicles still have the advantage of providing more horsepower and higher vehicle weights.

This is the reason why they are found abundantly in sports cars, trucks, race cars,
Law enforcement pursuit vehicles, and high-performance sedans.
It can take a lot of beating without significant damage as it has a solid shaft going across the body.

Also, it offers great balance due to the better spread of weight over its body than its counterpart. But in snowy or damp conditions,
RWD is best left at home as they offer poor traction and can slip easily.

Image Credits: aamcocolorado

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD or 4×4)

In 44 systems, power goes from the transmission to the transfer case.
This system then splits power between the front and rear axles,
So that maximum torque is going to each wheel.

Four-wheel vehicles are different from AWD in 4WD as it features a two-speed
Transfer case with both high and low ranges. But unlike AWD,
All the systems are driver-activated.

This means that nothing is automatic and the driver must engage the
AWD function via a gear shift or button.

It is often found on large SUVs and trucks because it provides optimal traction
When off-rSUV This means that there are fewer moving parts when in 2WD,
And therefore lesser hindrance to forward motion.
This will save you a lot of fuel without the need to engage 4WD.

4WD ‘low’ splits the power evenly among all 4 wheels,
While a 4WD ‘high’ splits power but unevenly and allows ‘limited slip’
Between the inside and outside wheels.
This allows the car to move over an obstacle that offers lesser traction to
One wheel than the other, like a puddle.

In summary:

4WD pros include the best traction in off-road conditions,
Fuel economy, and rugged, low-maintenance technology.

Some of its cons include added weight and complexity to the drive train,
It still can’t be used in all conditions (part-time 4WD on pavements),
And it is certainly more expensive than two-wheel-drive models.

Here’s a video explaining 4WD.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

All-wheel drive is often taken for four-wheel drive cars,
But despite the fact that both use all four wheels,
There are some differences between the two.
Generally, an AWD system operates as an RWD or FWD vehicle– most are FWD.
Unlike 4WD, AWD drive is beautiful in its simplicity:
The system does everything automatically, without driver intervention.
In AWD, this system works to get power to the wheels with the most traction by
Splitting power between the front and rear axles on the center differential.

Summary

AWD Advantages: It provides increased grip and control under all road conditions,
Gives more responsive handling and traction, and is meant to work all the time.
The disadvantages are that it doesn’t offer a good fuel economy as 4WD.
It increases the weight and complexity of vehicles and is not as good in
Extreme off-road conditions as a 4WD.

So if you are going to have a lot of off-road trips,
4WD might be a good option. But if you live in a snowy area,
An AWD would be a better option, as it is less fussy for the driver to operate.

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Ekster EU

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