The official season of Winter has just begun in West Michigan and while the roads are turning slick, many drivers are beginning to consider whether or not they would fare better on those snowy streets with a 4 Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive versus their current Front Wheel Drive. But before you decide to upgrade into a different new or used Car, Truck or SUV with either 4WD or AWD, it’s important to understand the difference between them, their individual benefits and what the downsides to each may entail.


What They Are

4×4 or 4 Wheel Drive

4 Wheel Drive, or 4×4 as they are commonly referred to, are systems designed to work when you want them to and disengaged when you do not want them to be.  This system is a form of drivetrain that allows power to all four wheels simultaneously instead of two and with equal distribution.  4 Wheel Drive can be engaged in either 4WD Low or 4WD High depending on the task at hand or the speed in which you will be driving.  Low range 4×4 should be used with speeds under 40 mph and is typically engaged when more torque applied to each tire is desired such as towing or pulling a heavy object up a steep incline or through tough terrain such as heavy snow, thick mud or deep water. High range is used for traveling at normal, higher speeds but still offers better traction with all four tires and is beneficial when road conditions are slick.

All Wheel Drive

All Wheel Drive is a relatively new innovation and is a more complicated system than 4WD.  By utilizing sensors, it can adjust power to each wheel as it is needed.  AWD is permanently on and more commonly found in cars and SUVs versus trucks, which traditionally offer 4WD for its towing ability.  All Wheel Drive vehicles have become ever increasingly more popular not only for their increase in traction when necessary but in their overall handling experience.


How They Work

4WD or 4×4

With 4 Wheel Drive, power is supplied from the transmission to a transfer case, where it is then equally split between the front and rear axles for maximum torque.  By doing so, the transfer case ensures that all four wheels turn simultaneously and evenly, and in doing so, allows the tires to turn at the same speed.  This allows for an increase in both power and in traction with the road.


While AWD vehicles achieve a very similar goal, they employ a slightly different strategy to do so. AWD systems utilize a front, center and rear differential with a variety of sensors, determining which wheels have the most grip, all while seamlessly and automatically redirecting power to those with less. This means depending on the road conditions, All Wheel Drive vehicles send a variable amount of power to each wheel as they are needed.



Pros of 4×4 or 4WD

Driving a vehicle equipped with 4 Wheel Drive affords the vehicle with better traction, a greater towing and hauling capability as well as handling better through extremely slippery conditions such as ice, snow, slush or other tough terrain like deep water, thick sand and up steep inclines.  4×4 is also ideal for off-road conditions over 2 Wheel Drive vehicles.

Pros of AWD

The biggest advantage of All Wheel Drive vehicles is the peace of mind afforded from not having to worry about turning 4WD on and off.  It’s not always easy to tell if the road conditions are slippery but All Wheel Drive vehicles take the guesswork out of the equation.  Because AWD vehicles are always monitoring how much traction each wheel has, it can allocate power when and where it needs it most.  This advancement has created vehicles that are better at providing sportier handling on all types of road conditions including snow, ice and rain.



Cons of 4WD

Turning all four wheels simultaneously takes a lot of power and in turn, takes more fuel to do it.  Thus 4WD vehicles while 4 Wheel Drive is engaged, are less fuel efficient than their 2 Wheel Drive counterparts.  Because all four tires are turning at the same speed, 4 Wheel Drive vehicles can also feel awkward completing turns due to the ground being covered.  The inside wheel needs to turn slower than the outside wheel, which is covering more ground.  But while 4×4 is engaged, the tires are not permitted to turn at different speeds and this leads to that ‘jerky’ feeling you may have experienced before.  4WD vehicles are also more expensive and weight more than similar 2WD vehicles.

Cons of AWD

Because of the drivetrain utilized in All Wheel Drive vehicles, the power can not be switched on and off, and can negate fuel efficiency.  AWD vehicles can also not match the traction offered by 4×4 vehicles, thus they fall short of providing the same towing and hauling capabilities at lower speeds.  All Wheel Drive vehicles do not perform the same in off-road conditions.  AWD systems also add weight and complexity to vehicles, and typically cost more than similar 2WD vehicles.


While a 4×4, 4WD or All Wheel Drive may not be right for everyone, there are certainly those who either need or want the added traction system in their vehicle.  If you find yourself searching for your next used SUV, truck or car that comes equipped with AWD or 4WD, we invite you to check out our current inventory of Used Trucks, Vans, SUVs and Cars.  At Broadmoor Motors, we specialize in finding the right used minivan, truck, SUV or car to fit your personal or business needs, all while giving you the best deal we can on both your purchase and trade in.  Our family has been in the car business for over 60 years and continues to be family owned and operated in all of our Caledonia, Hastings and Wayland locations with financing available to those who qualify.  We will find you the right vehicle to fit both your budget and your needs in a pressure free environment.

Let Broadmoor Motors save you time and money when buying your next quality, Pre-Owned Car, Family Minivan, All Wheel Drive SUV, Commercial Van or Work Truck. Whether you need to replace your current car, minivan, truck or SUV with a great used vehicle, we can help you out.  Broadmoor Motors is here for all your Car Sales, and Auto Service needs in the Byron Center, Kentwood, Caledonia, Middleville, Hastings, greater Grand Rapids, Wayland and Barry County area.  Give us a call at 616.698.9595 in Caledonia, 269.397.2400 in Wayland or 269.320.6304 in Hastings to see how we can get you back on the road!