Four Wheel drive (4WD) is a mechanism utilized in vehicles to enable the full use of engine power in all four wheels. 4WD allows more effective control of the vehicle especially on surfaces that are not necessarily conducive to normal driving. Although 4WD systems are more often used in larger, off road vehicles, it can also be found in standard sedans and racing cars.
Advantages of 4WD
In simplistic terms, a car with 4WD capabilities will possess more overall power. With four wheels driving instead of two, the force created for motion is naturally far greater. This means the car can traverse road conditions that are not well suited for most standard automobiles. Drivers of 4WD vehicles are better able to take advantage of this system and drive on a variety of terrains.
Types of Terrains Suited for 4WD
Off road conditions
4 WD is ideal for off road conditions as it allows the driver to maneuver through unpredictable terrains. Should any of the four tyres lose traction, the other 3 tyres are able to compensate and move the car despite being slightly compromised.
When the road is full of snow, most cars simply will not move if they are built with only a two wheel drive mechanism. This is the result of the amount of snow on the road surface. Once the snow becomes greater than a couple of inches the car will not have enough traction for motion. A 4WD will, however, be able to overcome this because of the added power provided by the additional wheels.
Like all the other conditions mentioned previously a steep slope will require a lot of forward momentum for the car to drive successfully. The traction of the four wheels are a necessity especially if the slope has a very steep incline.
Disadvantages of 4WD
While 4WD will give the driver more power to traverse most types of road conditions, it will not improve the ability of the car to come to a complete stop. Vehicles that come equipped with this mechanism have to rely on the brakes and anti-locking braking system like all other automobiles.
What is the difference between AWD and 4WD
Four wheel drive is used in many different types of vehicles. However, its application may be slightly different depending on the specifications. A standard 4WD vehicle will not make use of the mechanism all the time. This means an automobile that comes equipped with 4WD is more likely to have the option to switch it on and off. For any vehicle that can only be driven in 4WD mode it is termed All Wheel Drive (AWD). There is a variation to the use of the term AWD. For larger vehicles like trucks that have more than 4 wheels the term is used to suggest all wheels have the capacity to drive. This functions more or less like a 4WD, with the exception that the additional wheels also maintain driving force thus making it more accurately a 6 wheel drive where there are six tyres and so on.
The term AWD and 4WD are sometimes used regardless of the specifications of the car. That is, some manufacturers may deem a model AWD when in fact it has part time 4WD. The use of the words interchangeably stems from the lack of a clearly stated standard for these types of vehicles, hence AWD and 4WD vehicles will not necessarily maintain the exact features for all manufacturers.
4WD use in Cars.
Although 4WD drive may seem primarily reserved for larger vehicles some standard cars and race cars make use of this technology. The additional power the system provides makes it perfectly suitable for racing. It is also, an invaluable addition to some cars especially if the automobile will be driven in different types of conditions.