Do I Need All Wheel Drive For Winter?

With winter slowly creeping in once again, the same old question has once again begun to surface, do I need all wheel drive to survive the winter? Gary’s is here to figure out if driving two extra wheels is worth it for the winter. We’ll also look at the differences between all wheel drive and 4 wheel drive and which one can perform the best in the snow and ice.

To start, let’s figure out what the difference is between all wheel drive and 4 wheel drive. While both systems allow for all your wheels to turn at once, there is a difference in how they get power. In a 4WD system, the engine powers a transfer case, when then transfers power to to a front and rear differential, which then sends power to the wheels. In an AWD system, the engine powers one central differential, which then powers each individual wheel. Typically, 4WD is found on larger and more durable trucks, while AWD systems are found on cars, wagons, and other smaller vehicles that require all 4 wheels move.

So Should I Buy It?

off road 4x4AWD or 4WD vehicles have a few advantages over traditional 2WD vehicles. With all 4 wheels turning acceleration is often faster than in 2WD vehicles. This is for obvious reasons, if all 4 wheels are driving the car forward that means the car isn’t simply dragging two wheels.

In areas that are a little less maintained or where snow and ice is a problem, having all 4 wheels drive your vehicle can also help. With each wheel trying to move the car forward, a car has better traction and can better handle slippery or icy conditions. In addition to inclement weather performance, AWD or 4WD vehicles also have an easier time with towing. If you regularly town your snowmobiles on a trailer, a AWD or 4WD vehicle is a must.

Not everything about driving all 4 wheels is great though. The systems does have a few drawbacks. These aren’t minor either; for some the negatives of and AWD or 4WD system are enough to affect a purchase decision.

The initial upfront problem with these systems is the cost. Many times the extra cost of an AWD or 4WD system can be $1500-$3500 more than a two wheel drive system. The added differentials require more servicing and fluid changes, more costs to consider when looking into AWD or 4WD.

Driving all 4 wheels will also cut into your vehicle’s fuel economy. Powering all 4 wheels requires more moving parts, and more moving parts mean more spent fuel. The added weight of these systems will also increase the amount a vehicle has to carry, further reducing the fuel efficiency.

Get What’s Important

Driving an AWD vehicle in winterNo matter how many wheels are being powered, the most important thing for your driving is your tires. An AWD system won’t help you stop any better on ice, that job comes down to the brakes and the tires. In many tests, a rear wheel drive vehicle with proper winter tires can easily outperform an AWD vehicle running on old all season tires. If you’re looking for winter traction and performance, the best place to look is tires. No other automotive upgrade will help you more than good tires.

If you’ve already decided that winter tires are a must, then AWD or 4WD systems can help. Their towing and traction bonuses combined with a good set of tires can give you the performance you need. If you’re expecting AWD or 4WD to be your saviour when the snow flies, you might want to look more into decent tires.


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