4WD( Four Wheel Drive) VS AWD(All Wheel Drive) in Snow and Ice – 2024 Guide

4WD vs AWD – Before & now, every terrain vehicle had a simple Four Wheel Drive (4WD) system that made them an active off-road engine.

As we experienced an advancement in technology, these engines, which are manually controlled or operated gave room for a more sophisticated All Wheel Drive (AWD) engine.

Today, a large number of high profile trucks, SUV’s, and cars come with either AWD or 4WD systems. In case you are looking for a car (either a 4WD or an AWD) that suits your style of driving, it is important to know how these two systems work.


To assist you with the basic things to know, we have taken our time to assess these two systems. We believe our suggestions will make it easier for you at the end of the day, in choosing the system that is perfect for you as an individual.

The following are the pros and cons of these two systems (4WD & AWD)

The major factors to consider when you have to pick or choose between a 4WD and an AWD system include the weather in your area and the way you drive. These two factors are major areas of consideration.

4WD (Four Wheel Drive)

Vehicles with a 4WD system, also known as the Four Wheel Drive system have been on the road for decades now, and they still exist up till today.

Cars manufacturers up to date still make use of 4WD systems for their heavy-duty trucks and SUVs. 4WD is still considered in car manufacturing due to its stability in terms of performance and value.

The 4WD system comes with vehicles that are built for toughness. Those vehicles that are not scared of finding their way to the wilderness. Such vehicles include Land Cruiser, G-Class, and Jeep Wrangler.

Basically, what the 4WD system does is to distribute power to the wheels of your vehicle at an equal rate. This means, all the wheels move at the same rate.

Once the engine of the vehicle is ignited, it transfers power to the transmission, and the power is divided between the front axle and the rear axle through a device called “Transfer case”.


  • If what you desire in a car is having complete control over the driving attributes and functions, then a four-wheel-drive system is for you. With a four-wheel-drive system, operations are conducted or activated manually.
  • One of the top attributes of a 4WD system over an AWD system is the presence of the four-low gear. This turns out a great feature in a situation whereby you get stuck (Very tough and as well as low traction circumstances).
  • Apart from having total control over the way you drive, the 4WD system brings about efficiency in the way your car consumes/makes use of fuel. Fuel consumption is cost-effective.
  • Lastly, the extra traction that comes with 4WD makes it easy and effective for you as the driver to tow on a surface that is slippery.


  • According to various experts, it is advised to go for an AWD if you would only make use of 4WD on a few occasions in a year. When you leave in an area or region where the climate is very cold, and also with snow and ice, then this is a major reason to choose the AWD system over a 4WD system.
  • If you fail to concentrate or focus on the road or surface you are driving on, you may encounter the trembling or shaking sensation which arises as a result of wheel wind-up. This sensation doesn’t just lead to a terrible experience, it can as well have a negative effect on the differentials and axles of your vehicle.
  • In a situation where you find yourself on a tight road and needed to make a turnaround, such action can be very difficult for a vehicle with a 4WD system.
  • When making a turn, the wheels would rotate at an entirely different rate, an action that is not supported by a 4WD system (Wheels move at the same rate).

Bottom line

At all times, there is a need to always focus on where you are going, understand the road conditions in your area and that of your destinations.

Also, know when and when not to make use of your vehicle to ensure it remains in perfect condition over the years.

Read Also: Best All Season Tires for Snow and Ice

AWD(All Wheel Drive)

The AWD system of the new age comes with a lot of fascinating features. The AWD system is also known as All Wheel Drive. This doesn’t mean they don’t have their bad sides.

The balance in performance and the ease of operation an AWD system brings can’t be overestimated. Although this system has its lapses, the good sides of it tend to cover up for the bad sides.

Vehicles with AWD systems distribute power to the main axle. The main axle can either be the front axle or the rear axle.

Moving away from power distribution, whenever the vehicle notices a loss of traction, it takes power away from the wheels that are skidding. Some of the vehicles with an AWD system are Toyota 4Runner, RAV4 by Toyota, CR-V by Honda, and CX-3 by Mazda.


  • Talk about all levels of the AWD system, the ease of operation is superb. With AWD, you have a system that does all the necessary adjustment and decision making for you (Complete automation).
  • In addition to the automatic control this system offers, you won’t also have to be bothered about the possible damage or negative effect of extreme weather conditions on your wheel axles as the AWD system ensures nothing goes out of hands. Basically, with an AWD system, improved grip and control are guaranteed under extreme weather conditions.
  • In case you do not want to be faced with the challenges of having the gears changed yourself, then AWD is the perfect fit for you. With AWD system, you save yourself the stress of looking out/watching out for slippery surfaces, the AWD does the detection for you. That is how intelligent and smart this system is. You save yourself the stress and time by allowing decisions to be made on your behalf.


  • In terms of toughness, AWD can’t beat what 4WD has to offer. Also, in terms of the acute power distribution which is important for rock climbing, AWD is no match to what 4WD has to offer.
  • If you had followed us carefully, it is obvious that the AWD uses various integrated systems. In the case of parts failure, to find out what the issue is and to know the right repair approach to adopt, there is always a need to conduct a full diagnostic test on your car. In a simple language, the AWD system is complex and can be very expensive to maintain.

Bottom line

Lastly, if you are using a vehicle with AWD system, ensure all components are in good condition at all times. When all components functions optimally, that is the only time you can be guaranteed your safety.