Winter Driving: Four Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive

January 08, 2012; 2:26 PM
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As winter brings a new slew of challenges to drivers everywhere, from black ice to snow, some vehicles are built to help get their driver home safe.

Among these are four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Separating themselves from front and rear-wheel drive, which use only two wheels to propel a vehicle, four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive use all the cars wheels to move.

The differences between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive however, come in deciding when all four wheels get the power.

With an all-wheel drive, an electronic sensor sends the power to all four wheels and determines when all the wheels are needed.

As for four-wheel drive, the driver is in charge of manually putting all four wheels to work by flipping a switch within the vehicle. Typically these cars have different ranges for various speeds, including, the highway, off-road driving or driving in heavy snow.

Both four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive benefit the driver by giving them a larger margin of error.

"You are splitting the amount of grip between four wheels, giving the driver more margin for error," Director of the Bridgestone Driving School Mark Cox said.

While these two types of drives have some benefits and may be considered ideal for driving under winter conditions, in the end, safety is dependent upon the driver.

"All-wheel drive creates a false sense of confidence," Cox said. "It doesn't really matter how many wheels propel your vehicle forward but when it comes to turning and stopping all vehicles are created equal."

Some content above contributed by Executive Editor for Roger Leo.


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