What Is 4×4? Is 4-Wheel Drive Better Than 2-Wheel Drive?

What is 4×4? Most modern vehicles operate in either two-wheel-drive (4×2) or four-wheel-drive (4×4) mode. With two-wheel drive, only one axle receives 100 percent of the vehicle’s torque power (it could be the front or rear, depending on the vehicle type). What does 4×4 mean?

What is 4×4?

The term 4×4 means a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Technically, the first digit is the number of wheels and the second is the number that are driven, so a four-wheel-drive pickup truck is a 4×4; a rear-wheel-drive one is a 4×2.

What Is 4x4

Though it could apply to any car, truck or SUV, 4×4 usually represents more traditional 4WD vehicles, and especially off-road-capable ones — as opposed to light-duty all-wheel-drive cars intended for snow or mild off-pavement use.

If you hear someone say, “You’re going to need a 4×4 to get up that mountain trail,” he or she is probably talking about a pickup, a Jeep or a UTV, not a Nissan Altima with all-wheel drive.

As explained in AWD Vs. 4WD: What’s the Difference?, sometimes the meanings of terms are blurred by marketing and other forms of misuse, and even definitions once ironclad seldom are anymore. So it’s not out of the question that you’ll see 4×4 and 4×2 as driver-selectable modes on a given vehicle.

Generally speaking, though, we still use 4×4 to represent a vehicle, not a setting with a specific set of properties exclusive to, say, part-time 4WD.

What is All-Wheel Drive (AWD)?

Similar to four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive sends power to all four wheels and is safe to use at all times. Unlike 4WD, though, AWD doesn’t provide a “4-low” setting for things like rock crawling and steep inclines. AWD is great for normal driving on dirt roads or in foul weather, but not as adept at hardcore off-roading as a 4×4 setup.

What is Two-Wheel Drive (FWD, RWD)?

Like the name suggests, two-wheel drive systems send power to just two wheels rather than four; either the front or rear wheels power the vehicle. Most sedans and SUVs will default to FWD (the F is for “front,” not “four”); RWD is often reserved for sport cars or pickup trucks, which use it for sportier handling and adapting to heavy loads, respectively.

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Part-time 4WD vehicles run as either FWD or RWD under normal circumstances, then switch to 4WD when it’s activated. This is an ideal setup for driving during normal commuter conditions while still being prepared for off-road or foul weather conditions.

Is 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) Better Than 2-Wheel Drive (2WD)?

You might still be questioning whether four-wheel drive (4WD) is far better than two-wheel drive (2WD), and which is best for you. Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Choosing between 4WD, AWD, FWD, or RWD depends upon a number of factors. The two essential things to inquire of yourself are these. What do you use your car for? What seasonal weather do you encounter?

What Is 4x4

Equipped with that knowledge, getting one-on-one advice from a qualified expert is the best area to start your trip. Also, if you’re looking for even more info regarding 4×4 cars or 4×4 trucks to buy in the Orange County area, after that drop in Toyota of Anaheim today. We eagerly anticipate helping you discover more regarding the meaning of 4×4 automobiles.

How 4×4 Vehicles Work

According to Consumer Reports, liveaboutdotcom, Cars.com, and Auto.com, four-wheel drive can be either constant or at the driver’s demand. Often, these vehicles have additional gear ranges. Although all-wheel-drive vehicles also deliver torque to both axles, ‘four-wheel drive’ generally describes vehicles that have off-roading capabilities.

The term ‘4×4’ is used for this category, as well. According to liveaboutdotcom, the first figure refers to the number of axle ends the vehicle has, and the second number refers to the axles that receive torque. For example, a 4×2 vehicle operates either in rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive.

Charles Hyde’s book Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II notes that when a vehicle has three axles and two ends of each receive torque, this arrangement is called a 6×4. These 10-wheeled vehicles were commonly used by the U.S. military during World War II.

Cars.com, Auto.com and the Seoul 2000 FISITA World Automotive Congress note that the architecture of a four-wheel-drive vehicle supports multiple operating modes. The driver can toggle between these modes depending on road conditions and other factors.

According to autoTRADER.ca and the Seoul 2000 FISITA World Automotive Congress, vehicles with a 50/50 torque split have bevel-gear differentials, which are standard. For uneven torque splits, the vehicle must be outfitted with a planetary differential.

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Permanent four-wheel-drive vehicles and all-wheel-drive vehicles can revert to part-time by locking out the differential between the axles.

Liveaboutdotcom indicates that with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, the wheels turn at different speeds. Generally, the inside tires spin more slowly while the outside tires spin quickly. The differential adjusts to compensate for this discrepancy. Because force travels along the path of least resistance, the lion’s share of torque goes to the wheel that is slipping the most because of a lack of traction.

The axles are synced so that at least one wheel on each can take advantage of this power. If your vehicle has two-wheel drive, you can press down the brake pedal slightly to help transfer torque to the wheel that currently needs more traction.

Four-Wheel-Drive Modes

Liveaboutdotcom, autoTRADER.ca and the Seoul 2000 FISITA World Automotive Congress describe these four-wheel drive modes:

  • Part-time mode provides traction in loose-surface off-roading conditions such as dirt or gravel. With this mode, the driveline prevents speed differentiation between the front and rear axles by closely coupling the drives within the transfer case. The vehicle can deliver full torque to either the front or rear axle as needed.
  • Full-time mode can be used regardless of terrain. With this arrangement, the axles can each turn at their own independent speeds.
  • With on-demand mode, the transfer case usually remains in two-wheel drive. The transfer clutch is modulated to transfer torque to the second axle when needed. This can be triggered either by passive means such as wheel slip or by active control systems that use hydraulics or electronics.
  • The automatic four-wheel-drive mode activates when the system needs to split torque between the axles. These vehicles, such as the Polaris Ranger electric model, use sensors to detect the speeds of each wheel and deliver power where needed.
  • With a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system, the driver can shift manually from two-wheel to four-wheel drive while the vehicle is moving. Usually, the vehicle must be traveling at less than 60 miles per hour for this feature to engage. Some vehicles of this kind use a push button that disengages when the vehicle is traveling above the threshold. With a shift lever, the driver runs the risk of changing gears when the car is moving too fast.
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Beyond the basic modes, some systems take advantage of combined modes. For example, the center differential can be modified with a clutch that can provide a torque split of 30 percent to the front axle and 70 percent to the back axle.

Four-Wheel-Drive Racing Vehicles

Race cars have a storied history of using four-wheel drive. According to OF4WD and Serious Wheels, Spyker introduced the first-ever four-wheel-drive race car in 1903 with its 60 HP model.

What Is 4x4

Grand Prix History reports that Bugatti followed in 1932 with its Type 53 line, which included three four-wheel-drive race cars with notoriously bad handling. According to Concept Carz, the 1938 Miller Gulf Special became the first qualifying four-wheel-drive car to compete in the legendary Indy 500 race.

As Wired.com reports, the 1968 Lotus 56 competed in both the Indy 500 and the Formula 1 race with a unique combination of turbine engines and four-wheel drive. A 1969 version, the Lotus 63, paired its four-wheel drive, with a 3-liter Ford Cosworth V-8.

Nissan brought its version of all-wheel drive to the racing world with the introduction of the Skyline GT-R in 1989. This car won so many races in Japan and Australia that it was barred from competition. Audi had equally controversial dominance with its Trans-Am series in 1988, which eventually led to the disqualification of all four-wheel-drive racers.

When you’re shopping for a new vehicle, consider a 4×4 if you plan to tackle tough terrain and hit the trails on the weekends.


Is 4×4 drive the same as AWD?

Overall, the main difference between 4×4 and AWD is that AWD systems are always active and automatically share torque among the axles when low-traction conditions are detected, while 4WD systems are part-time and need to be engaged by the driver via a lever or button in the cockpit.

What is the difference 4×4 and 4WD?

Purely speaking, 4×4 cars have engines that power all 4 wheels. In most cars, as well as crossover SUVs, the 4×4 drivetrain systems are all-wheel drive (AWD), and not four-wheel drive (4WD) as commonly found in trucks and off-road SUVs.

Is 4×4 or AWD better in snow?

If you are on a back road without frequent plowing, then a 4WD system may be better able to handle the challenges of the terrain. If you are driving on the regular roads but want to handle the icy and snowy conditions of IL a bit better, then AWD is a great option.

Above is information about What is 4×4? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of How 4×4 vehicles work? Thank you for reading our post.

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