Four-Wheel-Drive: Power to All

Four-by-fours with its popular imprint on the body panels of trucks and large SUVs, is synonymous with rugged vehicles. Although popularized by its appearance in war, at fairgrounds, and in television shows, four-wheel-drive has proven itself in reality, when road conditions hindered travel. It is this performance gap between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles that makes four-wheel drive stand out.

During most of the year, for most motorists, vehicles with only front- or read-wheel drive can outpace four-wheel drive vehicles in fuel mileage, style, and usage. But when weather turns for the worse or a driver faces a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, it is the four-wheel-drive that prevails time and time again. In poor driving conditions, vehicles with front- or rear-wheel drive face a power disadvantage: torque can only be applied to half of the tires. For example, if a driver is attempting to ascend a hill with a two-wheel-drive vehicle and loses traction with one of the drive wheels, he will not be able to forge up the hill before regaining full traction. However, with a four-wheel-drive, he can depend on his front wheels to pull him up, and the back wheels to push. Even if a wheel loses traction, there are still three left to support it. This same principle of traction also applies to off-road motorcycles. If a motorcycle’s rear tire cannot maintain a grip on the road, the bike will not go far, yet motorcycles with front and rear wheel power can still continue to move without full traction.

Four-wheel drive systems come in two broad categories, part-time and full-time. Full-time four-wheel-drive—the type best suited for off-roading in mud, snow, and other treacherous conditions—cannot be disabled when traveling on normal roads. On the contrary, part-time four-wheel drive, which is most common in SUVs and light trucks, can be disabled until it is needed. But regardless of type, four-wheel-drive is an effective way to pack peace of mind in a vehicle. By being able to drive wherever the road calls, a motorist with a four-wheel-drive can be confident that he or she will arrive at the desired destination in a safe, timely manner.

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