4WD and AWD versus FWD and Winter Tires
The common wisdom is that four wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles are always a better choice than front-wheel drive (FWD). That’s not always true. There are pros and cons to each. This post walks you through the pros and cons of 4WD and AWD versus FWD and Winter Tires
The pros of 4WD and AWD
The key here is that neither 4WD nor AWD provide better traction. Only tires provide traction. That may seem like word-play, but it’s not. All 4WD and AWD drive does is split drive motion to all four wheels instead of just two wheels. If your front wheels are on ice but your rear wheels are on a dry spot, 4WD and AWD will help you move better than 2WD from a dead stop. If all 4 wheels are on ice, all 4 wheels will spin, but the additional movement will likely get you going better than a 2WD vehicle in the same situation. Bottom line; 4WD nor AWD are better than 2WD at getting you going from a dead stop. But there are some considerable downsides to 4WD and AWD.
The cons of 4WD and AWD
4WD and AWD vehicles are more expensive to buy
4WD and AWD vehicles are more expensive to maintain.
They have a transfer case/center differential, another differential, two more axle shafts and disconnect hubs (4WD). All of those components require routine service that adds to the overall cost of ownership. When those components fail, they’re expensive to repair.
4WD and AWD vehicles weight more and get poorer gas mileage
4WD and AWD vehicles have major tire issues.
The specs vary by carmaker, but most require the tread depth of all four tires to be within about 2/32”. If you damage a tire beyond repair, you’ll most likely have to replace ALL FOUR TIRES because the new tire will be outside the tread depth limitations.
4WD and AWD help you get going from a dead stop. But they don’t help you in turns or when stopping.
FWD and Winter tires—the alternative to 4WD and AWD
If you want to save money all around, consider sticking with 2WD and equipping your vehicle with a good set of winter tires. Winter tires provide more traction in snow and on ice than all-season tires. They help you get going from a dead spot. They help you get “unstuck.” Plus, they provide more traction in turns and stop you faster. See this post on what winter tires do better than all-season tires.
©, 2019 Rick Muscoplat
Posted on by Rick Muscoplat