Front-Wheel Drive vs. Rear-Wheel Drive: Which is Best?

 

What drivetrain do you want for your car? There are actually three options, but the most common drivetrain is front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD). In some cars, you may also find all-wheel drive (AWD), but it’s more common on SUVs and trucks. Front-wheel drive vs. rear-wheel drive: what’s the difference? Why does it matter?

FWD vs. RWD

First, what’s the difference between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive?

  • Front-wheel drive sends the power to the front wheels, letting the rear wheels simply roll along.
  • Rear-wheel drive directs powers to the rear wheels, while the front wheels steer.

You can also think of it as pushing vs. pulling. A vehicle with rear-wheel drive pushes the vehicle forward from the rear wheels while a vehicle with front-wheel drive pulls the vehicle forward. While many sedans and SUVs are built this way, you’ll have a tough time finding a front-wheel drive truck. Trucks and performance cars are often RWD.

Front-Wheel Drive vs. Rear-Wheel Drive: Weather

FWD drivetrains typically have more traction in slippery conditions — all too familiar to our Peoria drivers in winter. If you have a lot of weather issues where you live, it’s probably a good idea to go with a FWD car over a RWD one. Although a RWD Mustang with winter tires can serve you well, RWD vehicles typically have more traction issues in winter, as the rear of the vehicle has less weight and thus less grip on the ground in wet or icy conditions – even if you’re diligent about rotating your tires yourself.

AWD vs. 4WD

You may have heard all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive used interchangeably, but they’re actually very different systems. The short version is that while both drivetrains send power to all 4 wheels, most AWD vehicles do so as needed and are always on, running as a two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicle until it senses traction is lost. Four-wheel drive vehicles, on the other hand, often require the driver to engage 4WD — and it’s on until you turn it off.

Some vehicles are made for off-roading and need all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). For example, the Jeep Wrangler configurations have a 4WD system that makes it easy to navigate around rough terrain. If you have questions about your car’s drivetrain, check out the service department at Sam Leman Peoria.

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