How Does Four-Wheel Drive Work?

How Does Four-Wheel Drive Work?

For the average commuter a nice, safe two-wheel drive family sedan or SUV will work fine. They don’t need a lot of horsepower, towing capability, or big tires. Cruising down the street to the grocery store or to get an iced mocha latte is all they need their vehicle for and two-wheel, front-wheel drive will do just fine. Safe and sound all the way down to the ground. That’s not for you, though. You need a big ol’ mean-looking truck with four-wheel drive. You’ll never know when you want to jerk the wheel to the right and just do some off-roading. You can’t do that in the family grocery-getter, can you? No sir! Four-wheel drive is what you want, and the next question is “How does four-wheel drive work?”

The Basics of Power

Four-wheel drive (4WD) as a feature usually on comes on pickup trucks. Most passenger cars don’t have a need for the extra movement. Jeeps and SUVs come with 4WD as well, but you’ll find it in abundance on trucks. In the average car or truck, only one set of wheels are turned by the engine. The engine fires up, the pistons start pumping, and the crankshaft starts turning. The crankshaft takes the power and turns that drivetrain and delivers power to the transfer case. All this spinning and motion makes it way to the wheels. They get activated and propel the vehicle forward. On any two-wheel drive (2WD) car, either the front or the rear wheels will be actuated and move. That depends on the make, model, and manufacturer of the vehicle.

How Four-Wheel Drive Works

As the name indicates, all four wheels on the vehicle will have power to help propel it. On 2WD vehicles, there is only one differential on the axle that moves the wheels. On a 4WD truck, there is a differential on both axles. The differential is part of the transfer case that transfers the power from the engine to the wheels. The driver of the vehicle must engage the differential in order for all four wheels to work at once. The normal operation of it is for only two wheels to work because that burns less fuel and gives better gas mileage. When the driver hits the 4×4 button, the additional differential will engage, and the other set of wheels will begin to receive power from the engine.

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