When the temperature drops and snow starts to fall, you might want to avoid the roads altogether. That’s probably your best bet, but it’s not at always an option. When you have to navigate through snowy, icy roads, a few features will keep you safe out there. Many new trucks come with features that will be very important to consider. All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (FWD) are absolutely essential for driving safely through wintry conditions. Both of these provide power to all four tires to maintain traction. They are slightly different though.
A basic four-wheel drive system involves a transfer case separate from the transmission. This case has its own gear, which is usually very low-range. It allows the driver to deliver engine power to all four tires. The low gear slows the vehicle down to a crawl but delivers much more traction and power, allowing it to crawl over treacherous terrain and maintain a grip on icy roads.
Many new trucks actually have complicated computer systems that control brake and engine power through particularly dangerous conditions so that the driver can concentrate on steering. These onboard computers have changed much about 4WD. Originally, four-wheel drive was used to describe part-time systems that deliver differing amounts of power to the front and rear axles. All-wheel drive was used for full-time systems that delivered the same amount of power to the front and rear wheels. Now, the amount of power delivered to the wheels is altered constantly by a computer.
The complexity of the transfer case’s automatic rack-and-pinion makes them quite large and heavy. They hang down from the undercarriage of the vehicle, which necessitates a heavy skidplate. Some of them weigh over 80 pounds, and the skidplates can be just as heavy, which is going to rob performance and gas mileage. Also, the complex, moving parts will require more maintenance throughout the life of the vehicle.
This is also called full-time, four-wheel drive since it cannot be disengaged by the driver. The systems were originally developed for small SUVs and crossovers that were built on passenger car frames, so they tend to be lighter and smaller. Though an AWD system technically delivers constant power to both front and rear axles, new trucks have features that constantly alter the amount of power being delivered. Usually, these systems concentrate power on the front because that is the most energy-efficient way to drive. However, the computers will instantly redirect power to the rear if they sense a loss of traction.
Many drivers prefer this set-up because it does not require any driver input. Also, these do not engage and disengage, meaning they will be less complex. That reduced complexity means they require less maintenance.
However, since the power to all of the tires is constant, the transfer cases do not have the extra low gear for increased pulling power. For that reason, AWD systems are designed for all-weather driving, but not all-terrain.
Whether you opt for the increased torque of a 4WD set-up or the easy maintenance of an AWD setup, what’s most important is staying safe. There is no traction control system in existence that can save you from reckless behavior in poor driving conditions.