Many new (and old) vehicles have front-wheel drive (FWD). However, it helps to have a good understanding of exactly what that means before you make the decision on which car is the right one for you. Here, you’ll find out five essential things you need to know about front-wheel drive.

What It Is

Front wheel drive simply means that the front wheels receive the available torque from the engine. Essentially, the available power is sent to the front wheels of the vehicle to provide the traction and make it move. As the weight of both the transmission and engine are over the front wheels, FWD often delivers improved traction.

Better Fuel Economy

Front-wheel drive cars are generally lighter than those with rear-wheel and all-wheel drive as it does not require the same driveshaft and differential components, or a chassis that can withstand the added stress from the torque traveling through it. As a result, the lighter weight helps to boost overall fuel economy since the vehicle isn’t toting around all that extra weight.

Decreased Acceleration

FWD cars do have a decrease in acceleration due to all the weight being on the front tires. When the driver accelerates, the weight of the vehicle transfers to the rear tires, rather than remaining on the front. As a result, there is less traction available on the wheels receiving the power, which in turn decreases the acceleration of the car.

Braking

It’s also important to understand how front-wheel drive cars handle when braking. In most situations, braking occurs normally regardless of what wheel drive the car is. However, if you have to brake suddenly in a FWD vehicle, it will result in the weight being transferred to the front wheels. When this happens, it causes the rear of the car to become lighter. If the driver makes a sudden turn with the steering wheel, it can lead the car to start spinning.

Know Your Driving Needs

If you know you typically drive over flat terrain on paved streets, a front-wheel drive vehicle will typically work just fine for your needs. However, if you have a steep driveway or often encounter rough terrain, you may find that a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle is the better option.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as 5 Essential Things to Know About Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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