All-wheel drive (AWD) systems provide power to all four wheels, rather than only to the front or back ones. When driving, a majority of these systems have either a front or rear base, which means the power is focused there unless the vehicle begins to slip. When this occurs, power is sent to the other axle in an effort to regain traction. This is why AWD vehicles are more popular in areas where snow and ice are common – it provides the additional traction needed to make it through these conditions. Whether you are considering a vehicle with all-wheel drive or you’ve already purchased one, there are a few things you need to know about the system to ensure the best user experience and vehicle performance.

Understand How All-Wheel Drive Works

Most people believe that AWD automatically provides safer driving in snow and ice. While this is somewhat true, it’s important to remember that this type of system improves traction from a complete stop. However, it will not improve turning and stopping in these conditions. As such, you will still need to drive with caution in dangerous conditions.

Tire Types Matter

The tires that are on the vehicle play a major role in how well the AWD system works. If you live in an area where the winter months include significant ice and snow, you should make sure you are using winter tires during the colder months. The increased flexibility will provide better grip on the road in cold temperatures, ice, snow and slush, which will help improve the overall all-wheel drive performance.

Maintain Proper Fluid Levels

All-wheel drive vehicles require lubrication in the form of transmission, transfer case and differential fluids. It is important that you maintain the manufacturer-recommended fluid levels and change frequency to keep the system lubed properly to ensure optimal performance.

Lower Fuel Economy

While AWD vehicles provide improved handling in certain conditions, it does come at a price. These vehicles typically have lower gas mileage than front- or rear-wheel drive options, so if you are looking for economy, AWD might not be the best option for you.

Tire Size Is Crucial

When AWD vehicles are manufactured, it is to strict specifications. In order for the system to work properly, you need to follow the manufacturer suggestions for tire size, including those that call for larger tires on the back than those that are on the front.

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


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