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Difference between 4WD and AWD

Car salespeople and tradesman have a bit of a bad habit when it comes to lumping 4WD and AWD vehicles into the same category and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong to lump them into the same category. But there is a difference between the two and we’ll explain that on this page.


As the name implies, four-wheel drive transmissions engage all four wheels to propel the vehicle forward. These are commonly found on off road vehicles.

Power from the transmission is transferred to what’s known as the ‘transfer case.’ From there, the power is split between all four wheels to ensure that maximum torque, or push, is received by each of the wheels. This helps you get over large rocks of sudden bumps in the road with ease.

The key is that, on most newer vehicles, 4WD systems are only really engaged when you activate them, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds; 2WD and 4WD.


AWD vehicles make use of three differentials that, in short, split the transmission’s power between the wheels, at different rates. In other words, each wheel can receive a different amount of power than the other ones.

This really comes in handy in situations where you enter a skid. The transmission intelligently transfers more power to the wheels that need it most, helping you escape the skid and maintain control of your vehicle.

The difference

In plain terms, 4WD transmissions give all wheels equal amount of power while AWD transmissions intelligently select the amount of power that each wheel receives.

As far as which one you should get, AWD transmissions make sense for most drivers out there. However, if you engage in primarily off-road, low-speed driving, a 4WD transmission will likely be your best bet.

Contact Newcastle Gearbox & Diff

Whether you’ve got an AWD or 4WD transmission, our technicians here at Newcastle Gearbox & Diff can give you a hand and ensure that it’s kept running as smoothly as possible.

We’ve got several years of experience in providing service to countless manual transmission vehicle owners in the region and we look forward to welcoming you into the family!