top of page
  • Writer's pictureGinos

FWD, RWD, AWD and 4WD: Knowing Your Drivetrain

When someone decides to purchase a new vehicle there’s a handful of things buyers will generally take into consideration. One of the most important elements of your vehicle and likely one of the least understood is your drivetrain.

Your drivetrain will determine how your car handles different road conditions and will affect overall ride quality so depending on where and when you plan on driving your car you may want to pay attention to which drivetrain you opt for.

What is a Drivetrain?

The drivetrain refers to the group of components that drive the wheels and generate power for the car.

Typically, it refers to everything that comes after the engine responsible for transferring power from the transmission to the wheels, driving the vehicle forward. These components include the driveshaft, CV joints, the differential, the axle shafts and the U-joints.

The power train, in contrast, is considered to include both the engine or motor and the drivetrain too.

There are four types of drivetrain systems:

  • Front-wheel drive (FWD)

  • Rear-wheel drive (RWD)

  • Four-wheel drive (4WD)

  • All-wheel drive (AWD)

Let’s get into each type and how they’ll vary from one another.

Front-Wheel Drive

FWD is the most common drivetrain system in the automotive market and most new cars in 2020 use this configuration.

FWD means that the power from the engine is delivered to the front wheels of your vehicle. The rear wheels won’t receive any power on their own and hence the front wheels are responsible for pulling the car.

The pros of an FWD vehicle are they typically get better fuel economy and emit less carbon dioxide. With the weight of the engine bearing down on the driving wheels, they also handle better in wet conditions. They also have lower maintenance costs due to fewer moving drivetrain components.

One of the downsides, however, might include uneven wear on your front tyres since they do a lot of the hard work. Performance enthusiasts also claim they are ‘less fun’ to drive compared with some of the other drivetrain types.


Rear Wheel Drive

If FWD’s pull, then RWD’s push. In RWDs, the power from the engine is delivered to the rear axle of the vehicle and the front wheels don’t receive any power, their sole objective is to steer.

High-performance cars generally feature an RWD configuration because it can handle more engine power and torque. The even distribution of weight results in better balance and what’s renowned as a more ‘exciting’ driving experience.

One of the downsides however is that RWDs are prone to losing traction and don’t handle slippery conditions as well as FWD configurations.


All Wheel Drive

AWD’s deliver power to all four wheels at the same time. This drivetrain employs a front, rear and centre differential to distribute power between the front and rear axles.

In practice, there are two AWD systems.

One is referred to as full-time AWD, where all the wheels are driving continuously. The other is sometimes known as, part-time AWD or automatic AWD with power being delivered to wheels at any given time with the option to employ an AWD system when additional traction is required.

On average, AWD vehicles consume more fuel and can cost more to maintain with more drivetrain components. The upside is they can handle most road conditions and terrains.

Four Wheel Drive

4WD is mostly used for off-road travelling. With 4WD systems, power is delivered to all 4 wheels when 4X4 is engaged with an option to operate in RWD the rest of the time to conserve fuel.

When full traction is required the driver will choose the 4X4 mode. The 4WD drivetrain is similar in a few ways to the AWD configuration but the 4WD option is designed to be more rugged, operating better under more difficult conditions.

The downsides of having a 4WD configuration include the added complexity and weight to your vehicle and the price that generally accompanies them. If you’re in the market for outdoor adventures though like many of us have been lately, 4WD is the only option for you.

What’s the Best Drivetrain?

There’s no clear winner!

Every drivetrain has its pros and cons and depending on what you’re doing with your car the answer will vary greatly. If you’re shopping for a new car, articulate what you’re mostly going to be using your car for and go from there. Driving to and from work in the Perth metro region you might not need a 4WD but if you plan on spending your weekend in the bush it’s going to be essential.

Need help choosing your next car or want a second opinion on purchasing a second-hand car?

Gino’s Panel and Paint offers pre-purchase car inspections to help you buy with confidence and make sure you’re not getting a lemon.

If you want to take the guesswork out of your next car purchase contact us today and our automotive experts can help steer you in the right direction.



bottom of page