It’s no secret that winter is upon us. With significant snow accumulation hammering the northeast three weeks in a row every driver has been affected in one way or another. But hey, this is New England! We do know a thing or two about driving in the snow and it is one reason all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles are so popular here. If you live in snow country you’ve probably driven an AWD vehicle, but are you familiar with how it works?
In general, automatic AWD delivers engine power to all four wheels automatically when needed to ensure the best handling in slippery conditions. This provides the driver with peace of mind when road conditions are less than optimal. Alternatively, traditional 4WD must be engaged manually by locking the wheels into 4WD while the vehicle is stopped. This feature is more common in trucks and large SUVs. During normal driving conditions two wheels (typically in the front) will receive power from the engine.
How AWD Works:
While the mechanical components may vary between manufacturers, most AWD systems function this way:
1. When the vehicle’s tires spin a sensor alerts the system of a loss of traction.
2. The engine control unit (ECU) recognizes the signal and engages a multi-plate clutch which connects the front and rear drive shafts.
3. The now connected drive shafts cause a transfer of engine power to the rear wheels.
4. As the ECU senses all four tires spinning at the same speed it signals that traction has been restored.
5. The multi-plate clutch automatically disengages, restoring all engine power to the front wheels.
Why we love AWD:
– Better acceleration in all driving conditions (snow included)
– Increased traction
– Improved handling (even in dry conditions)
– Higher re-sale value of your vehicle
Things to remember when choosing an AWD vehicle:
– Added up-front cost
– Added weight
– Lower average fuel economy
– False sense of security driving in bad weather