Four-wheel drive has been around for a long time in the history of automotive engineering, and while it used to be synonymous with all-wheel drive, 4WD is now a distant cousin of today’s AWD. To understand your vehicle’s driving capabilities, you should know the difference between 4WD and AWD. Zumbrota Bearing and Gear can help you; find what you need for your AWD or 4WD vehicle with our transfer cases and differentials in Zumbrota, MN.

Cars have rapidly gotten smarter over the past few decades, with, intelligent ECUs, the old capabilities of 4-Hi and 4-Lo with 4WD have largely been abandoned. However, there is a time and place for everything, and despite its growing popularity, AWD doesn’t offer the same aspects of 4WD.


Essentially, 4WD spits power, using the transfer case, between all 4 wheels evenly. This means the maximum amount of torque flowing to each wheel can move the vehicle over extreme surfaces at slow speeds (4-Lo). 4WD is still great for off-roading, but its downfall is the difficulty turning in high traction situations. Because the transfer case keeps each wheel spinning at the same speed, binding can occur during turns.

4WD can also be set to 4-Hi, allowing the vehicle to move with equally spit power at speeds up to 60 mph and limited slippage between wheels. This gives greater traction at higher speeds, but not as much torque as 4-Lo over rough terrain.


AWD is much more complex than 4WD, and operates intelligently at all times. This is where the smart, new ECUs come in. An AWD vehicle’s computer sends power with a three part differential system to the wheels holding the highest traction. This system splits power between the front and rear axles with the center differential and between the two wheels on each axle with the front and rear differentials. AWD systems improve traction in most situations, but they can’t handle the off-roading that 4WD systems can.

Both 4WD and AWD have their own purpose depending on driving conditions and day-to-day needs. To find parts you need for your 4WD or AWD vehicle, contact us at Zumbrota Bearing and Gear for transfer cases and differentials in Zumbrota, MN.