Many students and even qualified drivers struggle to understand the differences between front, rear and 4 wheel drive along with their benefits and disadvantages. So with that in mind, we’ve decided to give you a break down of each and tried to keep things simple.
Front Wheel Drive:
As the title suggests, the front wheels are the driving force allowing the car to move. The majority of cars are front wheel drive because the arrangement of the engine and gearbox allows more space inside the vehicle for passengers. Our learner minis are front wheel drive.
The main issue with FWD cars is that they tend to under-steer in tight corners. Under-steer is where the vehicle doesn’t follow the line through the corner you intended but instead pushes wide, this is because the front wheels are trying to steer but are also trying to put the power down and in turn can’t cope.
Rear Wheel Drive:
Again, as the name implies this format is where the rear wheels propel the vehicle. The RWD system is an older system that was initially introduced when cars were first made, this was due to the simple setup of the engine and gearbox.
The downside to this method is that the car can over-steer. Over-steer is where the vehicle takes a tighter line through the corner than you intended. Also, too much power could result in a spin as the back of the car can slide out.
4 Wheel Drive:
The 4 wheel drive system is a combination of the previous two. All 4 wheels have power at the same time but drivers can usually press a switch to select just 2 wheel drive if necessary, maybe when terrain isn’t too demanding.
Newer vehicles with an All Wheel Drive system allow the car to automatically apply power to whichever wheel/s have more grip and traction.
The downside to this 4 wheel drive approach is more tyre wear compared to both of the others and also an increased fuel consumption overall.
Hopefully this breakdown gives you some useful information and will help you with your car control but if you’d like to read in more detail take a look at this great Top Gear article here.