Common Problems With All-Wheel-Drive Cars (Explained)

All-wheel-drive vehicles are now extremely popular because of their improved ability to drive in a wide range of terrains. 

But are all-wheel-drive cars that efficient?

In this article, we discuss common problems of all-wheel-drive vehicles.

What Is an All-Wheel Drive Vehicle?

An all-wheel drive vehicle is a type that possesses a powertrain capable of offering power to all wheels, both the rear wheels and front wheels, at the same time or when they are required.

In automobiles like Ford, the all-wheel drive system combines a rear differential, rear driveshaft, power transfer unit, and an all-wheel drive relay module.

It is interesting to note that most cars these days are front-wheel drive vehicles. These cars send the engine’s torque to the car’s front wheels. You can find a rear-wheel drive in truck-based SUVs, performance cars, trucks, and luxury sedans.

However, in all-wheel drive vehicles, the four wheels receive torque, ensuring seamless movement in slippery locations.

When the all-wheel drive turns the four wheels, it offers more grips, and the traction is comparably low on ice and snow, which ensures faster acceleration.

The all-wheel drive can move faster in slippery places than rear-wheel drive cars because it sends power to all the tires or those that need traction the most.

However, it is crucial to state the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. AWD systems are always active, but the driver has to engage the 4WD system via a lever or button when it’s required.

We find AWD in many high-end electric cars as well such as the Ford Mustang Mach models and the Tesla X models among others. We have more here on AWD and 4WD for Teslas.

Common Issues With All-Wheel Drive Vehicles

Despite the several benefits, all-wheel-drive vehicles come with their challenges; here are some problems with all-wheel-drive vehicles:

1. False Sense of Security

Most drivers who choose all-wheel-drive vehicles have this idea that they have an advantage over other drivers on slippery roads. The truth is that the all-wheel-drive system improves traction to enable the vehicle to accelerate.

There is no impact on the vehicle’s braking system when the road is slippery, and the braking and handling of the car are the same as those of a two-wheel drive vehicle.

In this scenario, AWD minimizes the wheel spin, which does not impact the vehicle’s capacity to turn or halt.

So, if you’re driving an AWD vehicle, remember being able to move in snow or on ice doesn’t mean the AWD system can improve your braking abilities in unfavorable terrain.

Thankfully, most vehicles come with driver assistance systems, such as ABS, Traction Control, and Electronic Braking, to improve traction on less-than-ideal driving surfaces.

Related: Common Problems With Rear Wheel Drive Cars (Common Issues)

2. Higher Purchase Cost and Maintenance Expenses

Most auto manufacturers offer AWD as an alternative because the price of the vehicle increases when the option is added to the package.

Some automakers sometimes provide it as a standard gadget and put the expenses of the driveshaft or other items on the original price.

Maintaining a vehicle with the AWD system is more expensive as it ages. You need to understand that the cost of maintenance will increase in the long run.

The componentry of the AWD is complex and may also require periodic maintenance. A good example of this is the rear differential, which may require an oil change at some point.

3. Poor Gas Mileage

When you compare all-wheel-drive vehicles to other models, you will discover that the two-wheel-drive cars have better gas mileage.

Due to their heavy nature, all-wheel-drive vehicles offer worse gas mileage than two-wheel-drive cars. This extra burden can have a significant impact on the fuel consumption of the car and increase your ownership costs. 

So if you rarely drive on roads that require the extra traction an AWD system provides, you’re better off buying a two-wheel drive car that offers higher fuel efficiency.

4. Complex Repairs

It is advisable not to purchase an all-wheel-drive vehicle if you do not NEED it. The AWD system has a reputation for being more complex than two-wheel-drive vehicles.

Vehicles with the all-wheel drive system require two extra differentials and axles, making them heavier and more complex to work with. Remember that the complexity of a car’s components directly affect the repair time and labor costs.

Related: Are Rental Cars All-Wheel Drive? (Checked And Explained)

5. Insurance Premium Costs

One of the issues associated with AWD vehicles is the payment of insurance premium expenses.

Because AWD systems are often found in large vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, insurers also charge higher premiums for these vehicles.

Most people have the impression that these vehicles have enhanced road handling and capacity. Before choosing such vehicles, it’s important to consider the ownership costs, including insurance rates.

6. Front Tires Wear Faster

One issue vehicle owners face with the AWD system is that their front tires wear faster than the rear tires.

The reason is that the front tires handle the steering and the braking system, which exerts more lateral forces on them.

This means that you have to replace the front tires earlier than the rear tires, which increases the cost of owning these vehicles.

Related: Are All-Terrain Tires Bad For Your Car? (Explained)

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