What is the Difference Among Front, Rear, Four and All Wheel Drive?

Sun Devil Auto Expert, published on 03/26/2015

In relation to our article “What Does My Automatic Transmission Do?” We explored the basics of how a transmission works with the engine directing power to the drive wheels. As there are two types of automatic transmissions, front and rear wheel drive, this begs the question: “What is the difference among Front, Rear, and All-Wheel Drive?”

In essence, the difference among each drive type is in which location the power is directed. Most transmissions are connected to the back of the engine and engineered to send power to the front, rear, or all drive wheels:

  • In rear wheel drive the transmission is typically mounted to the back of the engine, just under the center floorboard of the vehicle, in alignment with the gas pedal. A rotating shaft that transmits a force from the engine to the Drive Shaft. The drive shaft connects the rear of the transmission to “Final Drive” or differential.  Differential is classified as the last part of a set of gears that delivers the necessary revolution, or torque, located in the rear axle, sending power to the rear wheels. RWD often allows for a quick acceleration due to weight transference.
  • In front wheel drive the engine is normally mounted sideways in the car with the transaxle just on the underside facing the rear of the car. The transmission is often combined with the final drive to form a unit combining the transmission and differential. The components are then connected directly to the axles of the driving wheels, or transaxle. The front axles are attached to the transaxle, thus providing power to the front wheels. FWD typically improves fuel economy and delivers better traction.
  • In four-wheel and all-wheel drive the vehicle is equipped with an additional component called a transfer case. The role of the transfer case is to connect to the drive shafts on both front and rear axles which transfers power to all four wheels simultaneously. While the technology is similar, there is a difference between four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive vehicles are equipped with a selector that allows the front wheels to be disengaged. All-wheel drive is designed to engage all four wheels at a time. However, four-wheel drive vehicles are typically found on vehicles that have a higher ground clearance and may also have a shielded underside, towing accessories, and/or larger tires. All-wheel drive vehicles can vary from sports cars to sport-utility vehicles.

Whatever type of automatic transmission your vehicle possesses, Sun Devil Auto has the ability to provide quality transmission repair and maintenance. Sun Devil Auto is the expert for all services, especially engine and transmission services. Our transmissions are built to the highest standards in the industry. Paired with Sun Devil Auto’s ASE certified technicians, thirty seven years in the industry, and incorporating the newest ideas and the most up-to-date technology, Sun Devil Auto should be your number one choice for transmission repair and maintenance.