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7 Tips & Tricks for AWD Car Buyers

Published October 27, 2015

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If you live somewhere where winter is a real season, AWD can be a lifesaver. But before you buy your first AWD car, we’ve assembled some tips for you.

It’s important to know exactly what it is that you’re buying, what to expect, and what your AWD vehicle can and can’t do before you head out to the dealership.

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Keep an eye on costs

Not only will you pay more to purchase an AWD at the dealership (versus the two wheel drive version of the same car), there are other costs you will incur. First, driving all four wheels all the time requires the engine to work harder, which means fuel economy will decrease. Second, the components that comprise the AWD are expensive, some very expensive, so should they require repair, it won’t be cheap.

 

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Know your type

AWD systems that are mounted to FWD vehicles typically have a different torque split (how much power goes to each wheel) than a performance-oriented RWD car like a BMW or Mercedes, which sends less power to the front wheels so as to maintain a more RWD driving experience. So make sure you know what to expect from your AWD car before you first drive into inclement weather.

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AWD is for going, not slowing

AWD does a great job of putting the power down, which is why the fastest sports cars have AWD, but it isn’t a help in slowing or turning. If you want to improve your braking in deep snow or loose gravel, switch off your ABS (if possible) as locked wheels will slow faster on those surfaces by locked brakes building a pile of snow/gravel in front of them.

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AWD doesn’t make you invincible

A friend in Denver reported to me that when the first snowfall hits each year, it was  AWD vehicles that were the first to slide off the road. It used to be limited pretty much to SUVs, but as Cross Overs and AWD cars have become more popular, they’ve been joining the SUVs in the center median.

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The need for symmetry

AWD depends on your four tires being the same circumference. If they’re not, it can accelerate wear of the AWD components. Of course, you saw, I’d always replace tires with the OEM size. The did you know that the difference in diameter between a completely worn tire and a brand new tire of the same brand and type have enough of a difference in circumference to effect more sensitive systems. And further, different brands can have different diameters in the exact same size. The best advice is to buy four tires at once as close to the overall diameter of the original tires as possible.

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Keepin’ it lubed

Believe it or not there may be as many as four different lubricants required to maintain your AWD system (engine oil, transmission fluid or manual transmission oil, central differential (transfer case) lubricant, and front and rear differential lubricant. When it comes time for a major service on your AWD car, make certain that the technician doing the work knows which lubricants are required and has them in hand before he or she starts their work.

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Be prepared

No, this is not going to be advice about what you should carry that in your car in the winter. It’s advice to  be prepared for non-AWD to trigger an accident (or an AWD driving too fast). Remember, you have better acceleration capabilities than many other cars so you need to watch out that you don’t get sucked into their accident.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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