Does 4×4 Have 2 Differentials?

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Over the years, automakers have been designing their vehicles to fit all driving styles. 

Whether you are looking for an off-roader for your countryside adventures and camping, or just a high-performance commuter vehicle, the off-road capability of vehicles is one of the considerations many drivers are looking at today. 

Drivers coming from areas of average terrain are still keen on the off-road ability of their vehicles. 

Many will say that they are planning ahead, or they are in anticipation of when the roads will be bad. 

For people coming from snowy and constantly wet weather conditions, the 4×4 is a must-have. 

What matters for such people is how powerful the 4WD is or whether it comes with an option for all-wheel drive (AWD). 

Extremely wet terrains require a drivetrain that can offer extra traction and a powerful engine to deliver the right amount of torque. 

Does 4×4 Have 2 Differentials?

4×4 vehicles have two differentials and a transfer case. The two differentials are the primary difference between a 4WD and an AWD vehicle. This gives 4WD vehicles more power, making them a better choice for extreme offroad conditions.

Today, you will find the four-wheel drive (4WD) fitted in all ranges of vehicles and body styles, right from the sedans, SUVs, Vans, and trucks. 

The performances and the peace of mind that a 4×4 vehicle offers are enough to justify the additional bucks to pay for it.

If you are shopping for an off-roader, it is important to understand the difference between the 4WD, AWD, FWD, and 2WD. 

The structural and functional differences will help you determine the right drivetrain for your type of terrain in your region. 

There is a thin line between the 4WD and the AWD drivetrain

This causes many people to confuse. The two cannot be used interchangeably. 

The four-wheel drive is popularly known as the off-road beast. 

This is because of its ability to transfer power to all four wheels. 

Nowadays, the 4×4 vehicles are used on highways and the city equally since they offer good grip and come with powerful engines under the hood. 

4×4 vehicles offer superior handling in difficult weather conditions. 

It is important to find the best balance between ease of handling and driving your car, fuel economy, and the price range. 

A four-wheel drive will require that you pay some extra bucks instead of buying a two-wheel-drive (2WD) option of the same model. 

This is because of the additional features that come standard with the 4-wheeler. 

How the 4×4 Drivetrain Works

It is often referred to as four by four, 4WD, 4-wheeler. 

The 4WD has for many years been assumed to be the drivetrain of choice for off-road driving. 

But today, many vehicles are coming fitted with this drivetrain. 

When looking for a new ride, you will have to choose from a wide range of drivetrains. 

When it comes to drivetrains, more is always better. 

Drivers will rather have a part-time 4WD on standby instead of completely lacking one. 

This is in anticipation of the “rainy days”. 

But whether or not you need a 4WD for your terrain is a different question. Some people will buy the 4×4 because of the class and prestige that it offers. 

Most 4×4 vehicles have a stylish and posh design that attracts the majority of drivers. 

A vehicle consists of the powertrain and the drivetrain. 

The powertrain is the assembly of the engine that produces power and sends it to the wheels through the transmission. 

The drivetrain is the system that moves the wheels. 

An ideal 4×4 drivetrain will have a potent powertrain to complement the mechanism. 

This calls for extra horsepower, which translates to more fuel consumed when driving in 4×4 mode. 

An all-wheel drivetrain, four-wheel drivetrain, and rear-wheel drivetrain are the most popular drivetrain configurations. 

Despite the differences between the 4WD and the AWD, they both distribute power to the front and rear wheels, which can be helpful in driving through slush, snow, rocky terrain, or other challenging road situations. 

There are many large vehicles with all-terrain capabilities, like trucks, SUVs, and off-road vehicles, that use the 4×4 drivetrain configuration. 

4×4 vs. AWD: What is the Difference?

The key difference between the 4×4 and AWD is that the 4×4 vehicle utilizes two differentials and transfer case while the AWD vehicles have a front, rear, and center differential. 

When the 4×4 is selected, the engine transmits power to the transmission divided between the front and rear axles. 

When the engine produces torque, it sends it to the wheels, but they can only drive the car if they have traction on the road. 

Without traction, the wheels will just keep spinning, as you may have noticed when you get stuck in mud or deep later on sand. 

For example, when the rear wheels get immobilized due to extreme wet conditions or mud, if your vehicles are equipped with two-wheel drive, your wheels will likely continue to spin incessantly. 

In this situation, four-wheel drive may be highly beneficial because it allows your front wheels to gain traction on the road. 

You will be able to move your vehicle out of the challenging muddy condition if power is sent to the front wheels, which have traction. 

4×4 drivetrain accomplishes essentially the same thing. It offers you enough traction when you need it to get out of complicated situations. 

Therefore, the primary purpose of the 4WD is to increase your vehicle’s traction and grip with the road to help it get out. 

On many occasions, a 2WD will be sufficient. 

Everyday driving on the road requires a 2WD. 

When you meet deep mud, deep or fine sand, ruts, steep climbs, or drops, you will need to engage 4WD by either moving the toggle switch or pressing the button. 

The method for activation of the 4WD varies from one vehicle model to the other. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When is 4×4 Used?

The 4×4 (four-wheel drive) mode should be engaged when you need additional torque. 

This is when facing challenging terrain (mud, snow, or deep sand), or when you are pulling heavy cargo at low speeds. 

Also, when you are descending a steep slope at low speed, the 4×4 mode will be convenient. 

What are the advantages of the 4×4 over 2WD?

Traction and power are the key advantages of 4WD. 

If you are off-roading or climbing a steep incline, you will need more power and torque to go over obstacles on the terrain. 

While a regular 2WD will get you through some mild off-road conditions with ease, the 4×4 will give you superior power and traction to triumph in even more complicated situations. 

The 4WD will increase the traction and grip on the road to manage snow, ice, rocks, mud, sand, and other difficult-to-control off-road conditions. 

Traction and control will be enhanced when both sets of wheels (front and rear) are engaged. Improved road grip is made possible by adding weight. 

Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate 4×4’s versatility. 

What are some of the disadvantages of 4×4 over 2WD?

Even if the 4×4 offers a convenient and peaceful drive, it comes with its downs. One of the biggest challenges is the increased consumption of fuel. 

Whether you are using a diesel-powered 4×4 vehicle or a gas-powered vehicle, it will consume more fuel when running on the 4×4 mode.

Also, when driving a 4×4 vehicle, people tend to be carefree and put themselves into more complicated situations. 

This is with the assumption that the 4WD will get them out of any difficult situation. 

This is not the case when the situation is highly complicated. 

Another disadvantage of the 4×4 is the high purchase and maintenance costs. 

The additional components that make up the 4WD system increase the vehicle’s initial purchase price compared to its 2WD counterpart.

Additionally, the extra weight helps in increasing traction and control one in harsh conditions. 

But at the same time, it also lengthens the distance traveled to come to a complete stop. 

A heavy 4×4 vehicle is likely to cause an accident in wet weather or snowy conditions because it will take a while before it comes to a complete stop. 

In such cases, a combination of the AWD and the 4WD is recommended. 


Knowing the drivetrain that your vehicle uses is very important. 

Even more critical is understanding how it works and the components that make up the drivetrain. 

This will help you know whether you need the drivetrain in the first place. 

Some vehicle models will come with full-time 4WD, which is suitable for some road conditions, but may unnecessarily consume a lot of fuel. 

A part-time 4×4 is convenient as it allows you to select the 4WD on a need basis. 

Also, depending on the vehicle model and how sophisticated the drivetrain is, some vehicles will require that you stop the car entirely before engaging the 4×4 mode. 

In comparison, others are designed to engage 4×4 on the fly. 

However, in more recent models of vehicles, 4WD is generally activated by just pressing a button. 

When the wheels start to slip, some vehicles allow the system to engage 4WD automatically. 

And when the situation normalizes, it will disengage and will enable the car to run on the regular 2WD.