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What’s the Difference Between 4×4 and 4WD?

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Chevy Truck Off-Road

If you’ve ever heard people talk about off-road vehicles, you’ve probably heard the term 4×4 (four-by-four). And if you’ve ever shopped for a car, you’ve probably heard of 4WD (four-wheel drive). But unless you’re a car buff, you’ve probably wondered: what’s the difference?

Well, truthfully, a lot of people use the terms interchangeably. But that doesn’t mean they actually mean the same thing. 4×4 and 4WD both mean that power is sent to four wheels to control the vehicle, but it’s a little more complex than that.

All 4×4 vehicles have 4WD, but not all 4WD vehicles are 4x4s.


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Each number in 4×4 has its own meaning. The first number in this format signifies the vehicle’s number of wheels. If you’re in a standard car, SUV, or pickup, the first number will usually be 4.¬†It will only change¬†with larger vehicles like commercial trucks. The second number signifies how many of the wheels receive power to make the vehicle move. In a 4×4, all four wheels receive the power. In a 4×2 vehicle, only two of the vehicle’s four wheels receive power.

However, this isn’t necessarily synonymous with 4WD. Yes, a 4×4 vehicle has 4WD. But let’s say you have a larger six-wheel truck with two powered axles. That would be a 6×4 (a six-wheel vehicle powered by four wheels) and also considered a 4WD vehicle.

With that being said, it’s fairly uncommon to come across six-wheel vehicles on the road. That’s why 4×4 and 4WD are often used interchangeably. However, it’s important to know the difference if you’re shopping with your new vehicle’s drivetrain in mind.


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Source: 4×4 ABC