Illustrated Guide: All-Wheel Drive (AWD)

Sometimes, you want two wheels to have more power, less power, or no power at all. You also want the wheels to be able to receive a precise amount of power, at a precise time, for millisecond precision and maximum control. One way to achieve this is with multi-plate clutches, seen above. Those thin metal discs towards the left of the centre of the photo are the clutches in a Honda AWD system. Clutches send or stop power flowing through driveline components. Need a little power sent to the other axle? The clutches will clamp lightly, sending a bit of power elsewhere. Need lots of power sent to that other axle, right now? The clutches will clamp together hard and fast, getting lots of power sent to the other axle right away. Some systems activate the clutches electronically, others use hydraulic fluid pressure and valves. When the clutches are fully clamped together, the entire assembly spins as a solid unit – meaning both axles are receiving the same amount of drive power.

As all-wheel drive (AWD) becomes more affordable, more common and more effective than ever, more Canadians are shopping for new rides that send power to all four wheels for maximum grip, confidence and peace of mind when the going gets slippery. Here’s a closer look at what makes an AWD system tick, and some of the high-tech advancements that let today’s AWD systems work with immense precision.

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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard is a native of Windsor, Ontario – though he’s called Sudbury his home for the past 20 years. Justin is a full-time auto writer, consultant and presenter of EastLink TV’s AutoPilot. His work can be seen weekly in numerous outlets across the country. When not writing about the latest new models and industry trends, you’ll probably find him fixing his 1993 Toyota MR2 GTS.
Justin Pritchard

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