4x4 AnswerMan: AWD vs. 4WD, Shifter Repair and First Aid

Jun. 08, 2017 By Jaime Hernandez

Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

Previous 4x4 AnswerMan Columns
April 2017  - Turbo Gas Engines, Locking Differential vs. LSD & More

March 2017 - How to Repair a Flat, Off-Road Van Conversions & More

February 2017 - Are Diesels Dirty?

4x4 vs. AWD
There are different ways of getting power to both the front and rear wheels of a vehicle.  The most popular options found on vehicles today are 4-Wheel Drive (also known as 4x4 or 4WD) and All-Wheel Drive (AWD).  Although they both provide maximum traction for the vehicle, they use different methods of delivering that power. They are also made for different applications

Let’s take a look at AWD. This type of system is typically found on anything from a sedan to a CUV. All-wheel-drive systems deliver power to all the wheels all the time.  They are comprised of a center differential with viscous coupling that controls power distribution to the front and rear wheels. What’s nice about AWD is that it can deliver power at different ratios, like 40% to the front and 60% to the rear. This can be advantageous when going around corners, as power is delivered at different rates to the front and rear wheels. This helps prevents any additional stress on the drive train and ensures optimal traction.

AWD is a very popular option for snow, wet surfaces, and performance driving. One of the major drawbacks to AWD systems for off-road use is that they don’t offer Low range gearing.

4WD uses a transfer case to split power 50/50 to the front and rear differentials so that all wheels rotate. Since 4WD is part-time, it needs to be engaged by either using a push button or lever to use. Most 4WD transfer cases feature two speeds: High and Low range.  High range can be used for higher speed off-road terrain or snow where added traction is needed. Low range is used for maximum traction and power, especially when tackling rocky terrain, deep snow or mud.

When not in use, 4WD can be disengaged, putting the vehicle back into 2WD. Unlike the AWD system that is designed to be active all the time, 4WD is not recommended for use on a hard surface. Doing so can result in damage to the driveline.

So which is best? It really depends on your application. For everyday driving, AWD may be a good option if you require extra traction on paved or dirt roads. If you require extra traction primarily off-road and in extreme terrain, 4WD is your best option.


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I am hoping there is someone out there who can possibly assist me. I have an 89 Toyota Pick Up truck 4WD V6. My son drove it and when it returned I no longer had reverse or 5th gear. I have been reading and several things said to first try and replace the shifter bushings and seat. So I ordered the part and preceded to dismantle the shifter as instructed and got to the point where the shifter starts to lift out and there is like something stopping it. Yes I am a girl, and I try to somewhat muscle it out, but was reluctant to use all of my forces to do so in case there is something else needed to do to make it come out. When I look in my book, which is really clear, it says something about there possibly needing a special tool that can be gotten from Toyota. Does anyone out there off hand know or have experienced this and could you possibly give a damsel in distress some advice. I don't want to screw something up. Thank you so much.
Kelly White 

Letter sparked by Shift Lever Seat Replacement 

Hi Kelly,

Toyota does make a special service tool for removing the shifter cap, which is what keeps the shifter in place. If you don’t have that special tool, you can try and do it with your fingers, a pair of Channel Locks (rubber side), or even a 19mm wrench like the video below shows. The trick is to put some pressure down on the cap while you rotate it counterclockwise. 

Once you have the shifter out and are ready to replace the shifter seat, take a look at this installation tip from Marlin Crawler’s site that shows how to do it.

Good luck!


Many of us spend a lot of time and resources building cool rigs to take off-road. What I’m surprised is how may of us don't even carry a band-aid or first aid kit in case of an emergency. Tom Severin, Off-Road.com friend and 4x4 Trainer, recently wrote a story on the subject that makes some good points on why it’s important to be prepared for an emergency, especially when traveling off-road. 

You can read more about it in Wilderness First Aid Training

4x4 AnswerMan,

How do I find out if my 1993 Toyota T100 4x4 single cab long wheel base has a posi, 5-speed?

Craig Fisher


Hi Craig,

The easiest way to check if your vehicle has a limited slip differential is to spin the rear wheels while in the air. You can do this by placing a floor jack under the differential and lifting the vehicle, so both wheels are off the ground.

If the wheels spin in the same direction while you rotate one the wheel, then your vehicle is equipped with a limited slip differential.  If the wheels turn in different directions, it does not have a limited slip differential.


The market is flooded with boring SUVs that don't offer much for off-road enthusiast today, but what if there was something different offered? We’re talking tons of horsepower, off-road chops and looks to match.  Something like a Ford Raptor SUV. We know there’s a market for it, and some manufacturers like Hennessey Performance have taken note by creating the supercharged “Velociraptor” SUV.  But with a price tag of $159,500+, it’s not something most of us can just run out and buy.

Now if Ford made a production model with similar features, at a much more competitive price, we could see the big 4x4 SUV craze of the early 2000s go gangbuster again. 

Off-Road.com contributor Seth Parks takes a look at what that might look like in  Does a Ford Raptor Expedition Make Sense?
Off-Road.com reader “Alphagrey” thinks a Raptor SUV makes a lot of sense, but says “let's skip the Raptor-Expedition, and make a Raptor-Excursion!” 

What do you think?  Are we overdue for a capable full-size 4x4 SUV?
Please comment below.



4x4 AnswerMan,
I have a 98 Chevy 2500 that I just bought. It is stock right now. Can you please give me a rundown of the parts and brands to give her a 4 to 6 inch lift and run 35s. I don't plan on tearing up the desert just some camping and hunting. Any information would be great. Thank you for reading

Hi Ryan, a 4-inch suspension system will give you enough lift to run 33s (unless you’re okay cutting some sheet metal from the fenders and front bumper).  If you want to run 35s, a 6-inch suspension lift is your best bet.  There are a number of quality suspension lift companies still making kits for this model truck.  You can preview some of them at http://www.4wp.com/.

Good luck!

Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

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