AWD vs FWD


#1

I own several AWD cars and I always struggle (monitarily) with the replacement of all four tires if you lose one and the others are not newish. Currently two Subarus, and a 91 AllTrac Previa. Yes, I do need them for the roads I drive on.
Considering what tires cost these days, is it just for ease of manufacture or marketing that AWD vehicles are so prevalant?
FrontWD with a switch or lever to shift into FourWD like an older Subaru did not require this all four new tires game.
Can anyone justify the added expense of the 4 tires issue for the performance of full time AWD?
Personally I do not have a problem pushing a button when I need to.

(for those who remember a previous post of mine, I did buy 4 new tires for the Previa, $360, before the prices went through the roof.)


#2

Don’t Subarus have a fuse you can pull to disarm the awd system when using the spare tire? Pull it and you have a fwd car.

I will refrain from commenting on the “need” for awd. To each his own.


#3

“Don’t Subarus have a fuse you can pull to disarm the awd system when using the spare tire? Pull it and you have a fwd car.”

On most older, automatic transmission Subarus, that is true.
However, the newest generation of automatic transmission Outbacks (as well as some of the older ones), the use of a newer AWD system, known as Variable Torque Distribution (VTD), has led to elimination of that fuse. As a result, you can no longer transform an automatic trans Outback to FWD.

My '02 Outback had the VTD system, but only a few high-end versions had this system back in that era. Since 2010, all automatic transmission Outbacks use the VTD system. In addition to being superior overall to Subaru’s older AWD system, it is also less prone to damage from mis-matched tires. Not immune, to be sure, but less prone.


#4

Unless pulling the fuse and disarming the AWD is a bad thing for long term use, it might be a way for one to have on demand AWD.

What I am hoping for here is a conversation on the general lack of choice, it is AWD or 2WD, not a switchable system.
When tires were cheaper it may have made sense. Is it not ecological idiocy to throw away (replace) 3 rather functional tires because one is damaged?


#5

A benefit of fulltime AWD is the ability to adjust traction on the fly, which is good in slippery situation. Having had two part time 4wd vehicles (Cherokee and Suburban) I’m willing to put up with the tire problem on our Forester. But if it really bugs you, you could try FWD with a good set of winter tires, that worked for me for 12 years in Anchorage.


#6

Don’t forget that you can buy one new tire, and have it “shaved” to match the circumference of the three older tires. Yes, you are losing a certain amount of tread life on that new tire, but this still represents a MUCH smaller investment than buying four new tires.

The only problem might be locating a tire shop that has the equipment to shave the tread. Most tire shops do not have this equipment, so they don’t bother to mention this option, as it would frequently result in losing customers to the tire shops that do have the equipment.

Incidentally, there is still a lot of confusion regarding the “fuse issue” on older Subarus.
If you want to change from permanent AWD to FWD, you insert a fuse into a dedicated fuse block located on or near the strut tower on the passenger side. The main fuse block, located in back of the battery, comes with a spare fuse for this application. For some reason, folks keep talking about “pulling a fuse” in this situation, but in reality, it is the opposite. I should have clarified the issue in my earlier post!


#7

Not all AWD systems have this requirement, so maybe you should consider other cars in the future. My impression is that the Subaru AWD system is more capable than others, though, so perhaps the tradeoff of this requirement is still worthwhile.

I’m curious about “always”. How many times has this actually happened to you? In thirty years of driving, I’ve never had a flat tire that couldn’t be repaired.

I’d just have one tire shaved, as mentioned above.

As for your comment on pushing a button for part-time AWD, that can normally be used only on slippery roads. That may be fine just after a snowfall, but it’s not very useful on roads that are partially dry and partially snowy, which at least for me is pretty common to see.


#8

Lion/VDC,
I have manual trans Subarus car and those I believe they do not have the fuse place/remove option.
I pound a lot of dirt roads and have 3 or 4 tires become unreparable. Tire shaving is available 80 miles from here so unless one has half a day to drive and wait, it becomes a challenging option. Still compared to $2-400 for a new set…The local tire shops laugh if asked about it, they are making much more selling full sets to everyone who drives in.
texases, I am probably in the Subaru rut of thinking 4/AWD is much better than good snows on a front wheel drive car.


#9

I believe Tire Rack shaves tires, so that’s another option if you can get by without the car for a few days.


#10

You don’t pull the fuse on an automatic Subaru to disable the AWD, you INSERT a fuse.

Read the owner’s manual.


#11

nomatch1, if you spend a lot of time on dirt roads then AWD + winter tires would be better than FWD + winter tires. You might try and find a local shop that shaves tires, as others have said, that might save you from buying 3 tires at some point.


#12

mcp,
there is no AWD fuse on a manual trans car, that is what my owner’s manual says, what does your say?


#13

I don’t get your concern. Leaving a car in awd makes for LONGER lasting tires than in FWD. Slight differences in tread wear between tires is not a problem in awd cars. My Subarus got betting mileage by a factor of two than ANY fwd car I’ve ever had. RWD cars and trucks may be better but not crappy FWD cars where the front wheels are asked to do too much and the wear patterns are severe on the front wheels. This is a huge wear problem with any aggressive driving.

Keep the Subaru, rotate and maintain your tires and drive sanely. You’ll max out on tire mileage. AWD always performs better than it’s fwd counterparts, even on dry roads. There is minimal added maintenance but additional purchase price and less gas mileage in general. You need to justify that added expense for the safety of awd.

Use winter tires on awd and you will spend less for tires during the life of the car than all seasons alone. Reason: you will have to change all season tires more frequently than snow tires in the winter and the summer tires can be run to the wear bars making for much better overall performance then all seasons alone and lower costs.

A no brainer.

BTW, if driving dirt roads are hard on our tires, we need to check our tire pressure and/ or SLOW down. Any different for a fwd car ? We need balanced tread for those too for safe driving.


#14

VDCdriver is correct - older Subarus had that option; it doesn’t exist anymore. And no, the manual transmissions didn’t have it - no need.