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Is All Wheel Drive good in mud? | Off-roading with AWD guide

The simple answer for this question is no. All wheel drive (AWD) is not for serious mud off-roading. There are a lot of reasons for this.

In this article we’ll see what are the capabilities of an AWD vehicle and what cannot take from it.

As I talked about in my previous articles  AWD is not the same as 4×4 system. Both give power to the all 4 wheels. But due to its mechanisms there are differences when using.

So in this article we’ll go through the following order to clarify all the doubts.

If you are going to buy a new vehicle or if you are searching these things for going mud off-roading with your existing AWD vehicle, this article may be useful for you. So let’s dive in.


Simple explanation on how modern AWD system works

Modern all wheel drive systems work with different types of mechanisms according to the different vehicle manufacturers.

So that there are some differences as well as similarities when they get to work.

But generally these vehicles are designed with a center differential that’ll take care of engine torque dividing among all the 4 wheels with the help of the vehicle’s computer system.

Normally when these vehicles drive on a norml highway, they will use only rear 2 wheels or front two wheels to propel the vehicle.

In a case where the vehicle needs more traction due to bad weather conditions or different road conditions like hill climbing, power will divide to the other axle through the differential by the computer system.

But there are so many variations according to the manufacturer as I mentioned previously.

Some AWD vehicles are powered by 4 wheels at all times.

Some are powered by the wheel with most traction according to the road condition.

There are various mechanisms. If you are going to choose an AWD vehicle you have to check that with the dealers or manufacturers.

Why are AWD vehicles not much suitable for mud?

There are few reasons AWD is not good for you if you are serious about wheeling on mud or mud off-roading.

As I explained in the mechanism of AWD, the computers of these vehicles use different parameters when it comes to power dividing among wheels.

AWD vehicles use a center differential and magnetic or viscous couplings to connect between front and rear axles. Not a transfer case.

The importance of the transfer case in 4wd vehicles is it has special low range transmission for high torque needs.

When crossing extreme terrains like mud swamps, rock crawlings this low range is very useful. But AWD doesn’t have such a transmission system.

Computer system is the one only thing that can decide what to do and viscous couplings will connect the axles according to that.

In 4wd vehicles there are diff locks and hub locks which can manually lock the differentials and wheels.

So the wheels spin all the time to cut through the slippery or boggy surfaces and find the grip.

AWD vehicle’s computers are not much like the slipping and unnecessary spinning of wheels.

They try to find the wheel which has the most traction among the 4 wheels. But it’s not practical in off-roading most of the time.

In a mud swamp all the 4 wheels may not have a good traction. Wheels try to spin and find a grip. But AWD computer units try to stop those unnecessary spinning of the wheels.

They try to cut the power or apply brake on those wheels with the help of traction control system. So that vehicle will be stranded on mud easily.

How to drive on mud with an AWD vehicle?

If you have an AWD vehicle and you want to do some off-roading with it or you need to drive your vehicle on muddy tracks, then you may need these tips.

I have a separate article on off-roading for beginners.

You can check that also if you want to go for a serious off-roading trip. Click here to read that.

Know the depth

Before entering your  vehicle in to mud bog or water know the depth of it. Specially for your AWD vehicle.

Then according to the height of your vehicle and the height of your electronic systems placed(especially if it’s water) decide whether your vehicle can cross it or  not.

Otherwise you’ll end up with stuck in place and serious damages to your vehicle.

I wrote an important article on damages that can happen by water for your vehicle and how to avoid them.

There I discussed everything about hydro-locking and many more.

So check that also before off-roading with your AWD vehicle. Click here to read it.

Know the type of mud

There are so many types of muds. Some are sticky, some are loose and boggy, some have both sticky and boggy features.

So that you should have an idea before crossing the mud whether your wheels can find the necessary traction or not.

Ground clearance of your vehicle

Most of the time AWD comes with cars, wagon types of vehicles that have low ground that you should be aware of damaging important parts under your vehicle by hitting rocks or ground when driving off the pavement.

Specially when entering and exiting a mud bog there may be a risk of damaging the underside of your  vehicle.

Under the mud there may be hidden rocks, wood logs or obstacles that can damage under the be aware of them.

Other terrain conditions

There may be different types of slopes or terrain features that will reduce the traction of your wheels even if it seems not much hard to cross.

You are driving an AWD vehicle. So you should be aware of the traction very much.

Make your common sense and take the idea before drive your vehicle on that terrain.

Climate conditions

This is also very important. Because even a very easy terrain can transform into an extreme terrain by a rain or snow falling.

So if you are going off the pavement make sure your vehicle can come back on that track even a climate change happens.

Check the weather forecast before going for off-roading.

What are the capabilities of an AWD vehicle?

These vehicles are mostly designed for low traction conditions on pavement.

So they have abilities that are suitable for driving in different weather conditions on highways or on pavement.

Good for some weather conditions

In rainy and snowy weather conditions, these vehicles will give you a smooth hustle free driving experience.

Because they keep the necessary traction while changing the engine torque among all the four wheels and limit the slipping, sliding in high speeds.

Drivers don’t have to worry on changing among 2WD and 4WD modes on different road conditions, when driving on a highway to keep the traction.

But heavy snow is again not for these vehicles. AWD gives pretty much the same results as on mud.

Apply brakes safely

This is very important. Even AWD vehicles give good traction on slippery conditions and control sliders that doesn’t mean it can stop in that efficiency.

Braking is the same as a normal drive at a safe speed in slippery conditions as other vehicles. Otherwise you’ll end up causing accidents.

Final words

If you are going to buy a vehicle decide what is the purpose you are going to buy it.

According to the weather conditions and road conditions you have to choose it’ AWD or 4WD.

In AWD also you have to aware about the vehicles capabilities, according to the manufacturers as I mentioned in the start.

AWD is also designed according to different purposes.

That’s it for this article. If you think this article may helpfull for another off-roading pal, share this with them. It’s easy. You just have to click on share button below.

Enjoy your riding with AWD.

Have fun and safe off-roading !!  

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