Tips to Maintain and Service All-Wheel Drive Vehicles

All-wheel drive vehicles, or AWD, are not for everyone. Due to extra systems in the car or truck, it can cost more to own and service AWD automobiles. If you stick to city driving in warm climates, maybe put your money elsewhere to improve your driving experience. But for those like us in Salt Lake City, Utah who get snow, ice, rain, have lots of steep inclines, or maybe hauling toys to the lake, having all-wheel drive can be great. Luckily there are tons of options to fit your driving needs from Toyota to Nissan, and Subaru.

Being here in the mountains, we are frequently asked about all-wheel drive problems. Because of variation in the mechanics of AWD vehicles, servicing all-wheel-drive vehicles can be different. These tips to service AWD can be applied to part-time all-wheel drive, full-time all-wheel drive, and most 4WDs. So, buckle up for a few tips to maintain and service your all-wheel-drive before your next adventure or wintry commute.

Differential Problems

When it comes to servicing all-wheel-drive cars and trucks, it’s not possible to do so without discussing the differentials. The differential is part of the vehicle’s powertrain system. In other words, it helps evenly distribute power to the wheels on a given axle. Imagine going around a turn. The outer wheels have a further distance to travel to go the same distance. The differential is what allows the outer wheels to turn faster to keep the vehicle driving smoothly.

With AWDs, there will be a differential on the front and rear axle. And both require fluid to properly run. Unlike engine oil, differentials are filter-free, so if there is friction in your system, it’s possible for little shavings of metal to track into the fluid. This is a common all-wheel drive problem. You may not hear the problem but may experience it as your drive. It is another reason, among many others, you should avoid distractions while driving. Poor driving conditions can contribute to heavier use of the system. So, for AWDs, keeping up on fluid is extra important. Most manufacturers recommend replacing differential fluid every 30,000 – 60,000 miles.

AWD Transfer Case Problems

The transfer case is also part of the powertrain system. While the differential helps evenly distribute power to a given axle, the transfer case helps to simultaneously provide power to both axles. This component is specific to the all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive vehicles and therefore should be included in regular service inspections. Like all parts, wearing out is something that happens. Time and use will take a toll. The transfer case also requires fluid to properly function. Leaking fluid is a common symptom that your transfer case has a problem.

If you are having transfer case problems, you may experience trouble shifting gears. If there is a puddle under your vehicle, that could be a sign of a leak. Both cases are signs there is something going on that won’t fix itself. It may not be the transfer case causing the leak, but it is a potential perpetrator. That is why it is so important that if you notice anything out of the ordinary you should find a good mechanic to prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem.

The Rubber on the Road

The tires you use on your all-wheel-drive vehicle matter. During winter months in areas that experience heavy snow or ice, you really should be using winter tires. Winter tires have increased flexibility that provides a better grip on the road when there is ice, snow, or slush. Alternatively, you should switch out of your winter tires when conditions improve for better performance and fuel efficiency. Also, pay attention to your manufacturer’s recommendation for tire size as this is the optimal size for the powertrain in your all-wheel-drive system.

And finally, don’t forget tire rotation. Front tires tend to wear out quicker than back tires and wear which can be accelerated by all-wheel-drive systems. Aggressive driving and poor wheel alignment can also contribute to imbalanced tire wear. This makes tire rotation even more important to reduce unnecessary work on the mechanical components of your vehicle. So next time you get an oil change, make sure to ask about tire rotation.

Service All Wheel Drive Cars, Trucks, and SUVs 

Regular maintenance is important to all vehicles. With the added safety and performance of the all-wheel drive, there are a few more items to be aware of when completing all-wheel-drive maintenance. If you can keep up on maintenance, your AWD will thank you with better reliability, longevity, and performance. If you have any questions about your Subaru all wheel drive problems or any other AWD or 4WD vehicle let us know! You can call us at (801) 302-0912 or contact us online. Either way, we would love to hear from you.

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