In a bad economy, people logically try to make good economic choices but often lack the needed knowledge on which to base them. When they are choosing between AWD and 4WD vehicles, for example, they usually trust their auto dealership to inform and guide their choice. Possibly because car salesmen themselves are not trained mechanics and most car buyers are not either, transmissions are something that are not often discussed during the buying process.
The difference between an AWD and a 4WD is the transmission, and there is far too little understanding of that. Car buyers certainly cannot be expected to know it. Most people are just too busy to do the needed research, so even great online resources do not really help. Furthermore, the vast majority of car salesmen are not fully trained on the actual mechanical operation of the vehicles.
As a result, the transmissions of the cars that buyers are choosing between are often completely overlooked. That only increases the likelihood that the buyers themselves ignore the part that transmissions play in every car’s performance. It is the transmission that directs power differently to the wheels depending on the car’s drive system (AWD/4WD).
Thus, although transmissions take the leading role in a car’s acceleration, they have very little to do with a car’s traction (except when accelerating while turning). Furthermore, transmissions are connected to engines by some combination of “flywheels”, clutches, and/or “fluid couplings”. Transmissions are critical to vehicle performance, and they are complicated; they require regular inspection and servicing by trained mechanics to stay in optimal condition.
To do anything less than have a qualified professional maintain a component so crucial to your car’s performance is just asking for trouble. To the extent that drivers can, they need to familiarize themselves with common signs that something is wrong, since even ‘check engine’ lights can fail. In addition, car owners need to make time, find money, and keep up with both the routine and ‘as-needed’ maintenance recommended in owner’s manuals.