2wd to AWD Conversion (All You Need to Know)

So you want to convert your trusty 2 wheel drive vehicle to an AWD? Well then you need to read this article till the end. We will look at what components are needed, cost implications, the engineering behind it all and if there are any ready-made kits available.

Can you convert a RWD to an AWD? The simple answer is, yes it definitely can be done with enough money, engineering skills and the right equipment. The real question is, SHOULD you attempt a 2WD to AWD conversion? The answer to that question will be discussed here, in further detail.

So, you have your heart set on this project, to convert your reliable, trusty 2WD to an AWD.  Why would anyone possibly set out to undertake such a hideous task?

Well, your reasoning might flow along any of the following lines:

  1. My 2WD is such a reliable vehicle, if only it was AWD… I know!
  2. It’s in amazing shape for its age, I don’t want to sell it, but I want AWD
  3. It has sentimental value, It was a gift or possibly your first car!
  4. Perhaps you’ve relocated to an area which is more suited for an AWD
  5. Or, you just love your 2WD but you want a more sure-footed drive

Whatever you reason is for wanting/needing an AWD, you need to consider the pros and cons of converting your current 2WD to AWD first. Weigh up your options and count the cost before you set out. It’s the smart thing to do.

You also need to know what engineering skills, engineering equipment, and more importantly wallet size you will need. Is this a simple case of buying a few components and cutting away some undercarriage metal parts, adding a few bits and bobs, and off you go?

Let’s look at it in more detail.

Can You Convert a RWD to AWD (Should You?)

So as the title alluded, should you even attempt this conversion? Well, unless your dad is Warren Buffet and you own a small AWD vehicle manufacturing plant with all the hi-tech equipment, like, let’s say… I don’t know, Land Rover, Mitsubishi or Toyota, including all the engineering staff, then yes by all means go ahead – it would be a cake walk! You could possible complete this project in a week.

You get where I’m going with this?

This is by no means an easy or a cheaper alternative to rather selling your current 2WD and purchasing a used  AWD of the same make.

Realistically, the only time I would even recommend trying an AWD swap, is if you had the money and skill to perform ALL the work yourself, you currently own a RWD vehicle, and you have a similar AWD donor car.

Even in that instance, the main challenge here is, with a donor vehicle and time on your side, (which will take months to do just btw), it’s never going to be a simple case of just, bolt-on and bolt-off. Once you’ve done all the basic prep work, chopping, butchering and welding, you’ll need to transfer the entire power train, which includes the engine, transmission, transfer case, front and rear axles, and front and rear drive shafts. Not to mention, the electronics. Good luck with that!!!

How’s this for an alternative: Purchase a non-running donor AWD vehicle of the exact same make and model as your existing 2WD and rather restore THAT, with parts from your existing 2WD. How’s that for an idea? You have all the components in place, with all the engineering, electronics and geometry already in place. That would be a more feasible option, if you’re desperately in need of a restoration project.

At the end of the day, anything can be done, if you have the aptitude and budget big enough, however, it is almost always cheaper and more reliable to sell your RWD vehicle and buy an AWD model. Many have attempted this project in the past, only to abandon the job mid-way to sell the non-running, non-starter for parts. Time to recoup some of the costs.

But, let’s entertain the idea for a while to see exactly what components you’ll need to successfully pull this off.

Converting A 2WD to AWD (What Is Needed)

Let look at what basic AWD components.

As a start you’ll need the following, but not limited to:

  1. 1x Transfer case
  2. 1x New transmission compatible with the new transfer case
  3. New Drive-shafts that’s compatible with the transfer case
  4. Electrical wiring harnesses, sensors, selector and ECU to manage the AWD system
  5. AWD ECU to communicate with the transfer case
  6. Instrument panel AWD indicator
  7. Front diff (if you currently drive a RWD)
  8. front drive shaft (if you currently drive a RWD)
  9. Front Side shafts (if you currently drive a RWD)  
  10. Rear diff (if you currently drive a FWD)
  11. Rear driveshaft (if you currently drive a FWD)
  12. Rear axle (if you currently drive a FWD)
  13. Undercarriage stabilizer plates, mounts, brackets, and support beams donated or fabricated to accommodate the additional drivetrain components.
  14. Upgraded Brake calipers to compensate for the additional weight.
  15. Upgraded Springs and dampers to accommodate the additional weight

So far so good! We’re making progress

I’m pretty sure I’ve omitted a few items, however, this list should get you started and keep you busy for a while.  A long while…  

So just to be clear, you’re on your way to converting your standard 2WD to a vehicle with a powertrain capable of transferring power to all its wheels, whether full-time or on-demand.

If, for example, you drive a 96 Mitsubishi Lacer, you will need to equip your 2WD with what Mitsubishi refers to as AYC or Active Yaw Control system.

Essentially what that means is, the AYC transfers drive torque between the left and right drive wheels as required. Impressive!

And this is achieved by utilizing a torque transfer rear differential which is controlled by various sensors and an electronic control unit (ECU) to enable a difference in torque to go to each of the rear wheels.

I’d love to see anyone pull this off in their backyard!

If it’s a 2WD Audi you want to convert to AWD, I would love to try and explain what amazing engineering feats the Germans pulled off but I’m afraid my head might explode! Nein Danke!

May the Force be with you!!!!

RWD to AWD Conversion (Kits)

Are there any conversion kits available to convert your RWD to an AWD? Not that I know of, however there are AWD to RWD software modules available to transfer the power of your AWD to the Rear wheels only.

Perhaps you just want to have a bit of fun, drifting and doing rear-wheel doughnuts? There’s a quick plug and play chip available, that allows you to, with the click of a button, convert your AWD to a RWD car.

Have a look at this:

Can You Convert a FWD to AWD

If you drive say, a basic FWD vehicle, then you are probably in a slightly better position. However, the same applies for these vehicles. The engineering that went into manufacturing these vehicles are of the highest levels.

You might reason, well it shouldn’t be that hard, since I have a front wheel drive of the same make and model, so transferring the AWD components from the donor vehicle to mine should be straightforward right?

WRONG!

Rather buy a cheap AWD from the 80’s and restore that instead. Like an old Mazda 323 with AWD and forced induction. Done!

As for converting your existing Ford. Lancer or Audi from FWD to AWD – don’t do it.

FWD to RWD Conversion Cost

A lot, too much, don’t do it, it’s a bad idea!

The end!

Resources

Daily Dose of Sanity – Good Book!

Sanity Spray

Car Hacks and Mods for Dummies

Conclusion

If you’ve managed to get this far in this article, good on you! Hopefully, I’ve swayed you from this crazy idea, saved you a ton of cash, and talked you off the cliff!

You’re Welcome!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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