Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Mehar. Mehar Wonders, “When was the first 4 wheel car invented” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Mehar!

Does your family use a four-wheel drive vehicle? If not, chances are you know someone who does. Have you ever ridden in a four-wheel drive vehicle off-road over rough terrain? It can be an exciting experience!

Four-wheel drive vehicles are also good to have when weather conditions make roads slippery. This can include rain, snow, and even ice. What is it about four-wheel drive vehicles that makes them work well in these conditions?

A four-wheel drive vehicle—often called a 4WD or 4X4 (“four by four”)—is a vehicle in which all four wheels receive power from the engine. Most vehicles are two-wheel drive (2WD or 4X2). That means the engine’s power is only sent to two of the four wheels. This will be either the two rear wheels (rear-wheel drive) or the two front wheels (front-wheel drive).

How does this affect the vehicle’s performance? In slippery or off-road conditions, two-wheel drive vehicles can lose traction more easily. For example, one or both wheels could lose traction in heavy rain. In this situation, the front wheels can’t help—they’re not powered by the engine. This could cause a major problem.

In a four-wheel drive vehicle, it’s easier to maintain traction and control of the vehicle. If one or two wheels lose traction, you still have two or three powered wheels to keep you moving. This is very useful in slippery or off-road conditions.

Many four-wheel drive vehicles are actually part-time four-wheel drive. This means that, under normal conditions, the vehicle only sends power to two wheels. If four-wheel drive is needed, the driver can switch with the press of a button.

Four-wheel drive vehicles haven’t been around forever. They became popular when Willys built the first Jeeps® for the United States military during World War II. Later, Willys made the first four-wheel drive vehicle for non-military uses when it created the CJ-2A in 1945.

Today, Jeeps® are still known for their amazing off-road abilities. Are you WONDERing where their name came from? Many people believe the name was given to the vehicle by military personnel. Supposedly, they compared it to a cartoon character named Eugene the Jeep.

Eugene the Jeep starred in E.C. Segar’s Popeye comic books. He was Popeye’s pet. He was small and seemed to be able to solve problems most thought were impossible. Military drivers thought the same thing about their new four-wheel drive vehicles, so they began to call them Jeeps®. The name has stuck ever since!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.W.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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