Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

What Does the Four Wheel Drive Warning Light Mean?

What Does the Four Wheel Drive Warning Light Mean?

Anyone who off-roads for a hobby knows that four wheel drive is a must have. Unlike two wheel drive cars, vehicles equipped with four wheel drive (4WD) have a transfer case that takes the power from the engine and sends it to the front and rear wheels. Most four wheel drive vehicles also have a low and high range depending on the situation. Even though there is a button or shifter that is used to activate four wheel drive, auto makers include a light on the dash to let the driver know what setting is being used.

What the four wheel drive indicator light means

When you engage the four wheel drive, a corresponding light is illuminated on the dash. Vehicles with multiple gear ranges will also indicate what range has been selected. High and low are commonly abbreviated to “hi” and “lo” respectively. Some vehicles may only have an indicator for low range as high range is the default. Refer to the owner’s manual of your vehicle for specific information on your four wheel drive system.

Newer model vehicles have started using electronics to control the four wheel drive. Some of these electronically controlled systems have a 4x4 automatic mode. This mode keeps the vehicle in two wheel drive mode for most of the time until extra traction is necessary. The car’s computer monitors the wheel's rotational speeds and if it notices any slipping, it will send the power to all four wheels to keep the car moving.

Vehicles that have four wheel drive systems tend to have a separate light to indicate an issue with the system. Usually labeled “Service 4WD”, when this light comes on, a code will be stored in the computer’s memory to help identify any issues. Depending on the problem, the four wheel drive may be disabled temporarily. Sometimes if you haven’t used four wheel drive in a while, the computer may think that the transfer case isn’t lubricated properly. If your Service light turns on, try engaging the different gear ranges and driving around a little bit to move the oil around. Hopefully, the next time you start the engine, the light will be off.

Is it safe to drive with the four wheel drive indicator lights on?

Using four wheel drive in slippery situations makes a huge difference to the vehicle's driveability. You should never engage four wheel drive on dry pavement. Four wheel drive requires some slippage to occur between the front and rear wheels which is why it’s perfect for gravel, snow, and sand. On dry pavement, the grip prevents any slipping from happening and enabling four wheel drive will overstress the drivetrain. Vehicles equipped with automatic four wheel drive switch between the modes on demand so you don’t need to worry about switching it yourself.

If your service light is on or if your four wheel drive system doesn’t seem to be working properly, ask one of our certified technicians to help you diagnose any problems.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
How to Get a Louisiana Driver's Permit
s licensing program. The first step in this program is to obtain...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...


Related questions

Q: Four-wheel drive thumping noise. 2006 Mazda B4000

Hello. It sounds like the transfer case is going bad causing the thumping noise you are hearing. The transfer case transfers power to the front wheels so that all four tires are working during four-wheel drive. If the transfer case...

Q: What does the brake Warning Light mean?

The brake system Warning Light is located on your instrument panel, and can come on for three reasons: The parking brake is engaged. The brake fluid is low. The brake system is malfunctioning. If the illuminated light is...

Q: When lights come on, radio goes off and visa versa

Hello. It sounds like the battery and/or alternator is causing the electrical problems that you are experiencing. The battery light coming on in the dashboard is an indication that there is a problem with the battery and low voltage may...