Toyota 4runner 4 Wheel Drive Not Working

Toyota’s 4Runner is a compact and mid-size sport utility vehicle that was produced in 1984 and is still sold globally. It’s one of the greatest for off-roading, with a wheel selection drive system for users to choose from. We’ll look at the Toyota 4runner 4 wheel drive not working in this article.

A four-wheel-drive vehicle has two axles and can deliver torque to all four wheels at the same time. It could be on-demand or full-time. The 4-wheel-drive system in a Toyota 4Runner can have a variety of issues.

They can be anything from defective actuators to the engine running out of oil, electrical connection issues, or drooping springs causing chassis failure, among other things.

Off-road, the 4WD is mostly employed with an auxiliary transmission to automate terrain conversion. 4WD is not available on all Toyota 4Runners.

The drivetrain, however, can be changed from front-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. The 4WD system can be engaged via the sub-shift lever or a button. You can then be fully engaged in a 4WD mode for hazardous roads and switch to a 2WD mode for typical routes to save gasoline.

Below are some FAQs about the Toyota 4runner:


How does the 4WD system on the Toyota 4Runner work?

To improve traction on the road, torque is distributed to all four wheels. The engine transmits power to the transmission, which splits the power and sends it in equal amounts to both the front and back wheel axles in a 4WD system.

On your front axle, there’s a vacuum switch/button to click on. It can be engaged while driving as well as while in a park on the Toyota 4runner. All you have to do is twist it to h4 after pressing the lock button.

Are all 4Runners 4WD?

4WD isn’t standard on all Toyota 4Runners. If you own a 4runner, you can change it into a 2WD, FWD, or 4WD variant. The trim level of the 4Runner determines which system is available. If you want to know if your Toyota 4Runner has 4WD or not, you can check the model and owner’s manual.

Please note that some Toyota 4Runners come with two shifters. From the gear shifter, you should be able to tell whether it has one or two shifters.

The 4WD features were controlled by the second shifter in 4WD versions. As a result, if the second shifter is installed, your 4Runner is equipped with 4WD.

When to use 4 wheel drive on a 4runner

Not every user knows when to use four-wheel drive. The idea behind driving on four-wheel drive is to have more traction on the road in terrain like a snowy road.

With you switching to 4WD, it won’t matter as much if one or two wheels lose traction because you’ll have two more actively fighting to keep you balanced.

The four-wheel drive system is ideal for off-roading, and the 4Runner is an excellent vehicle for this purpose. Transferring torque to all four wheels allows increased ease of travel over uneven terrain, and if one or two tires become stopped, there are two more that can maintain traction and drive the car ahead.

Are all Toyota 4Runners experiencing 4WD failure?

No! If you’re a fan of the 4runner and want to know if all the models are prone to 4wheel drive failure, don’t panic. There are exclusions. The point that some users have shared their experiences with their 4runner not working does not apply to all Toyota 4runner generations.

Although the basic flaw in 4WD is its exposure to the actuator seized up, it is expedient to note that the third and fourth generations (from 1996 to 2000) are the models prone to 4WD failure.

Toyota 4runner 4 wheel drive not working-reasons

The 4-wheel drive system does not work for a variety of reasons, with some signs to look out for like decreased traction when driving in snow, rattling noise when 4WD is engaged, indicator light flickers or stays on, and lack of power.

Factors such as model/engine quality and weather conditions can cause all that. Most of the time, the actuator is the main reason, as seizing up is the most prevalent cause of 4WD failure in the Toyota 4Runner. The most common issue is a seized actuator, and when you try to use your shifter to move into 4WD, it won’t engage due to a failed actuator.

Other possible causes of Actuator issues with your Toyota 4Runner’s 4 wheel drive not working include the following:

  • Actuators turn energy into a force.

That’s how it functions, from managing the throttle to directing airflow in the temperature control system. When using the all-wheel drive, the actuator is designed to lock the differential through a switch inside the cabin.

Many 4WD actuators employ an electronic solenoid to engage the actuator’s gears. When the car key is turned, the ignition system receives large electrical currents from the battery and smaller electrical currents from the ignition system.

Therefore, when the controller uses the switch to activate the differential lock, a drive shaft connection process is triggered. If your 4WD system isn’t working properly, you’ll notice an indicator light on the dashboard that displays incorrect information.

In the event that the indicator light continues to flicker, it’s possible that the gear hasn’t fully shifted.

  • Contaminated oil in the engine system

Every car needs engine oil to run smoothly. While running, engine oil dissipates heat from lubricated engine components such as bearings, pistons, rings, valve stems, and cylinder bores.

The oil’s primary function is to cool and lubricate the system’s gears. As a result, the oil may become contaminated and needs to be changed. Failure to do that will make wheel movement more difficult and produce an unusual noise, especially when you activate the 4-wheel drive system.

Due to the contaminated oil, it can lead to metal breaking in the engine as a result of high friction gears operating at high temperatures. And as a result of the lack of lubrication, the gears will collide at high temperatures, resulting in noise when the system is turned on.

  • Wiring issues

If the system’s wiring is bad or corroded, the voltage and current will drop. As a result, the signal transmitted through the conductor is reduced and irregular, which the sensor perceives as an error and can impede activation.

Moreover, if one of your switching wires or solenoid connections does not have enough power, the 4-wheel drive unit will not work properly, resulting in flashing lights on the control panel.

Over time, wires and other critical electrical components can get corroded. This happens through a combination of factors such as a weak solenoid, water, bad battery cables, etc. To prevent water or oil from messing with the electrical components of your car, this can affect activation from 2WD to 4WD.

  • Suspension issue

To offer steering stability and good handling, the suspension system increases the friction between the tires and the road. However, constant driving on rough roads can affect the suspension.

This can also harm the chassis, steering rack, shocks, and might require that you constantly change the shocks. Once the shocks are bad, your vehicle may lose traction, especially when taking a bend. Shock absorbers ensure that your tires are always in control of a vehicle.

How to avoid a 4WD from Failing?

Yes, you can avoid a 4 wheel drive failing but you need to understand when it should be used. Bear in mind that if you take care of your four-wheel-drive vehicle, the longer it will last. Using your 4WD on a regular basis can cause your 4WD to fail.

Regular driving on mud or icy roads can result in electrical faults. And then, a smart way of avoiding a 4WD from failing is to always alternate.

This is because inactivity and prolonged periods of being in one drive mode without cycling to another are the most common causes of actuator seizing.

While the motor is running, some older generation 4WD vehicles can stay in 4WD mode. If this happens, the indicator light will keep blinking. Typically, this can be resolved by turning off and on the vehicle’s engine.

To disengage the 4WD, you’ll also need to shift to drive. If none of these approaches work, try driving in low gear. Before turning off the motor, try driving on two-wheel drive.


The Toyota 4Runner’s four-wheel-drive system is designed to help haul weights or move through challenging terrain.

As a result, the chassis, spring system, and shock absorbers will be put under a lot of strain. Therefore, you must understand when you should apply the 4WD, and to avoid causing more mechanical issues, it is better to fix any problem when detected.

Furthermore, regular maintenance and how you drive in the terrain would determine how long your 4runner would last.

If your Toyota 4runner wheel is not working, you should check the actuators, engine oil, springs, shock absorbers, etc. and make sure that you don’t fix the drivetrain on a permanent mode drive.

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