Is it OK to drive with the service 4WD light on?

Four-Wheel Drive Vehicle

Four-Wheel Drive Service

There was a time that four-wheel drive vehicles were only for areas where the terrain was too rugged for the average vehicle. But today, from the southern part of the country all the way to Canada and beyond, four-wheel driving has become a favorite pastime. And that includes here in the Schaumburg, Illinois area! And that has created a need for professional four-wheel drive service centers and mechanics in Schaumburg, IL. If your four-wheel drive light is on, give us a call at 847-895-9131.

How is a four-wheel drive service different from everyday vehicle service? 

Today, vehicles are available in 2-WD, 4-WD, or AWD. And when it comes to maintenance and service, each of these has its own set of issues and repairs. As the names would suggest, a 2-WD (two-wheel drive) versus a 4-WD (four-wheel drive) versus an AWD (all-wheel drive), have parts that are concentrated on that ‘drive’ feature and can determine if your vehicle needs four-wheel drive service. For those that aren’t as informed on the differences:

  • 2-WD means the vehicle is motivated by only 2 wheels, typically the rear, but some cars are ‘front wheel drive’, which takes us to a different topic altogether! 
  • 4-WD means the vehicle is motivated by all four wheels turning. 
  • AWD means that all 4 wheels motivate the vehicle. 

With 4WD vehicle popularity increasing, before you make that investment, you need to be aware of certain things, like gas mileage. Because the engine will be powering all four wheels, it will use more gasoline.  And when it comes to needing four-wheel drive service, it gets more expensive because there are more moving parts. Four-wheel drive service is frequently for the following: 

  • Front differential
  • Rear differential
  • Locking hub
  • Self-leveling system

What does it mean when it says service four-wheel drive?

The 4-WD vehicles today being electronically controlled means there is a computer that tells you when something is wrong. If the “Service 4WD System” light is illuminated, there is a problem somewhere within the 4WD system, and should be inspected by a professional four-wheel drive service technician. 

Can the 4-wheel drive stop working? 

Today’s 4-wheel vehicles are controlled electronically, so they don’t just quit working without letting you know that you need four-wheel drive service. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t quit working without notice (or maybe you ignored the “Service 4WD System” message that is illuminated on the dashboard). Some common problems that could stop your 4-wheeling are: 

  • Shift Solenoid: There is a solenoid at the transfer case that makes the vehicle shift in and out of the 4-wheel drive. If that solenoid fails, the vehicle isn’t going to shift, leaving you stuck with only 2 wheels working. When this happens, the solenoid needs to be replaced, then having a professional four-wheel drive service technician inspect the entire system is recommended.
  • Fuse/Wiring: If there is an interruption of the electrical current between the switch and the solenoid, the solenoid can’t shift and isn’t receiving any driver input. Most four-wheel drive service technicians find that a fuse needs to be replaced, and sometimes, the wiring is the problem. 
  • Faulty Switch: If the switch is bad, the current from the battery can’t flow to the solenoid, and the transfer case can’t engage the four-wheel-drive function. The vehicle needs a four-wheel drive service of replacing the switch to get the vehicle back on the road. 

How often should you service 4-wheel drive?

A 4WD vehicle has more fluid than other vehicles, and that fluid should be checked on a regular basis. For instance, professional four-wheel drive service centers recommend the differential fluid be checked no less frequently than every 36,000 miles. But depending on how much you use the 4WD for actual four-wheeling, you may need to have it changed every 15,000 miles. 

By having your 4WD vehicle checked by a professional four-wheel drive service center, they will check all the various fluid levels, gaskets, seals, and more.  What is included in a professional four-wheel drive service appointment? This service should include no less than the following: 

  • Drain the Transfer Case and refill it with fresh, clean fluid.
  • Drain the Front Differential and refill it with fresh, clean fluid.
  • Drain the Rear Differential and refill it with fresh, clean fluid.

Is all-wheel drive service necessary?

Yes, just like any 2WD or AWD vehicle, regular maintenance is just important for a 4WD vehicle, perhaps even more so because of the additional performance the vehicle provides. Having your 2WD car serviced for oil changes and tire rotations is important, and so is regular four-wheel drive service.

A Vehicle in Four-Wheel Drive

At The Road’s End

Not all 4WD vehicles are in 4WD mode constantly. It is more common to either push a button inside the vehicle that puts it in 4WD mode. But what happens if you don’t use your 4-wheel drive? If you go for extended periods of not using the 4WD mode, or maybe not at all, the seals will dry out and need to be replaced. So, whether you go four-wheeling or not, have your four-wheel drive serviced on a regular basis and every now & then, go four-wheeling to keep the system lubricated! If you need four-wheel drive service in Schaumburg, IL, give us a call at 847-895-9131.