How to Tell if Your 4×4 Switch is Bad [Explained]

You are driving off-road and trying to turn on your 4×4 switch. But the 4WD is not engaging. It is normal to feel a little bit nervous in this situation. But you have to identify it to solve it.

So, how to tell if your 4×4 switch is bad?

Simply put, you’ll face a lot of problems. Staring from facing problems in shifting your gear to odd grinding noises. You’ll also face a hard time staying, engaging, and disengaging the 4WD. Along with those a puddle of grease will be building up under your engine.

But that’s not all. You need to read the whole article. Then you’ll know what to do when it happens and why it happens.

Keep reading!

Symptoms of a Bad 4×4 Switch

Yes, you’ll be told that the 4×4 switch is supposed to last a lifetime. But after a while, it starts to degrade and stop working properly due to excessive use.

You can easily identify the symptoms if you look carefully. They include-

Problems with Gear Shifting

Failure of the internal transfer case causes this to happen. Also the damaged linkage or low fluid can cause this. It is better to follow the operating manual to be sure if it’s because of the transfer case.

It is better to stop the vehicle before shifting to 4WD, to make the transmission neutral. As it might create a grinding noise if you shift it while driving.

Hard Time Staying in 4WD

There’s a chance of the transfer case popping out of the 4WD. Problems with the differential or driveshaft can also cause this. But in many cases, it occurs because of the problem inside the transfer case.

4WD Fails to Engage or Disengage

A lot of reasons cause it. The reasons include electrical faults in the control system, and faulty shift mechanisms. The reason can even be problems in the internal transfer case. 

Puddle Building Up Under the Transfer Case

The only way there could be a puddle building up there is if there is a leak in the transfer case. You can easily locate it on the rare side of the transaxle assembly.

Odd Grinding or Humming Noises

These types of noises can be caused by several reasons. You might hear the sound changes while you speed up your car. Then there is a major chance of it being due to problems in the transfer case. These include- mechanical issues like damaged gears and loose chains. Even bad bearing and also low fluid levels are included as reasons. 

4WD Warning Light is On

4WD vehicles have a dashboard to show if there’s any problem in the system. Some cars have a warning light for it. If there’s an issue with the transfer case then automatically the light will turn itself on.

If any of the symptoms show up, the best thing to do is replace the switch as soon as possible. It would help you from facing further consequences that might damage your vehicle.

How to Fix Bad 4×4 Switch?

A bad 4×4 switch causes 4WD failure. When diagnosing the switch, the first thing a mechanic does is check the voltage of the switch. Next, they check if there’s any loose connection in the wirings or connectors.

Having a bad switch doesn’t affect your driving. But it would affect the transmission and make it hard to control. It would make it hard to shift gears or to 4WD. It could even lead to more damage and increase the repair cost. 

Replacing it as soon as possible is an ideal decision. You need to follow a few steps to do it on your own-

Step 1: Lifting the Vehicle

By using the jack stand, lift the rear side of your vehicle. Next, you have to slide the stands of the jack below the frame of the rare end. Then lower the vehicle in the right place.

Step 2: Disconnecting the Battery Cable

First, you have to open the hood and locate the battery of your vehicle. Next, disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket wrench.

Step 3: Locating and Detaching the Transfer Case

The transfer case is located near the rear side. Or you can simply use the user manual to locate it. Next, detach all the vacuum lines, electrical connections, and shift levers that are connected to it.

Step 4: Pulling Out the Switch

First, you have to remove all the bolts that are holding the case. Then you will be able to access the switch directly. Then unplug all the wirings connected to the switch. After that, pull out the switch carefully.

Step 5: Placing the New Switch

Place a new switch in the transfer case and attach all the wirings back to it. Then tighten the bolts of the transfer box. Next, connect all the battery cables, electronic connections, shift lever, and vacuum lines.

But remember, the new switch should be of good quality to ensure longevity. So, pick the best one. 

Step 6: Taking off the Jack

Put the hood down. Then lower and take off your vehicle from the jack stand.

That should do it. Now, just start your engine and check the 4×4 switch if it’s working or not. Then there shouldn’t be any more problems with it.

If there’s still any problem, contact a mechanic right away!


Is it Possible to Drive Without a Transfer Case?

It is not possible for you to drive without a transfer case. Because the power is split in half between the front and rear side in 4WD. But for 2WD, all the power is transferred towards the rear driveshaft.

Can You Drive With a Faulty Transfer Case?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Because it can cause some serious mechanical damage. This can be really expensive to fix or even beyond repair. The damages include- damaging the driveshafts, transmission, and axles. 

How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Transfer Case?

The average cost of replacing only the transfer case would cost from $2650 to $2750. The cost of the labor is estimated around $380 to $480. Lastly, the price of the parts without tax is around $2277.


Hope you got about how to tell if your 4×4 switch is bad.

Remember to change the switch right away after detecting any symptoms. It would not only keep your vehicle in good shape but also will save you a lot of money. You should engage the 4WD while driving off the road.

Hope the article was helpful for you and addressed all your concerns.

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