Why Is My 4 Wheel Drive Light Flashing: 7 Reasons

Why is my 4 wheel drive light flashing? There could be many reasons. Let us explore some of them in this article

Cars come in multiple drive modes such as the front wheel, rear-wheel, all-wheel drive (AWD), and 4-wheel drive, particularly for SUVs and heavy off-road vehicles such as jeeps and pickup trucks.

While driving, we often come across indications on the dashboard from gear shifting to engine oil which lights up on occasions to give us information about the vehicle.

One such indication that we receive in our 4X4 is the four-wheel-drive light that flashes on while driving. Let us find out the reasons for it.

Why Is My 4-Wheel Drive Light Flashing

7 Reasons: Why Is My 4 Wheel Drive Light Flashing?

#1 Service Message

One of the reasons for the 4-wheel drive light to flash is to inform the driver of the servicing needed in the vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system. The service message appears as a flashing light on the dashboard as information and a reminder to get the car serviced.

#2 An Issue With Your four-wheel-drive system

The flashing light of the 4-wheel drive system on the dashboard appears to alert you and lets you know that there is an issue with the 4- wheel drive system of the vehicle that needs to be handled promptly.

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#3 Incomplete gear shift

One of the reasons why the flashing light may occur is due to the incomplete shift in gears. Since this is damaging and confusing to your vehicle’s engine, it can result in the four-wheel-drive light flashing continuously. 

To avoid such instances, make sure you shift entirely before taking off for a drive. If you have shifted the gear properly and the light is still on, get it serviced with a professional mechanic as soon as possible, as this may indicate a transmission issue in the vehicle. 

One of the ways an incomplete shift impacts the vehicle is when the driver switches to the 4WD (Four wheel drive) from 2WD (Two-wheel drive) while the car is in motion. This can cause a great deal of damage, sending the 4-wheel drive system into a frenzy, giving a service message leading to the flashing light of the 4-wheel drive system. 

To prevent such damage, it is essential to switch the vehicle’s gears entirely while the car is not in motion. This will enable the vehicle for a smoother transition and lead to minor damage to the engine.    

Why Is My 4-Wheel Drive Light Flashing

#4 System Malfunction

On certain occasions, constant flashing of the 4-wheel drive option can be because of a system malfunction. Vehicles are equipped with internal computers onboard, which are programmed to read each motion of your car. Like a regular computer, a vehicle may undergo programming faults that trigger an alert during a malfunction. 

It is essential to pay attention to the timing of the flashes to determine if it is a mechanical or computer-related problem, as many times, computer-related issues may trigger other hidden issues with the vehicle. The notification can be bothersome and annoying to the driver, and it is essential to take this issue seriously and resolve it.  

#5 Overheated Transfer Case

The transfer case is that which splits the power between the front and rear axles of the vehicle. When being overheated, it may no longer function according to its specifications and becomes in-operatable. This causes the four-wheel-drive light to flash. Sometimes the flashing light signifies that the system has deactivated till the time it can cool down. It is advisable to check the owner’s manual to find out exactly what the flashing light means.   

In crossovers and SUVs, which have a light-duty four-wheel drive and don’t comprise low-ranging gear, the design does not cover extreme driving conditions such as rock crawling, deep mud, or heavy snow. If the vehicle in such situations is found to move in no forward motion or is stuck where you can’t move and find yourself just spinning the wheels, continuing to accelerate can generate a significant amount of heat inside the vehicle’s transfer case overheating it.

#6 Sensor Failure

The vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system relies on a network of sensors that inform everything from wheel speed to transmission speed throttle to throttle position. If any of these sensors is not transmitting a reading or providing no data, it is not working correctly. This can cause the four-wheel-drive light to flash on the vehicle’s dashboard. Before considering it a concern of transfer case, it is advisable to get the vehicle checked by a mechanic for a bad sensor.

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#7 The System Is Working Normally

Sometimes, the 4 wheel drive light flashes but there is no reason to be alarmed. It simply means that the system is working according to the design on the vehicles where a four-wheel drive is activated on demand. 

The light is illuminated when traction conditions require it to tell the driver that the 4WD is activated, similar to stability control or traction control lights that light up on the dashboard when their respective systems are in action.

When you see the 4WD icon being lit up on the dashboard, you needn’t panic. Instead, go through the troubleshooting steps of the vehicle. If it still goes unresolved, it’s a good idea to contact your mechanic for a professional opinion.

Why Is My 4-Wheel Drive Light Flashing


How do I know if my four-wheel drive is working?

One of the easiest ways to know if your four-wheel drive is working is to drive your vehicle at the two-wheel drive on a steep gravel road or driveway and try to go ahead. You will probably find the car stuck. Stop and engage the four-wheel drive you should pull out without spinning.

What causes the 4×4 not to engage and the 4WD light flashing?

A flashing light on the vehicle’s dashboard indicates that the 4WD system is not engaged correctly. It can be because of a technical fault, and It can be because of the following, a faulty component such as a transfer case or actuator, an electrical fault such as a corroded wire, or can be a faulty 4WD dial/switch.

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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