Top 4 Common Reasons For Toyota 4Runner 4 Wheel Drive Problems

Toyota 4Runner’s 4-wheel drive system can have many different problems if you do not understand how it works, how to maintain and troubleshoot.

Toyota 4Runner 4-wheel drive problems can come from reasons such as faulty actuators, running out of oil in the engine, electrical connection problems, or sagging springs leading to chassis failure, etc.

To know about the nature of problems, you should learn about the principle and how the 4-wheel drive system works below.

What Is Toyota 4Runner 4-Wheel Drive System?

The 4WD (also known as 4×4) 4-wheel drive system is mainly used for off-road purposes with an auxiliary transmission to automate conversion on all types of terrain.

Toyota 4Runner owns a 4WD 4-wheel drive system that will be designed with higher ground, high front, and rear exit angles to facilitate moving on hilly roads.

The suspension is firmer combined with specialized tires, strong traction with electronic locking to support hill departure as well as disconnecting from the brace.

The 4WD system is activated via the push of a button or through the sub-shift lever. From there, you can be completely active in using 4WD mode for bad roads and return to 2WD with normal roads to save fuel.

What Causes Toyota 4Runner 4-Wheel Drive Problems?

There are many reasons why the 4-wheel drive system does not work. In addition to objective reasons such as the life of the 4-wheel drive system, weather conditions, maintenance or quality of the engine, we’ve listed four common problems that many drivers face below.

1. Problem With Actuator

The actuator is designed to lock the differential when you’re using all-wheel drive via a switch from inside the cabin. Many 4WD actuators use an electronic solenoid to engage the gears of the actuator.

When the controller activates the differential lock with the switch, it triggers a drive shaft connection process to operate.

Therefore, all moving parts inside the transmission such as the shift fork, locking collar, and gears need to be checked and lubricated regularly to avoid engine wear, damage, or run out of oil.

2. Oil In The Engine System

If you live in a difficult terrain area, you need to make sure the oil level of the transmission and differential is at the highest level for the engine to work smoothly.

The main job of the oil is to cool and lubricate the gears in the system. Therefore, the oil will also be contaminated, run out of viscosity, or run out over time, making the movement of the wheels more difficult.

One of the simplest signs that you can recognize is the strange noise when activating the 4-wheel drive system.

The reason is that the oil is depleted leading to the phenomenon of metal cracking in the engine due to high friction gears with high temperatures. So the gears will lack lubrication causing them to collide at high temperatures and make noise when you activate the system.

If you do not solve this problem, it will lead to component failure and expensive repair costs later. In addition, if you want to use the 4-wheel drive system in icy weather, you should start the car gradually to keep the engine running smoothly.

3. Electrical Connection Problem

If the wiring of the system is corroded, it will cause a drop in voltage and current. As a result, the signal transmitted through the conductor is attenuated and uneven, which the sensor can interpret as an error.

If one of your switching wires or solenoid connections does not have enough power, the 4-wheel drive unit will not operate correctly and will result in flashing lights on the control panel.

If you regularly drive a Toyota 4Runner off-road vehicle on wet, muddy roads or frequently drive in snow, you should have your vehicle serviced regularly because the system’s electrical wires are very susceptible to corrosion or damage in severe weather.

When you service your 4WD system, you should make sure all electrical connections are cleaned properly and sprayed with electric silicone spray to prevent moisture from accumulating in the engine.

4. Damaged Chassis

The four-wheel-drive system helps a lot when the vehicle has to pull heavy loads on slippery roads or when running off-road. If the 4-wheel drive system is subjected to heavy loads, it is more likely to cause the springs to sag in the suspension.

These sagging springs can lead to chassis damage. If you regularly drive on rough terrain, the all-wheel-drive system may have rust around the bottom of the door.

Chassis can be damaged over time by being subjected to heavy loads for a long time making driving difficult. You should check for cracks in the outer part of the frame that connects to the mainframe of the car.

Also, don’t forget to check for dents or rust on the chassis to prevent it from corroding over time. It will corrode the joints on the chassis and make it more difficult to move.

You should check a few parts regularly including your nuts and bolts, steering rack, and shock absorbers. If your chassis is worn or damaged, you will experience strange noises.

The 4-wheel drive requires more maintenance because auxiliary components can have more problems such as differentials, gearboxes, etc.

In addition, a faulty 4-wheel drive shock absorber will affect the vehicle’s ability to grip the road. You will feel the car has no damping mode and is difficult to move.


Toyota 4Runner 4-wheel drive system is designed to assist in pulling loads or moving in difficult areas. Therefore, it will have to bear a lot of pressure on the chassis, spring system, and shock absorbers.

To ensure your safety when you’re on the move, you should check your transmission, engine oil, springs, shock absorbers, and differential periodically as they can often have problems.

In particular, if the 4-wheel drive system has problems, driving will become difficult because you will have to use more force.

If you have any comments or suggestions about common causes, don’t forget to share and leave a comment below the article.

2 thoughts on “Top 4 Common Reasons For Toyota 4Runner 4 Wheel Drive Problems”

  1. I recently purchased a 2019 Toyota 4Runner SR5. I noticed when I’m in four-wheel drive it seems to bind up when I’m slowly turning,say, in a parking lot. It also seems to bind up when I back up in four-wheel drive. Any thoughts?


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