Toyota 4Runner 1996-2002: Why Does 4WD Dash Light Stay On?

There are a few things that can go wrong that would cause your Toyota 4Runner's 4WD warning light to go on. Read on to learn how to diagnose the issue.

By Bassem Girgis - February 10, 2016

This article applies to the Toyota 4Runner (1996-2002).

The Toyota 4Runner comes equipped with a 4WD system. However, it's not all off-roading and games; every once in a while something could go wrong, which would cause your 4WD warning light to pop up on your dashboard. There are a few things you can do to fix the issue. If your 4WD warning light goes on in your 4Runner, don't ignore it, and before you take it to the dealership and pay them all your money, try the few things we will share below to diagnose the issue.

Toyota 4Runner Why Does 4WD Dash Light Stay On

Material Needed

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Step 1 – Check 4WD lever

It could be activated.

This may be too obvious, but the 4WD lever is not as smooth as your average transmission lever. The 4WD lever needs a little force when being engaged or disengaged. Make sure it's set all the way forward. If it didn't click into the neutral position, the 4WD light will remain on, indicating that the 4WD system is engaged. Put it back then forward again to make sure it's properly in place.

toyota 4runner 4wd diagnostic problem DIY fix
Figure 1. Ensure the 4WD lever is in the proper position.

If the 4WD lever is sitting in place, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Check ADD solenoids' lines

You could have a vacuum leak.

If you have a vacuum leak from your ADD solenoids, it could activate your 4WD warning light. Check the solenoid under the vehicle, by the front differential, and check the one under the hood, making sure all of their lines are in a good condition. If the lines are fragile and cracked, you may need to replace them. If you have a smoke machine, you can remove one end of the line and blow smoke in it to detect any vacuum leaks. However, a visual inspection may be all you need.

toyota 4runner 4wd diagnostic problem DIY fix
Figure 2. Check ADD solenoids' lines.

If the lines are in a good condition, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Unplug differential switch

It could be the culprit.

Some forum enthusiasts have claimed unplugging the front differential switch then plugging it back in would solve the problem. The switch is located on the front of the front differential. Squeeze the tabs on the switch, then unplug it. Be sure to clean it and make sure it doesn't have any dirt or grime on it. Plug it back in, then start the car to see if the light has disappeared.

toyota 4runner 4wd diagnostic problem DIY fix
Figure 3. Unplug differential switch.

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