AWD System Malfunctions – 2WD Mode Engaged (Fixed)

People buy AWD vehicles because they want a sturdy vehicle that can handle the snow, rough terrain, and other harsh elements. It can be really frustrating when your AWD system malfunctions and the 2WD mode is engaged. When this happens, you need to get your truck checked out by a mechanic. Or you can take your vehicle back to the local Toyota dealership’s service center. 

Why is AWD So Much Better than 2WD?

If you’ve ever tried to drive in the snow in a 2WD vehicle, you know why AWD is so much better. Not only does your vehicle handle better in the snow with AWD, but it also handles rough terrain much better.

Once you get used to driving an AWD vehicle, the last thing you want to do is revert to a 2WD car. This is how it feels when your AWD system malfunctions, and you get stuck driving with 2WD mode engaged.

The last thing you want to do is spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to get it fixed at the dealership. You call your buddy who’s a mechanic and he tells you it’s not always an easy fix. However, there are a few things you can do to try to reset your system and get it back into 4WD.

Here, we’ll talk about how to do this. We’ll also let you know when it’s time to give up and leave it to the professionals.

How Does AWD Work?

AWD, or all-wheel-drive, is not the same thing as 4-wheel drive. The way AWD works is that there is a transfer case that Toyota integrates into your transmission. There is an electromagnetic coupler that alternately engages between your rear differentials and your driveshaft.

Your AWD system engages the front and rear wheels at the same time. If it detects that one of the wheels is slipping (on ice, water, or any other slippery surface), the AWD system will only apply brakes to the one wheel. This allows you to maintain control of your car without losing forward momentum.

Just keep in mind – if you always drive in AWD, you’re going to get a fuel economy that’s 3 miles less per gallon than when driving in 2WD. You’ll also notice there is a considerable amount of drag when your car is in AWD mode.

If you need your AWD and it malfunctions, your car will automatically engage in 2WD mode.

What Causes an AWD System to Malfunction?

Your AWD system could malfunction for any number of reasons. Usually, it’s just that there’s a clog in the system. Maybe a large stone or rock got jammed in the wheel drum of your SUV. Or the car could’ve gotten stuck in gear. 

Some of the more common causes of an AWD malfunction include:

  • The system is disconnected
  • It may be stuck in 2WD mode
  • It could be corroded or stuck
  • There could be an issue with your driveshaft

There are ways to tell if there’s something wrong with your AWD system. Some of these are:

  • Squealing when driving at high speeds
  • Lights flash on your dashboard or dash display
  • Your vehicle pulls to the left or right when driving over 40 mph
  • Your car stalls
  • Your car or SUV overheats

Any of these things could be a sign that there’s a problem with your AWD system. If this happens, you’ll notice your car will be stuck in 2WD mode.

How to Check to See if Your AWD System is Working Properly

If you aren’t sure if your AWD is working properly, there is a way to test it. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll have a good idea if the system is working or if you need to take your vehicle into the shop. Make sure you have a jack under the car and a couple of blocks of wood in front of your vehicle before you do this test.

  • Put the parking brake on. Hit the brake pedal a few times. Then disengage the parking brake.
  • Hit the gas lightly. If the car tries to move forward, your AWD is working properly. You can remove the jack and drive your car in AWD.
  • If the car does not attempt to go forward, then your vehicle is stuck in 2WD, and you should take it to the mechanic’s shop or dealer immediately.

Is it Okay to Drive in 2WD Instead of Getting Your AWD Fixed?

You probably bought your AWD vehicle for a reason. Maybe you do construction, and you need a sturdy truck that can handle rough terrain. Or perhaps you live in a wooded, rural area and you can’t get around using 2WD. Regardless of the reason, you paid for AWD, and you should take advantage of it.

You won’t ruin your car by driving in 2WD all day. In fact, the opposite is true. If you constantly have your vehicle in AWD mode, it can cause wear and tear on your engine and component parts. You’re much better at using AWD only when it’s necessary.

When your car is in AWD, it puts a major strain on your brakes and even your transmission. If you’re doing regular highway or city driving, there’s really no reason to keep it on. However, if you’re going camping or hiking, or you want to go on rough terrain, by all means – put it on.

If you aren’t sure what’s wrong with your AWD system, the first thing you should do is take it to your local mechanic. If it’s covered under warranty, however, make sure you take it to your Toyota dealer. They’ll figure out what’s wrong with your vehicle and make the necessary repairs. There’s no reason to pay for something if it’s supposed to be covered.


It’s a good idea to have AWD on your vehicle in today’s day and age. You have no idea where you could end up and it’s better to have AWD and not need it than need it and not have it.