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Toyota 4WD systems explained



  • Thanks for your response to my question about 'best 4WD configuration' going downhill in slippery conditions....having lost control last year in such conditions, I'd like to be better informed this year.

    You suggested "RWD only" mode for such conditions. I don't have "RWD only" in my '04 4Runner. It is 'AWD all the time' with options for low range of course, as well as for locking the differential. Given these alternatives, I can lock the diff. and turn off VSC or not lock the differential and drive with VSC "on." Either way, I'll just have to slow way down given the propensity of the car to break loose.
  • wwest probably misread your post. In your case, the standard AWD unlocked is the way to go. The vehicle lost traction because of the tires. If you live where snow and ice are a seasonal issue, then consider snow tires. A second consideration is an all-weather tire like the Nokian WR S.U.V. AWP that can be run year round.

    If snow and ice are not normal conditions and this was a one-off deal, then avoid driving in those conditions with the Cross-Terrains, or chain up. It was the tires losing grip that caused loss of control. Snow tires have softer tread and many sipes allowing the tire to flex and grip.
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    4WD isn't magic. It can't increase your coefficient of friction. It helps you go. It doesn't help you stop or turn.

    Michelin Cross Terrains are fine all-season tires. I've got a set on my 2003 4Runner. I only use them in the summer. In the winter I mount a set of snow tires. Real, honest-to-goodness snow tires. You may be surprised at the difference in performance in slippery conditions between all-season tires and snow tires.

    If you are driving too fast for conditions, no 4WD setting is going to help you.
  • The cause (and solution) being the tires makes sense. Was searching for a holy grail in the vaunted Toyota 4WD system that wasn't there. Thanks for your insight!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The holy grail is called VSC + A-TRAC.
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    "Was searching for a holy grail in the vaunted Toyota 4WD system that wasn't there."

    Toyota's 4WD system is better than most, but 4WD helps you go. It doesn't help you turn or stop. Think of it this way - your brakes stop your tires, but your tires stop your truck.

    One problem with all 4WD systems, particularly good ones, is that they can give you overconfidence in slippery conditions. Back when I grew up, driving a '70 Ford station wagon in the snow, I knew just how slippery the road was. Each time I accelerated (even gently) in snow, the rear tires would slip. That continual reminder of how slippery it was caused me to drive slowly and carefully.

    My 4Runner seldom slips in the snow when accelerating, so I don't get that constant reminder to slow the heck down. Whenever I am in snow, as soon as there is no traffic behind me I brake quickly to test the traction.

    4WD is not magic. Which is why you often seen SUVs sliding off the road during a snow storm.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    Which is why you often seen SUVs sliding off the road during a snow storm.

    That may be because the only vehicles on the roads during a snow storm are SUVs. :)

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • other1other1 Posts: 7
    That's sort of not necessarily true. Most rides are only as good as the tires it has. I've seen SUVs that can't get out of their own way in the snow where a FWD with snow tires goes right through it. Tires are everything in the snow.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    I agree on your point about the tires. However, I suspect that when the weather gets really bad you're likely to see mostly people with 4WD vehicles brave enough to venture out. That stacks the deck in favor of 4WD vehicles slipping off the road compared with FWDs or RWDs.

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    Actually, some of the times I've seen the most SUVs off the road has been during snow storms at rush hour. Everyone was "going out" in the snow simply because we had to to get back home. So there really was little self-selection going on. Back when I had a FWD car with snows (GTI), I routinely passed such trucks. As did my wife in her C240.

    I think part of the reason is poor education on the part of the drivers, but also, I as posted above, over-confidence. The extra traction that 4WD gives you when accelerating makes it easy to overestimate how much cornering and braking performance you really have.
  • other1other1 Posts: 7
    If you drive 4WD like it's 2WD you should be ok.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "The extra traction that 4WD gives you...."

    Should be correct as follows...

    The extra traction that FWD or F/AWD gives you....

    RWD or rear torque biased AWD/4WD will definitely be less hazardous on a slippery roadbed for most drivers, inexperienced drivers, than would be FWD or F/AWD.
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    I've tried several times to make my point, but it is apparent that many are missing it, so I'll give up now.
  • I was shifting the transfer box from N to H the other day while in putting the transmission in Neutral and felt a small grinding sensation, is that ok? I thought that's the way one supposed to shift? The vehicle was not even in motion....
  • Hello, I've been reading this forum for a while as I am about to purchase a clean low mileage 01 SR5 4x4. I've noticed that on 01 and 02 Sequoias next to the 4WD button there's VSC Off button, but on 03 and up models there is a button that looks like it's for locking the center differential. Are there any differences in the 4WD hardware in those models? Thanks for any help!
  • 2toyotas2toyotas Posts: 104
    The 03 has a center diff lock button that can be locked in 4hi and 4low by pressing that button. on the 01 and 02's the only way to lock the center diff is to put it in 4low, and put the transmission in L, which is first gear.
  • 2toyotas,

    Thank you for the explanation. I guess that makes the 01-02 a bit less capable than the 03+.
  • I have a 2002 Sequoia and live in the Boston area. We make 3 or 4 trips to Northern Vermont skiing each winter and get a fair amount of snow here in Boston. My driveway is a moderate upgrade. I have never had to use 4WD LOW range. I just push the 4WD button when needed.

    In the summer our Sequoia is on Martha's Vinyard for five months and we drive on the beaches frequently after dropping the air pressure in the tires to 15psi. Again I have never used the low range and have never been stuck. In fact I usually tow out one or two stranded vehicles each season.

    Unless you plan on hard core off roading, I doubt that you will use the low range much if at all. The older system has been just fine for me.
  • davoncdavonc Posts: 1
    When I push the center diff button, the light comes on in the gauge cluster, but when I push it again to unlock it, it doesn't beep to let me know its unlocking anymore. Recently the beep that it used to do when unlocking came on out of the blue while driving. Does anybody have any idea whats causing this and if my diff lock is even working now?
  • reb66reb66 Posts: 2
    2001 4Runner. Last night I hit the 4WD button by mistake and I haven't been able to get out of it. The light is flashing, the one with the four green wheels and the orange center. I took it in to the dealer this morning. They had her for 4 hours and said they didn't know why it happened and that they couldn't get the 4X4 to disengage. They gave her back to me in 4 wheel drive with the light still flashing. Now they can't see me again until Tuesday (It's Thursday right now). Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  • gpoltgpolt Posts: 113
    Considering purchase of a 2009 RAV4. Rented a 4WD '09 4 cylinder from Hertz and it drove fine but can't justify the added expense and mpg hit when in Maryland it snows no more than 2days per year. Question: in the dry, do the cars drive any different? Any stiffer? Any more ground clearance? Thanks. Also, is there any down side to purchasing the 2WD V6? Seems like it would be quiet, fast and no penalty as far as mpg. Thanks again.
  • Whatever happened with your problem? I'm having a similar problem, although I didn't hit my 4wd button by accident... I wanted it to engage... it didn't... and it won't stop trying either.
  • No difference in ground clearance, no stiffer, no significant difference in the way they drive on dry pavement. You will see a difference in the way they handle if you get into gravel or grass on the side of the road or when getting moving when you have gravel under the tires to begin with. Frankly though, if you can get a FWD V6 go ahead, you'll not really find a significant benefit unless you like to have the AWD on occasions (snow days or pulling a small boat trailer out of the water, etc.).

    Good luck to you.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    The Toyota AWD/4WD system that uses TC, Traction Control, braking to apportion engine torque upon (only upon) wheelspin/slip isn't worth the gunpowder to blow it to hell.

    At least the newer ones have the ability to disable the TC system so you will have some chance of getting unstuck.

    Only slightly less dangerous to drive on an adverse roadbed, slippery surface, than FWD alone.

    I hate recommending Ford to anyone but if you feel there will be times you will need a truly functional AWD/4WD then a Ford Escape or Mercury Mariner with the 4 cylinder and stick shift would be your best and safest purchase.
  • I purchased a 2008 4Runner and after not understanding my manual on the operations ended up here. I have owned four other 4WD vehicles and by far this one is the most complicated. The manual does little to help expain the need to lock/unlock the center differential. Can someone dumb it down for me? Basically, if I am driving in snow what do I need to do besides turn from 2WD to 4WD, if anything? Is it necessary to use any other buttons? Thanks!
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    If you have a full time AWD mode, as I believe you do, just use that.

    Forget the 4WD/4X4 hi/lo range modes unless you are off-road.
  • It is listed as multi mode 4WD, not AWD. I do have the Vehicle Stability Control w. Traction Control and don't think that's going to help much in times of heavy snow or getting over the snow bank at the end of the driveway.
  • harboharbo Posts: 136
    I understand the Seq Diesel is on the test road's in the US. Who has any info?
    Thx ,,,,, My 02 Lmt has 115K and is just getting broken in. Tough and dependable.
    For certain the traction control system is a pain in the [non-permissible content removed] if you know how to drive.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    If the multi-mode system has anything other than a fully open center diff'l you will be fine. An open center diff'l would RQUIRE TC to apportion engine torque in slippery, low traction, conditions, NOT GOOD..!!
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    It sounds as though you have the V6 4Runner -- the V8 4Runner does not have a 2WD mode. For driving on the roads in snow, simply turn it to 4WD. You don't need to do anything else.

    When I go offroad, I lock the center differential. This also disables the spin control. The center diff is locked using a button on the lower left of the dash. I usually stop and put the truck in neutral when engaging or disengaging the center diff lock.

    For more severe offroad, engage low range. To do this, come to a stop, truck in neutral, turn to 4WD-low. If you are going to engage low range, you also want to lock the center differential.

    In summary, my recommendations are:

    Dry road or rain - 2WD
    Snowy road - 4WD high
    Offroad - 4WD high + lock center diff
    Offroad worse conditions - 4WD low + lock center diff
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