3 Reasons Why Your 4WD Light Stays On In Your RAV4

The 4WD light on your RAV4 may sometimes come on and stay on. And you may be asking yourself, why does my four-wheel drive light stay on RAV4? Why does the 4WD light come on in the RAV4? Why does this light stay on? Does the 4WD light coming on and staying on signal a serious issue?

4WD Light Stays On In RAV4 1 3 Reasons Why Your 4WD Light Stays On In Your RAV4

Why is the 4WD light on in my RAV4?

The 4WD light coming on and staying on in your RAV 4 can be due to three reasons. First, it could signal an overheated transfer case. Second, it could indicate sensor failure in the 4WD system. And third, it could be a sign that your RAV4’s 4WD system has been activated.

This article will explore the scenarios where the 4WD light on your RAV4 may come on and stay on.

So, if you are experiencing this issue and are wondering why or what to do next, you’ve come to the right place. By the time you finish going through this guide, you will have all the answers you are looking for on this problem.


If you drive an all-wheel-drive (AWD) Toyota RAV 4, you may sometimes notice the 4WD light staying on. And this light may continue flashing on your dashboard, regardless of the strategies that you deploy to have it go off.

So, why does this warning light stay on? Well, we will explore this issue and much more in this guide.

What Does 4WD Light Mean on Toyota?

In the RAV4, if the 4WD light stays on, this could be an indication that your 4WD system has an issue. Here are some of the possible situations that may be causing the 4WD light to stay flashing on your RAV4.

Overheated Transfer Case

The Toyota RAV4 comes with a light-duty 4WD system. And, this system lacks low-range gearing, meaning it’s not built to handle extreme conditions like heavy snow or rugged off-road terrains like deep mud or rock crawling.

So, if you find yourself in such situations, the vehicle’s wheels may spin continuously without any forward motion.

In short, you will be stuck. And if you continue hitting the gas, the vehicle will generate a considerable amount of heat inside its transfer case.

This continuous generation of excessive heat will make the transfer case overheat. And once it overheats, it will malfunction, causing the 4WD to flash. This light may then stay on until the RAV4 has cooled down.

Related Reading: Toyota RAV4 (Non-Hybrid) Years to Avoid

Sensor Failure

Your RAV4’s all-wheel-drive system uses information relayed to it from a network of switches and sensors.

This information will include things like vehicle speed, throttle position, physical component location as well as transmission speed, among others.

If one of these switches or sensors has malfunctioned, they will either send the wrong data or even fail to send any data at all.

And when this happens, the 4WD light will flash on the dashboard. This light may then stay on until the issue has been resolved.

4WD Light Stays On In RAV4 1 1 3 Reasons Why Your 4WD Light Stays On In Your RAV4

4WD System is Activated

The 4WD light on your RAV4 dashboard may also mean that the 4WD system has been activated and it’s working normally.

For instance, some RAV4s, especially the newer models years, will activate the 4WD system automatically or on-demand once the vehicle detects a situation where more traction is needed.

When this happens, the 4WD light will show up on the dashboard, telling you the system has been activated.

If your vehicle’s 4WD system is working properly, then the light will go off once the system has been deactivated. And, you won’t need to take any further action.

How Do I Get My RAV4 out of 4WD?

As mentioned above, if the 4WD system in your RAV is activated, you may notice some flashing on your dashboard.

This light will stay on until the system has been deactivated. So, how can you get the RAV4 out of the 4WD?

Well, it will depend on the make and model of your RAV4. Some RAV4s may require input to activate and disengage the 4WD system, while others will activate and disengage the 4WD systems automatically.

If your RAV4 is the former, then there’s a high chance it comes with a lock button. This lock button will give you control as to when you want to engage and disengage the 4WD system.

So, if the 4WD is flashing on your dashboard. Then it means the 4WD system has been engaged.

You simply need to press the lock button, which is usually located at the center dash. Once you press this button, it will immediately get the RAV4 out of the 4WD system.

RAV4 Driving Offroad
RAV4 Driving Offroad

What Does Check 4WD Light Mean?

Under normal circumstances, if the 4WD system in your RAV4 is activated, the 4WD light will flash on your dashboard. And, there’s nothing to worry about since this is something normal.

However, if the check 4WD light flashes on your dashboard, it may indicate there’s something wrong with the 4WD system in your RAV4.

And if you continue driving with this light on, you may end up causing irreparable damage to various systems or components in your vehicle. 

To this end, you should consider towing your vehicle using a flatbed trailer to the mechanic or a Toyota dealer. The mechanic will then diagnose the problem and fix the issue. 

Recommended Reading: Best Years for The RAV4

Is RAV4 All-Time 4WD?

The RAV4 is available in two 4WD systems. These are RAV4 all-time 4WD and RAV4 part-time 4WD. So, what does each of these systems mean? Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

RAV4 All-Time 4WD

Also known as full-time 4WD, this system drives all the vehicle’s four wheels continuously.

If your RAV4 has this system, you won’t have to switch between various drive modes depending on the terrain or conditions.

Instead, the powertrain will shift accurately and instantly to the best driving mode, depending on the terrain.

However, in some RAV4 trims, especially those with Dynamic Torque Control, you may have the option of deciding how much power goes to the rear or front axis via some selectable modes on the vehicle’s control panel.  


RAV4 Part-Time 4WD

Some RAV4s, especially the older models may come with a part-time 4WD. In most situations, the RAV4 will only be driving using a two-wheel drive mode. You can then switch to all-wheel-drive if you happen to encounter slippery conditions or loose terrain.

In a part-time 4WD, the power is in your hands to make the shift whenever you deem fit. It will be advisable to disengage the 4WD system once you are out of the challenging conditions to prevent damage to the vehicle.  

Considering that the part-time 4WD will only switch to four wheels during certain conditions, RAV4s with this system will conserve more fuel compared to all-time 4WD RAV4s.

The 4WD light on your RAV4 will come on whenever the 4WD system is engaged or activated.

However, if this light stays on even after the 4WD system has been disengaged or whenever you are driving on terrains that don’t require additional traction, then it could signal a problem. And, it will be advisable to contact your mechanic or a car expert for a professional opinion.

Related RAV4 Articles

If you found this article helpful, be sure to review these additional RAV4 articles! This is just a small portion of the articles we have here on fourwheeltrends.com related to the Toyota RAV4. It’s one of our favorite vehicles for a good reason!

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