The “Check AWD system” light came on the Lexus RX 350? 6 Possible Causes!

Seeing the “Check AWD system” light on your Lexus RX 350 dash can be alarming. This article demystifies what that warning light means, offering essential insights for any RX 350 driver.

Uncover the reasons behind the alert and the steps you should take next, ensuring your vehicle remains in peak condition.

Image for "Check AWD System" light come on in your Lexus RX 350? The image shows a white Lexus RX350

If you see the “Check AWD system” light come on in your Lexus RX 350, it can have many causes.

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These include damaged mechanical components, mismatched tires, sensors, and a loose gas cap. This article will explain the possible causes. 

What does it mean when the “Check AWD system” light comes on?

The Lexus RX 350 has been in the market since 2007, and it marked an upgrade from the previous RX 330, which had a 3.3L engine.

Since its launch, it has come in front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations, making it a versatile choice for a more luxurious SUV that can still handle low-grip situations. 

Understanding the AWD system in the Lexus RX 350

If your vehicle has AWD, it’s constantly moving all four wheels, whether turning at speed or traversing through snow. All-wheel drive systems power all four wheels to ensure the most grip in low-traction conditions.

In the case of the Lexus RX350, it accomplishes this through a complicated system of differentials and sensors.

Most of the time, an AWD vehicle has more grip than a FWD or RWD counterpart. It’s because of this reason that having this feature has become ever more popular.

At the same time, while they’re primarily reliable, sometimes, these systems can fail. 

When the Check AWD system light shows up in your dashboard, there could be something wrong with the system or peripherals.

The reasons can be plenty, and it’s always ideal to have a certified professional check your vehicle. 

Common causes for the “Check AWD system” light to come on

There are several reasons why the “Check AWD system” could come up on the Lexus RX 350. We’ll discuss the vast majority of them. Still, it’s important to note that this is a serious issue and, if left unattended, could damage your vehicle.

Having said that, let’s see the common causes for the “Check AWD system” light to come on. 

Differential problems

An essential component of your AWD system is the differential. This device transfers power from the transmission to the wheels. It ensures that they rotate at the necessary speed to provide traction. 

The differential can experience heavy loads, mainly when operating in low-traction situations. If this is the case, it could overheat. Another potential cause for damage is using mismatched tires, which generate uneven loads on the vehicle. 

Mismatched tires

Another reason why the warning light could turn on is because you’re using tires outside the vehicle’s specification. These AWD systems are exact, and any variation could cause a sensor fault. 

At the same time, improperly maintained tires could also generate warning lights. When discussing proper tire maintenance, we’re talking about balancing, rotating, and keeping them at adequate pressure. 

Transmission issues

Vital components such as the differential and the transmission need proper lubrication. Over time, the fluids used to maintain lubrication wear out, and friction increases.

If so, these mechanical components could operate under more load, eventually leading to damage or failure. 

In the case of the differential, problems can present themselves in noisy driving or having the vehicle enter “limp mode.”

When talking about the transmission, symptoms can include faulty shifting and jerky driving, as well as the vehicle entering “limp mode.” 

Problems with Traction Control or Stability Control Systems

The computers controlling these systems can run into issues. For example, if the battery is nearing its end of life, computers can start acting up. Also, sensors could get damaged, dirty, or loose, leading to faults and erratic behavior.

At the same time, an AWD system malfunction is possible, though less likely. 

Disconnected Sensors, Wiring Issues, Bad Ground

As mentioned before, sensors could get disconnected, damaged, or loose. This leads to faulty signals, which, in turn, cause the “Check AWD system” to turn on.

Also, wiring could get corroded or damaged, leading to more electrical issues. In some cases, Lexus owners also reported that the “Check Engine” light came on.

Finally, a bad ground can be at fault. The challenge with these problems is that finding them takes time and usually requires the help of a professional. 

Loose gas cap

One problem that has come up in several Lexus forums is with the gas cap. If the gas cap is loose, a sensor could misdiagnose the vehicle and consider it is not operating in adequate conditions.

If you run into the “Check AWD system” light, one quick check is to tighten the gas cap. Another preventive measure is to fill up the tank until the automatic stop happens and to avoid overfilling it. This situation has also caused the “Check Engine Light” to appear. 

However, if this simple solution doesn’t work, the ideal procedure is to take your Lexus RX 350 to the mechanic. 

When should you take your Lexus RX 350 to a mechanic?

The short answer to this question is whenever a warning light comes up, especially as important as “Check AWD system.” If this is the situation, take your Lexus to a certified mechanic or the dealership. These vehicles are highly complex machines that might not be as easy to fix at home. 

How to troubleshoot the “Check AWD system” light on a Lexus RX 350?

While only certified mechanics should check such complex and advanced vehicles, there are some steps that you can take to troubleshoot your Lexus RX 350 if the AWD light is on. These include: 

  • Checking for error messages or warning lights other than the “Check AWD system.”
  • Inspecting the gas cap for proper sealing
  • Examining the steering wheel, suspension, and brakes for any visible malfunction
  • Checking for any leaks in the AWD system, transmission, and differential

Can you continue driving with the “Check AWD system” light on?

This is another question that comes up frequently. The reality is that this is a serious warning sign which can lead to more severe damage to your vehicle. You should take your vehicle as soon as it appears. 

One potential risk of driving with the “Check AWD system” on is that components such as suspension, steering, and transmission could have an excess load, leading to damage.

If your vehicle isn’t in “Limp Mode,” you can take it to your mechanic. If the Lexus RX 350 has entered “Limp Mode,” then taking it to the mechanic is critical. The ideal step should be to seek professional help at a Lexus dealer or authorized service center. 


The Lexus RX 350 is an excellent choice for an upscale SUV that can be both versatile and more luxurious than the rest. Think of it as an elegant Toyota Rav4 and one of its striking features is that it has AWD.

This ensures more grip in slippery situations, making it ideal for snow and shallow mud. 

These AWD systems are highly advanced and could have some issues. With so many sensors, there’s a chance that they fail or come loose. Hence, it’s common for some drivers to see the “Check AWD system” turn on.

While the cause of the problem could be simple, it could also be more complex and lead to more serious repairs. If this is the case, ideally, you should take your Lexus RX 350 to a certified mechanic or dealership. 

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