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Old 02-04-2018, 11:18 AM   #1
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4x4 auto questions

So it snowed here in Northeast pa.

I have a 2003 explorer xlt, v8 4x4 auto. Bought a couple months ago

Today I noticed that it never went into 4x4. I pulled off of the road and pushed the 4x4 high button and the light came on but it was not in 4x4.

Also I noticed a couple of times when I would first start the truck and start to drive it seemed like it was in 4x4 (I felt it when accelerating and when turning) then it would return to normal. I'm not sure what is going here or what to look for, I do know I need 4x4

Can anyone help?

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Old 02-04-2018, 02:45 PM   #2
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4x4 Auto should progressively engage more and more torque to the front wheels through an electrical (solenoid) clutch in the transfer case. It does this by sensing differences in driveshaft rotation speed.

Taking off fast or around (especially slippery) corners that result in wheel slippage could engage 4x4, it is normal. Tires of different diameters due to size, wear, or even brand/model differences can also contribute, and put wear on the transfer case.

It may be a silly question but since it seemed to go into 4x4 in auto mode, how do you know it doesn't go into full time 4x4 high when you press the switch? I mean are rear wheels spinning, it's not moving but the front aren't spinning?

The system engages by sending power to the transfer case clutch. In former generations it was on a brown wire. 4x4 off, no power on wire. 4x4 on, 12V on brown wire. In auto mode, measuring slippage in real time, it could engage and disengage many times a second, it reacts that fast.

Perhaps the switch itself has failed. It seems less likely than mechanical issues but that it seems to go into 4x4 in auto is puzzling and seems to indicate 4x4 works. You could measure continuity through the switch or power in and out when it's engaged, though the light coming on seems to indicate that so I would measure for voltage at the transfer case clutch connector first.
Please post your vehicle year/model/engine/(n)WD in help topics.

'98 Explorer XLT 4L SOHC 4WD
'14 Explorer XLT 3.5L NA AWD
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Old 02-04-2018, 06:04 PM   #3
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I just went for a drive quick. I stopped at gas station. At one point it was in 4 wheel high and the fronts we're not moving. However prior to that I did try 4 wheel low to pull out from house couldn't tell definitively if it was in but it did not disengage when I hit the button, but the light on button flashed.
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Old 02-05-2018, 10:12 AM   #4
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on these in order to go in and out of 4low you need to be in neutral and have your foot on the brake...worried the hell outta me the first time I tried to use 4low as I did not do that and it wouldn't engage
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Old 02-05-2018, 07:53 PM   #5
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Yes I did that, I tried putting it in reverse before drive, shutting truck off, nuetral then drive etc. Everytime I hit button light flashed. It did come out while I was driving after a couple minutes. However I am positive it did not go into 4wheel high. I had someone watching front tires as I was sliding/spinning in snow. Dash light said 4x4 high. I was thinking possible bad controller (behind glove box)
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