How to Fix 2WD or 4WD Mode Failure on an ATV

Your ATV features 2WD and 4WD, so you can switch between the two based on the riding conditions.

The 2-wheel drive engages two wheels and is ideal for smoother terrains, while the 4-wheel drive mode sends power to the four wheels.

However, one common problem with ATVs is 2WD or 4WD mode failure. When this happens, the ATV fails to switch from one mode to another. This can be disappointing when you seriously need the shift. Hence, you want to know the causes and how to fix them.

Here are the possible culprits of 2WD or 4WD mode failure on an ATV:

atv driving modes.jpg
Image from www.utvguide.net

Faulty Actuator

The most common cause of drive mode failure is a faulty actuator. Actuators on older ATVs with 4-wheel drive have a short-ratio gear shifter positioned near the main gear lever. The actuator lets you shift between 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive without stopping the ATV.

While older ATV models require stopping the vehicle before shifting drive modes, the actuator does the job for you with just the press of a button while your vehicle is still in motion. This technology saves time.

However, when the actuator is bad, you can shift from one drive mode to another and get no response. The common issues with this component are linked to the motor, electronic module, or internal gears.

Fixing a faulty actuator may require letting a pro have a check on your vehicle.

Issues with the Transfer Case

The transfer case is another potential cause of 2WD or 4WD mode failure on an ATV. This usually happens when the ATV doesn’t stop completely before shifting to another drive mode.

Some ATV models require stopping the vehicle completely to align the splined pin with the gears inside the transfer case. The failure of the pin and gears to align results prevents the drive mode from engaging.

Even when your owner’s manual doesn’t specify stopping the vehicle before engaging the 2WD or 4WD, it is wise you bring your vehicle to a total halt before making a shift. This safety tip only requires stopping your ATV for about 20 seconds before proceeding.

Another issue with the transfer case that can be responsible for drive mode failure is the high temperatures of the oil inside the case. This usually occurs when the transfer case experiences a heavy load, such as when towing a boat or trailer on extremely rough terrain for an extended time.

The best fix to this is to stop your vehicle for some minutes. Stopping your ATV cools the transfer case and the oil.


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