Chevy Colorado 4-Wheel Drive Problems (Solved)

And so it happened. 

Your Chevy Colorado 4WD is not working/engaging properly.  

But don’t worry — it had to occur sooner or later, and chances are, you are stuck with one of the following models.

  • 2017 Chevy Colorado 
  • 2007 Chevy Colorado 
  • 2006 Chevy Colorado 
  • 2004 Chevy Colorado 

However, if you don’t see your model here, it’s okay. I have got you covered. 

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Common Symptoms of 4-Wheel Drive Problems in Chevy Colorado

  • All the lights turn on when you start your truck, but the 4-wheel drive indicator lights turn off. As a result, the 4-wheel drive does not engage (both high and low) — very likely an electrical short circuit. 

In the next section, I will let you know how to diagnose the most common ones. 

  • The 4-wheel lights keep blinking, but the 4-wheel drive does not engage — very likely, the encoder motor is the issue. However, it’s best to check the minor probable causes before moving on to the big one.  

May Also Experience 

  • 4 Wheel drive engages, but only the rear tires spin, while the front tires usually don’t get any traction — a telltale sign that your 4×4 axle actuator is not working.  

Quick Solution 

It is located under the front of your truck (almost in the middle). You can disconnect the connector, remove the actuator, and quickly put in the replacement to avoid losing any of the front axle fluid. 

Note: it can be hard to pull it out. Use a bigger wrench on the black surface (remember lefty loosey righty tighty)

  • The truck is in 4 high all the time. The probable cause is a vacuum leak. 

Common Issues with the 4-Wheel Drive of Chevy Colorado And Their Solutions

In case of a faulty 4-wheel drive system, one of the following is your culprit. I have arranged all the possible issues, from the easy DIY with almost no cost to the difficult DIY requiring more expertise and $$$. 

  • A blown fuse, namely, a 20 amp 80C fuse located in the fuse box under the hood. Note: A bad motor will cause this fuse to blow up again after a couple of shifts. 
  • A bad ground, located under the frame area by the driver’s side. (you can remove the bolt and use sandpaper to clear any rust or debris.) 
  • The switch (on your dashboard in the older models, on the center console in the newer models) responsible for changing into 4WD can also go to heaven. 

You can replace the switch if you see no lights working and don’t hear any sound of engaging gears.  

  • The Transfer Case Control Module is under the driver’s seat below the carpet. Here’s a picture to let you know what to look for.

Note: This control module often gets damped with water or other liquid spills as the carpet underneath the driver’s side would absorb it, and this module will go to heaven. 

  • The next thing of interest is the encoder motor attached to the transfer case and connected with two electrical connectors/wiring harnesses. Here’s how it looks. 

Note: you need a handful of tools and expertise to pull it off. 

It’s best to get this part from the GM/Chevy stealership. Although it will be expensive, the quality will be better than the $200 aftermarket ones. 

(First, you need to remove the drive shaft to access the encoder motor, which must be in the neutral position. If not electronically possible, you would have to move it into the neutral position physically.) 

  • Sometimes it’s not the whole encoder motor; it’s the sensor on the encoder motor that causes the problem. So, in that case, you would only have to replace the sensor. 
  • 4-wheel drive engaging intermittently — sometimes it works, while other times, it doesn’t. That could have several possible reasons. 

Let’s go into some details.

Chevy Colorado 4-Wheel Drive Engages on Its Own

If the four-wheel drive randomly engages or fails to engage, you might have the following issues.  

  • The vacuum hub actuator is not working. 
  • A Vacuum leak
  • The CV shaft nut on the outside is loose. (the axle nut)

In the first two cases, it’s either a complete or no shift. However, in the third case, the loosened nut will prevent the CV shaft from engaging, and you will hear a grinding noise. 

If you hear a grinding noise, it’s nothing serious. You can remove the metal cap insulation from the wheel at the center of the lug nuts. 

You will see a loose nut. Tighten it up to spec (177 lb-ft of torque) with a red thread lock, and you will be good to go. 

How It Normally Works 

  • When the 4 high is engaged, you have no vacuum, and hubs are in the engaged position, meaning your integrated wheel ends are engaged. 
  • When the 2 high is engaged, you have a vacuum, and the hubs are disengaged.

It means that if you lose the vacuum, you will be in a 4×4 all the time. 

Or, a sudden vacuum leak can cause the truck to jerk into the 4×4 even when you are traveling down the highway.    

You might also be interested in: Chevy Colorado Won’t Go Into Park (Solved)

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does Chevy Auto 4WD Work?

The Auto helps the truck engage into 4-wheel drive at a moment’s notice. So you wouldn’t have to stop and put it in neutral to get to the four-wheel drive option.

This option is beneficial when traveling on slippery terrains with intermittent dry and wet sections.  

Using it all the time, however, will not only affect the fuel economy but also stress the mechanical components of your 4-wheel drive truck. 

How do I put my Chevy Colorado in 4 Wheel Drive?

  • It’s best to come to a complete stop.
  • Put the gear in neutral. 
  • Shift the knob to Auto mode. 
  • Please wait for it to engage. 
  • The light will keep blinking and soon come to a standstill.
  • If the light is still, it means you are in Auto mode. 
  • Shift the knob to your desired gear and wait for the flashing to stop.  

Shifting to 4WD while moving can cause damage to the moving components, and the gears might end up stuck in one place.  

Which Chevy Colorado Gives 30 miles to the gallon?

The 2018 Chevy Colorado gives 30 mpg on highways. While, within the city, you only get about 22 mpg, making the combined city/highway mileage about 25 mpg. However, there are no other models that perform better than this.

On not-so-serious notes: The one whose four-wheel drive is not working will also get better fuel economy.


Maintenance is the key to a happy truck. 

You are in luck if everything works on your truck.

Ahem, if your chevy colorado 4×4 is not working, you can check the electronics involved and see if the control module is fried or if it is the encoder motor that no longer works.    

In case of 4-wheel drive randomly engaging or not properly engaging, you can check for any vacuum leaks or loose axle nuts. You can also check the vacuum hub actuator at the same time.