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1999 Suzuki Vitara 2 DR JX 2.0 4WD will not display 4WD Light.

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I just purchased a 1999 Suzuki Vitara 2 DR JX 2.0 4WD.  In going through the car for the first time I noticed when I shift into 4WDH the transfer case seems to be working but the 4WD light in the instrument panel does not light up.  When I shift the Transfer case to neutral, I can shift the 5 speed manual transmission into any gear and of course nothing happens.  I can shift the transfer case to 4WDL and yes that is a very low range.  Still no 4WD light in the panel, but it is definitely in LOW.   From this i feel the transfer case doesn't seem to have a problem as it drives fine in 2WDH.  It drives in 4WDH & 4WDL and doesn't in neutral.  No light and It does not appear to actually be in 4WD.  The car has automatic hubs on the front which I believe are not engaging.  But why would the instrument light not work?

I have purchased a used owners manual for this model year off ebay.  Seems to be a Canadian version as it is in both English and French.  The manual shows the 4WD light on the instrument panel but does not state it comes on to test the bulbs and then turns off like it does for most of the other indicator lights.

I'm new at this and this is my first 4WD vehicle.  I purchase this vehicle to tow behind my RV and as a toy as I have always felt it would be fun to drive.  So I do want to put this in good condition.  Any advice will be listened to.

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JJLike...Welcome to the forums...The light not operating at the dash panel could be related to the front axle's hubs not engaging.  The front axle shafts need to rotate for a signal to occur.  If the hubs do work properly and the light still does not come on, it could be the 4WD bulb in the dash, or it could be the wiring circuit from the transfer case and front axle engagement switch to the dash.

What makes you believe the front hubs are not engaging?  The automatic locking hubs engage when the front axle shafts begin rotating and delivering power.  When you engage 4WDL or 4WDH, the front driveshaft and differential in the front axle should deliver power to the front axle shafts, which will cause the hubs to engage.  If the front driveshaft is turning under power (a function of 4WDH and 4WDL), then the hubs should engage and pull the vehicle forward.  If the front driveshaft and front axle/differential are okay, and if the two front axle shafts are both rotating, the hubs should engage.  Otherwise, there's trouble with the hubs.

This test should be run on a safe vehicle hoist.  Torque and dangerous moving parts could cause injury.  

Moses

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As I believe I mentioned I am new to 4WD’s.  My only experience with a 4WD was back in the mid 70’s as a member of the Civil Air Patrol riding in WWII and Korea vintage surplus jeeps.  They were very simple fully manual with no indicators what so ever.

The purpose of this is to summarize what I think  I understand about how the 1999 Suzuki Vitara JX 4WD works.  As I understand it, there are three major components to the 4WD, the transfer case (TC), the front axle/differential , and the locking hubs.  Beginning in 1999 Suzuki introduced the “on the fly” 4WD.  The ability to shift into 4WDH while moving at speeds under 35mph.  To accomplish this they installed an air cluck in the front axle/differential.  I don’t know much and have not seen it, but read that an air pump provided 5 to 6 psi of air pressure to the front axle/differential’s air cluck to engage the front axle when you shifted the TC from 2WDH to 4WDH.  As I understand it, a relay in the TC provided power to both the air pump and the 4WD dash indicator lights.  Once the front axle/differential is engaged, power is provided to the CV joints to turn the front wheels, forward movement then causes the hubs to lock and provides pulling power to the wheels.

 

There is no 4WD if ether the hubs are not engaged (locked) or the front axle/differential is not engaged (locked).  The TC can be in 4WD and providing power to the front drive shaft, but if the relay isn’t working correctly, the light on the dash will not light up and the front axle/differential will not be locked, which would end the process there.  Rear wheels both High and Low would not be affected so the TC would appear to be working fine.

 

The only way I know to really test the 4WD is to lift the front tires off the ground and see if the wheels turn when you enter 4WD.  This has not been done yet.  And no trouble shooting other than shifting into 4WDL and confirming that you really are in the Low Range has been done yet.

Again, I am just summarizing what I think I understand of the systems.  But without any repair manuals etc. I really am relying on what I’ve read on the forums.  If any of this is incorrect I hope someone will correct my miss understanding.

Joseph

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Good research, Joseph!  Sounds like front axle/differential engagement is involved, you've narrowed down the relationship between the dash light and front axle engagement, the relay and so forth.  

An axle/differential disconnect system will reduce axle shaft and differential carrier rotational drag.  The aim here is to improve fuel efficiency and, indirectly, reduce wear on the front drive system when in 2WD mode.

Let us know what you find, you're on the right track and troubleshooting strategy.

Moses

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