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Brian W
Brian W, Master Chrysler Tech.
Category: Dodge
Satisfied Customers: 585
Experience:  Chrysler Gold Certified, Ase Certified
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2001 Dodge Ram 1500: I engage the 4WD the light comes..front end

Resolved Question:

I own a 2001 Dodge Ram 1500. When I engage the 4WD the light comes on in the dash, but the front wheels will not engage. Also, before the 4WD quit working I could hear a clicking noise comming from the front end while 4WD was engaged. Can you tell me what the problem might be? Bruce
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dodge
Expert:  Brian W replied 10 years ago.

Hello, the snapping noise is usually a sign, that a front axle universal joint is worn. These will need to be inspected and replaced. 80c92e9d

As far as the 4wd drive not engaging, you may have linkage to the transfercase binding, a broken joint at the axle or propeller shaft or internal transfer case damage. The fluid should be changed every 30,000 mi. By the way, I have also seen in some cases that mismatched tires, and tread depth cause 4wd engagement and disengagement problems.


Before beginning repair on a suspected transfer case malfunction, check all other driveline components beforehand.

The actual cause of a problem may be related to such items as: front hubs, axles, propeller shafts, wheels and tires, transmission, or clutch instead. If all other driveline components are in good condition and operating properly, refer to the Diagnosis Chart for further information.


Condition Possible Cause Correction
Transfer Case difficult to shift or will not shift into desired range. 1) Vehicle speed too great to permit shifting. 1) Stop vehicle and shift into desired range. Or, reduce speed to below 3-4 km/h (2-3 mph) before attempting the shift.
2) If vehicle was operated for an extended period in 4H on a dry paved surface, the driveline torque load may be causing a bind. 2) Stop vehicle and shift the transmission into neutral. Shift the transfer case to 2H and operate vehicle in 2H on dry paved surfaces.
3) Transfer case external shift linkage binding. 3) Lubricate, repair, or replace linkage bushings, or tighten loose components as necessary.
4) Insufficient or incorrect lubricant. 4) Drain and refill to edge of fill hole with Mopar® ATF +4, type 9602, Automatic Transmission fluid.
5) Internal components binding, worn, or damaged. 5) Disassemble the transfer case and replace worn or damaged components as necessary.
Transfer Case noisy in all operating ranges. 1) Insufficient or incorrect lubricant. 1) Drain and refill to edge of fill hole with Mopar® ATF +4, type 9602, Automatic Transmission fluid.
Noisy in, or jumps out of, four wheel drive low range. 1) Transfer case not completely engaged in 4L position. 1) With the transmission in NEUTRAL, or the clutch depressed in the case of a manual transmission and the vehicle moving under 3-4 km/h (2-3 mph), shift the transfer case to NEUTRAL and then shift into the 4L position.
2) Shift linkage out of adjustment. 2) Adjust linkage.
3) Shift linkage loose or binding. 3) Tighten, lubricate, or repair linkage as necessary.
4) Range fork damaged, inserts worn, or fork is binding on the shift rail. 4) Disassemble unit and repair as necessary.
5) Low range gear worn or damaged. 5) Disassemble unit and repair as necessary.
Lubricant leaking from output shaft seal or vent. 1) Transfer case overfilled. 1) Drain lubricant to the correct level.
2) Vent closed or restricted. 2) Clear or replace vent as necessary.
3) Output shaft seals damaged or installed incorrectly. 3) Replace seal as necessary. Check to ensure that another component, the propeller shaft slip yoke for example, is not causing damage to seal.
Abnormal tire wear. 1) Extended operation on hard, dry surfaces in the 4H position. 1) Operate vehicle in the 2H position on hard, dry surfaces.


I hope this helped if so an accept is appreciated

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
I have already inspected the linkage and it seems to be working fine. I have also inspected the propeller shaft and all other external componets and everything looks to be fine. I have heard from other dodge owners that the 4wd uses engine vacuum to actuate the hubs. I have inspected the vacuum lines and they seem to be ok. Is it possible the problem lies there? If so, where do I start looking.

I"m not completely ruling out problems in the transfer case but I think the problem lies somewhere else. The reason that I think that is because when the 4wd quit working it made no abnormal sounds or had no abnormal vibrations. It just simply will not engage in either 4L or 4H. I have not changed the tires and they are in good shape, the lube is fine and it does to pop out of gear.
Expert:  Brian W replied 10 years ago.

In 2001 Dodge used and actuator to engage the front axle. This is mounted to the right rear of the front axle. If you have vacuum to the front when applied, the collar may be stripped inside the front axle housing.


The disconnect axle control system consists of:

  • Shift motor.
  • Indicator switch.
  • Vacuum switch.
  • Vacuum harness




The shift motor receives a vacuum signal from the switch mounted on the transfer case when the vehicle operator wants to switch from two wheel drive mode to four wheel drive mode, or vice versa. When this signal is received, the shift motor begins to move the shift fork and collar within the axle housing. In the four wheel drive mode, the shift collar connects the axle intermediate shaft to the axle shaft to supply engine power to both front wheels. In two wheel drive mode, the shift collar is disengaged from the intermediate shaft and the intermediate shaft is allowed to free-spin. When the two shafts are disengaged, the load on the engine is reduced, thereby providing better fuel economy and road handling.


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