What Does Check AWD System Mean – Toyota Highlander

Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by Paul S.

Lighted symbols that pop up on your vehicle’s dashboard can be scary! Usually, it means some green is going to be coming out of your wallet! A lot of times it is a check engine light but sometimes it can be your check AWD system light and that can happen in the Toyota Highlander!

In this quick post, we discuss what this light means and what you can do to make sure you, your family, and your vehicle are safe!

What Does The Check Awd System Mean Toyota Highlander?

The “check AWD system” warning message on a Toyota Highlander typically means that there is an issue with the all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. The AWD system is responsible for distributing power to all four wheels of the vehicle to improve traction and stability in various driving conditions. 

There are several reasons why this warning message may appear, including:

  • a malfunctioning AWD control module
  • a faulty sensor, or a problem with the drivetrain.
  • In some cases, the warning message may be triggered by a temporary glitch in the system
  • It may indicate a more serious issue that requires immediate attention.

If you see this warning message on your Toyota Highlander, it is recommended to take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic or Toyota dealership for a diagnostic check to identify the root cause of the issue and to determine the necessary repairs. Ignoring this warning could potentially lead to further damage to the AWD system or other components of your vehicle, resulting in costly repairs or unsafe driving conditions.

Please remember that the AWD will be lit up when in use and in cases where AWD is always working. That doesn’t mean there is an error. Only when there is a caution symbol or it tells you AWD has a malfunction. 

What Causes The Awd Light To Come On In A Toyota Highlander?

Here are some typical issues that could cause the AWD light to come on:

Mechanical Issues: Any mechanical issues with the drivetrain, such as worn-out or damaged components, can lead to the failure of the all-wheel drive system in your Toyota Highlander. This could include problems with the axles, differentials, driveshaft, or transfer case.

Electrical Issues: The all-wheel drive system in many modern cars relies on electrical sensors and components to function properly. Any issues with these components, such as faulty sensors or wiring problems, can cause the system to fail. A modern vehicle can have over 70 sensors that assist in driving your vehicle!

Fluid Leaks: The all-wheel-drive system requires proper lubrication to function properly. If your Toyota Highlander has any fluid leaks in the AWD system, such as a leak in the transfer case or differential, this can cause the system to fail. Checking under your parked vehicle from time to time can show signs of any liquid leaking. When you back up just give it a quick look!

Tires: All-wheel drive systems rely on the proper functioning of all four tires. If one or more tires is flat and the vehicle is driven for long periods of time it could cause a failure of the AWD system.

Misuse: Finally, misuse of the all-wheel drive system can cause failure. For example, attempting to use the system in off-road conditions that exceed the vehicle’s capabilities can cause damage to the drivetrain, leading to the failure of the system.

What is AWD?

AWD stands for “All-Wheel Drive,” which is a type of drivetrain in a vehicle that distributes power to all four wheels of the vehicle. In contrast to a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, which only powers two wheels, an all-wheel-drive system is designed to improve traction, stability, and handling in various driving conditions, particularly on slippery or uneven road surfaces.

In an AWD system, power is typically distributed to the wheels that have the most traction to prevent wheelspin and improve handling. AWD systems can be found in various types of vehicles, including cars, SUVs, and trucks, and are typically more expensive than two-wheel drive vehicles due to the additional components and complexity of the system.

How Do I Know If My Highlander Is AWD?

The Toyota Highlander has only been produced in FWD (front-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive) since its inception in 2001. They did offer some vehicles in 4WD up until 2013. Here are some easy ways to know if your Toyota Highlander has AWD:

  • If your Toyota Highlander has popped up the message to check the AWD system then you definitely have AWD! Get it checked out!
  • Check the paperwork of your vehicle purchase. It should give descriptions of the vehicle and will mention either FWD or AWD. If it is older than 2013 it could mention FWD. 
  • Check the dash or the center console for any text that would say AWD and have the AWD symbol on it. The light on the dash could be difficult to see if you don’t have any issues but if you take a close look you should be able to see it. If it is an electronic screen nothing would show up. Depending on the vehicle the center console could have a button that has the text AWD with the symbol as well. 
  • The down and dirty way! Look under your Toyota Highlander to check for an AWD system. If the vehicle has a drive shaft that runs the length of the car between the front and rear axles and has a rear and front differential with a center differential it is most likely an AWD vehicle. FWD will not have any drive shaft and RWD will have a differential only in the back. 
AWD System
Drive shaft that could indicate a AWD, 4WD or RWD system.

What Does The Check Awd System Mean Toyota Highlander?

So if your check AWD system warning light on your Toyota Highlander comes on or any other warning system comes on be sure to handle it quickly. Most likely you will need to take it in because it means it could be a larger problem. Typically the average person will not be able to assess and fix it! But by going in early it could save you more money down the road!

If you do want to try to fix it yourself you could try this solution by a redditor that had issues with its check AWD system Light (This is where our cover image came from). Seems like it could be a simple error and could save you a trip to the dealer. 

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