Toyota Highlander Check AWD System – Is It Really Necessary?

Among the safety components, the Toyota Highlander check AWD system is receiving much attention from drivers.

Many people say it is important but do not understand its role. Let us help you through this article. Scroll down and get the details.

What Does The Toyota Highlander Check AWD System Mean?

Toyota Highlander Check AWD System

All current models of cars have error lights on the dashboard. Each indicator light and symbol has its meaning and function.

It is usually divided into hazard, damage warning, and normal groups with different colors.

Check AWD is the system that checks and warns the operating status of the all-wheel drive system Toyota Highlander when a failure occurs in parts such as the transmission shaft, wheels, etc.

This inspection system will emit a signal for the driver to detect in time.

Like many other tech advances, it will issue an error signal through a warning light on the instrument panel. This message check is important because it helps you identify abnormalities early.

Because of the benefits brought to drivers, the Toyota Highlander check AWD system has appeared on many versions and continuously improved over the years, such as 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, etc.

The AWD System and Its Benefits

What Is It?

AWD (short for All Wheel Drive) is a 4-wheel drive vehicle at all times and has no “low” or “high” mode.

The word “all” in the AWD is quite misleading because cars often have four wheels, so many people think it and 4WD (Four Wheel Drive) are the same.

However, they are different; the phrase that best describes the essence of AWD is Full-time 4-wheel drive.

Vehicles using AWD are two-wheel drive vehicles with engine power. It automatically moves to the wheels thanks to the electronic system’s calculation without the driver’s intervention.

The electronic system determines the power transmission ratio to the front and rear axles depending on the operating conditions.

Currently, the AWD drive system is a trend of many car manufacturers following their orientations.

The strength of the full-time 4-wheel drive system is on the road, so it is more suitable for SUV/Crossover models such as Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sorento, etc.

What Is Its Effect? 

  • According to Toyota Tech’s experienced professionals, AWD is an intelligent drive system with a high level of technology and automation.
  • The precise calculation of the computer system helps ensure all wheels’ traction.
  • Helps optimize extra traction and traction control light when running on the road, helping the car accelerate, corner, and run on slippery roads, and icy roads safer and more stable.
  • With AWD, each road segment will have its mode and transmission ratio to optimize operational performance.
  • The driver can automatically select the level of torque transmission between the front and rear wheels to provide the most realistic driving inspiration.

Working Principle Of Check AWD System Toyota Highlander

As one of the fault signal generator parts on the car, this check system will always be in operation. It will receive information about abnormal signs in the AWD and then emit a warning light.

Depending on the vehicle model and version, the lights’ interface may differ. In particular, the most common format is a frame that says “Check AWD System” located on the dashboard.

You will see it glow all the time; that’s normal because the test system is working. It only really matters when you see an error signal (yellow triangle with an exclamation mark inside) flashing next to the frame.

It is normally difficult for cars to move, to corners, etc., for many different reasons. This confuses drivers when figuring out how to handle it.

But if you see flashing check engine lights, the owner will know that the drive shafts are having problems.

Reasons For AWD System Malfunction Toyota Highlander

Reasons For AWD System Malfunction Toyota Highlander

Faulty AWD System

The AWD system of a car often has some errors, as follows:

  • Clutch: Loose installation, difficult control, not fully closed, oil droplet leakage, and cause fuel burns.
  • Driveshaft: Deformed compared to the original state, or cracks appeared, broken.
  • Active bridge: cracks, oil leaks into drops.
  • Passive bridge: deformed or cracked.
  • Hubs: broken or stuck.
  • Tires: Blisters, cracks, or punctures.

The Transmission System

A car transmission is one of those expensive engine components that wears out more than any other part, it’s an issue from time.

A minor issue can cause major damage, so you should fix the bugs early to prolong the life of the components.

It is the supporting part of the car engine, constantly moving up and down through the gears to smoothly transmit the force to the wheels.

However, the longer the car’s life, the more the gearbox gradually ages.

It’s not expensive repairs, but if not fixed in time, you may need to repair the entire AWD system.

This process takes a lot of time and money. Depending on the level of severity, it has the following signs:

  • The error light is on
  • The gearbox is viscous; oil leaks into drops
  • Decrease sensitivity
  • Uncut taper
  • The car is shaking; the gear lever is shaking
  • Vehicle slips/shifts gears
  • Difficult to enter/can’t enter
  • Making strange noises when entering the gear
  • Burning smell rises
  • Loose connection 

Ignition On

The ignition is one of the crucial systems of the vehicle, which functions similarly to a high-voltage transformer and is installed in a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine.

If the ignition fails, the spark plug is also affected and makes bad sparks. Besides fuel caps error, It reduces combustion efficiency, lack of engine performance, and emissions system failure.

Here is a signpost:

  • Black smoke, strange smell, strange explosion: Malfunctions will distort the ignition timing, and defective spark plugs cannot complete fuel injection cleaning. If the exhaust temperature is too high, this fuel can ignite.
  • High fuel consumption: The problem caused the fuel mixture to not ignite thoroughly. That is why the engine needs to inquire about the fuel pump more to compensate, costing the owner more.
  • Engine jerking, vibration, variable speed: The motor will lose the fire if the generated voltage is not large enough. As a result, the car jerks, and there is a feeling of “stopping” when accelerating.

Faulty Speed Sensors

The car speed sensor is part of the electronic brake system and keeps measuring the engine speed, helping the driver to control the driving direction and limiting the skid.

Speed sensor error can be caused by a loose connector, damaged sensor circuits, or broken wire; Here are the bases of a bad sensor:

  • ABS light: The indicator light on the instrument panel usually comes on for notification.
  • ABS sensors: They will misbehave and cause the car to lock in the brakes leading to the car losing control.
  • TCS system: This system needs to know the actual speed of the wheel. The indicator light will be on if it malfunctions.
  • Check Engine Light Warns: The light will be on, and the speedometer on the instrument cluster may also not work.

Is The Toyota Highlander Check Engine Light AWD System Safe?

According to the development of science and technology, automobiles are increasingly modernized.

However, no matter how advanced, the components and systems in the car are still limited to a certain life expectancy.

Therefore, it is difficult to avoid errors and damage, especially after a long time of operation. Car warning lights usually have the following main color groups:

  • Red light: Warning of vehicle faults or dangerous situations
  • Yellow light: A vehicle error message to be checked
  • Green light: Notify system is working

Here, the check engine light AWD system is yellow, which was not a serious problem at the time. You can continue your road trip.

That does not mean that you can be subjective because the full-time 4-wheel drive error belongs to the group of permanent errors (errors always exist until they are handled).

How To Handle When The Toyota Check AWD System Light Is On?

The transmission system in a car is a collection of many different parts, including the engine, transmission, clutch (with manual transmission), active bridge, axle shaft, crankshaft, wheels, etc.

The indicator light coming on may be because a part or parts are not in the best condition. At this point, you need to perform a thorough inspection to determine the correct location to repair.

However, this isn’t easy to do, especially for individual users. Lack of tools, skills, and expertise can lead to mistakes when trying to do it yourself.

Thus, the best way is to take it to a service center to get professional advice.

How To Turn Off AWD

AWD of Toyota Highlanders all come with a lock button. To activate the lock, you need to press the button. It is an icon that looks like a suspension above the dashboard.

Besides disabling the middle differential, this step also evenly divides the torque on all four wheels.

In some cases, the system may also turn itself off. That’s when your car is traveling at more than 25 mph or when you activate the anti-lock braking system (ABS).


So we have finished understanding the problems related to the Toyota Highlander check AWD system.

As a system that plays a decisive role in the movement of cars, you should check and maintain it regularly to ensure safety.

If you have any quick questions, please comment below. We will respond to questions from readers as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading.

6 thoughts on “Toyota Highlander Check AWD System – Is It Really Necessary?”

  1. Just returned from a vacation where we drove our 2016 Highlander AWD (which requires minimum 87 octane) almost 4,000 miles. Coming back, going through New Mexico, I wasn’t thinking and put 85 octane in a 1/4 full tank. about 120 miles later we made a stop and I topped off again with 85 octane. About 80 miles later, I get an error message of “TRAC OFF”, Check AWD System, and the engine light. I quickly googled and got alot of search returns dealing with bad gas or too low of octane gas causing this error. I stopped again about 40 miles down the road (the next gas in the Arizona desert) and put about 5 gal of the highest octane in, and again about 60 miles later topped off with high octane again. About 60 to 80 miles after that, the error disappeared and it hasn’t reappeared since.

  2. AWD check and check engine flash on the dashboard of my Toyota Highlander 2017 model. I don’t know what to do and all attempt to clear prove futile. What should I do.
    What should I do

    • Hi Daniel,

      If all the causes listed in this article can’t help you get rid of your issues, the best way is contacting with a near technician who can check it directly carefully. Don’t try to clear this error by using the OBD-II scanner or disconnecting the battery, because it can hide some phenomenon that technican can see to fix this error.


  3. My Toyota Highlander Hybrid shows errors: check ABS and brake and check 4WD, please help me figure them out, what is wrong with my car?

    • Hi Quan,

      You should separate your issues into different cases,
      1. ABS issues: Check the ABS sensor or pump fault.
      2. Brake issues: Almost related to fluid level
      3. Check AWD system: you should read my article above,

      Hope it helps!


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