4WD Not Working? Chevy Trailblazer Four-Wheel-Drive Problems

Updated on September 8, 2018

4x4 Not Working

Chevy Trailblazer 4WD not working?

It all started with a 4WD drive switch and like many car repairs, snowballed from there. My husband was driving our 2005 Chevy Trailblazer, and when he went to change the switch into four-wheel drive, the switch wouldn’t budge. Instead, it broke off–through no fault of my husband I’m told–and the 4×4 service light popped on. Thus began our massive hunt for What’s wrong-with-the-Chevy-4WD 2013 (not to be confused with the-Chevy’s-brakes-are-still-squeaking-after-we-changed-pads-and-rotors 2012 fiasco). Is your Blazer’s 4WD not working? Keep reading.

The Switcheroo

Since the switch seemed to be broken, and it was also relatively cheap to replace, that was our first move. $17 later, we found the switch wasn’t the problem. I thought that was way too easy.

Upon further research with the help of Trailvoy.com (an extremely helpful site where fellow blazer owners come to commiserate), we found a guy who successfully reset his transfer case control module by pulling fuse #8 for 30 seconds, then placing it back in. But, he didn’t have the 4×4 service light on the dashboard. We tried it just for giggles: no dice.

After even further research, we found that many folks were finding success in replacing the front actuator. We nodded our heads in agreement and excitement to find the stories of others who shared our issue. However, they were finding many different solutions: 4WD switch, fuse replacements, wire grounding problems, actuators/ encoders, Dorman vs AC Delco. This is where is where it becomes confusing! Also at this point, based on what others were forking over, we were saddened to realize that we might actually have to shell out substantial money to fix this problem.

4WD Still Not Working…

Being the adventurous DIYers we are, we found a Dorman actuator on eBay that would fit and patted ourselves on the back for only having to pay around $100 to fix this potentially pricey problem. NOPE. After that didn’t work (thank goodness for “returns accepted” policies on eBay, although we did pay for shipping here and back), we called Aamco. I told the guy my problem and symptoms, and he immediately guessed it would be an actuator problem. He invited us to bring it in and let them take a look…for $180. Just. To. Look. Needless to say, we went back to FREE researching on internet forums.

Upon even further research, we found that the words “actuator” and “encoder” were used interchangeably on many websites, and wondered if maybe we were buying an actuator when we should’ve been buying an encoder. We once again patted our savvy selves on the back and bought a $150 Dorman encoder motor on Rock Auto. NOPE! Not only did it not work, but the rig didn’t even recognize it at all–none of the switch’s lights would light up. Maybe there were other reasons for this happening, but at this point, we didn’t care any more. I was ready to give up and simply not drive the wintery roads, lest this be me:

The Thrilling Conclusion to our 4WD Problem

ACDelco GM Original Equipment Transfer Case Four Wheel Drive Actuator with Encoder Motor

Luckily, my dad had pity on us and also happened to have a buddy who owed him a favor. Don’t you love it when you know the right people? That almost never happens to me, but luckily, it did this time. After taking a look, he said he had seen aftermarket encoder motors fail to work, and that an original AC Delco actuator might still do the trick. Come to think of it, I did see that written in a forum somewhere at some point, but it was the most expensive option (except, of course, a dealership fix).

We bought our final part, this ACDelco GM Original Equipment Transfer Case Four Wheel Drive Actuator with Encoder Motor for a little over $200 on Amazon, and found a short video (below) on youtube about how to install it. We collectively held our breath after we popped it in and turned the switch. I'll never forget the satisfying clunk of the motor shifting as it should. Sure enough, it did the trick. No more service light, no more non-moving switch mode light, and no more images of mama sliding all over the road. We can hear the rig shifting when we turn the switch! Funny how a little sound can make one so giddy.

Now, if we can only figure out why the driver's side headlight keeps burning out every few months...


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      Gary Dannenberg 

      5 weeks ago

      Hey Scotty, love your stuff. 05 trailblazer. Took out ALL BOLTS and hoses to remove radiator. It seems like its stuck to my condenser coil. Some rubber clips or fittings seem like they are catching on each other.


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