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How Do You Engage 4 Wheel Drive Of a Chevy Silverado? | Enhancejeep

Silverado, black,truck
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Chevrolet Silverado is hugely used by people in different countries for hard work. With time there are lots and lots of new options added to the truck by the makers. In this we’ll look at how to operate Silverado’s four wheel drive (4WD) system.

Even all the 4WD systems do the same work in all the vehicles, how it operates can have little differences. That’s why it’s important to stick to the user manual in relevant vehicles. So that this guide is written according to the user manual of Chevrolet Silverado.



Basics of the Silverado 4WD system.

Silverado trucks come with different types of 4WD systems. The main two categories are part time 4WD systems (aka. 4WD) and full time 4WD system (aka All Wheel Drive / AWD).

If you like to know what are the differences among 4WD and AWD systems and how they work, you can read about them by clicking here.

In this guide we’ll look at how to operate this part time 4WD system. Even in the part time 4WD systems Silverado makes two different types of 4WD systems. They are trucks with single speed transfer cases and trucks with two speed transfer cases.

Single speed transfer cases only have the 4Hi range. Two speed transfer cases have both the 4Hi and 4Low ranges like in a normal 4WD vehicle.

Single speed transfer case of Silverado

As mentioned previously this has only 4Hi range in the 4WD system. 

So that in the 4WD control panel you  can only see 2Hi switch and a 4Hi switch. 

New Silverado models have a 4 wheel drive AUTO mode also. We’ll talk about that in the later part of this guide.

Two speed transfer case of  Silverado

This has both 4Hi and 4Low ranges in the transfer case. 

So that you can see 2Hi , 4Hi and 4Low switches including a way to put the transfer case into neutral (N) position in the Silverado 4WD controlling panel.

Two speed transfer case control panel
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Two speed transfer case control panel


Let’s see at what road conditions, above modes are used.

2H mode

2H is the mode we use for normal road driving. In this mode transfer case doesn’t engage with the front drive shaft to power up the front wheels. 

Your truck will work as a normal rear wheel drive truck.

4H mode

This mode is used when the road demands extra traction from all the 4 wheels of the truck. 

As examples when driving on snowy or icy roads/slippery roads, hard packed sands we can use this mode.

 In this mode we can drive the truck at normal driving speeds. 

4L mode

This mode is used when a vehicle needs higher torque to the four wheels for driving in hard off roading terrains like deep sand, deep mud, deep snow, climbing or descending steep hills like situations. In the 4L mode you should drive your Silverado under 45 mph (72kmph)

AUTO mode (Automatic four wheel drive)

This mode engages the front axle with the transfer case, but power will not send to the front wheels unless it detects traction loss of the wheels. 

That means four wheel drive is activated and deactivated automatically by the computer system according to the variable road conditions.

Now let’s look at how to engage and disengage different modes of the four wheel drive system.



Shifts between 2H, 4H and AUTO 

These shifts can be done when the vehicle is in motion (switch on fly) or the vehicle is parked.

When the vehicle is driving at normal speed in 2H mode, you can simply press the 4H button. The LED indicator will flash a few times while engaging from 2H to 4H and it will stop flashing after 4H mode is engaged.

If you have a new silverado with a display in meter panel messages regarding the engaging request of the 4WD system and completing the engagement of the 4WD system.

Shifting from 4H to 2H as well as 2H to AUTO  also have the same process.

If you try to shift from 4H to 2H while transmission in P (parked) position –  the parking brake will automatically engage.

In that case to drive forward you have to shift the transmission to the desired gear position and manually release the parking brake or in new trucks you can just press the gas pedal after shifting to the desired gear and the vehicle will automatically release the parking brake. (Vehicles which have electronic parking brakes)

Shifting to 4 Low.

To shift to the 4 Low your truck should be either stopped  or the truck’s speed should be lower than 3 mph (5 kmph) and transmission should be in neutral (N) position

For new trucks, manufacturers recommend it’s best if the vehicle is moving 1 – 2 mph (1.6 – 3.2 kmph) speed when shifting to 4 low. 

This is normally advised because transfer case gears can engage easily without being stuck when the vehicle is moving at slow speed rather than stopping in place.

Now you just have to press the 4 low button and it will engage in a few seconds. Indicator will flash until 4L engage and stop flashing when 4L mode is engaged. 

If you have a new silverado your digital display in the cluster panel will display messages when engaging the 4L mode and after engaging the mode.

Engaging requests to the relevant mode will only be made after the button is released. So you have to press the relevant button once and wait until the mode is engaged.


While trying to shift to the 4L mode –

Don’t try to shift the transmission from N (neutral) to any gear until the indicator light stops flashing. If you try to do it, that can cause damage to the transfer case.

If you haven’t reduced your speed to less than 3mph and/ you haven’t put the transmission to neutral, shifting to 4L mode will not happen and the vehicle will remain in its original state.


Shifting from 4L to 4H/ AUTO/ 2H

Ignition should be on. Transmission should be in N position, vehicle should be either stopped or moving less than 3mph (5kmph). 

As previous it’s best if the vehicle is moving between 1 – 2 mph (1.6 – 3.2 kmph)

Press the 4H/ AUTO / 2H button. As previous steps select mode will activate in a few seconds. 

Don’t try to shift the transmission from N position to another position until the requested mode is engaged. 


Shifting the transfer case to N (neutral)

 In 2020 Silverado 

Start the vehicle and put the transmission into neutral.

Shift the transfer case to 2H mode and apply the park brake/press the brake pedal

Then press the 2H button five times in 10 seconds and theN graphic will flash in the instrument cluster. 


To take out from the neutral(2020 Silverado)

Turn the ignition on but the engine should be off.

Set the parking brake,shift transmission to neutral and shift transfer case to 2H. At this point this can be made only to 2H position. Cluster panel will indicate the engaging of the 2H mode from N (neutral)

If the engagement was not successful, the vehicle will return to the previously selected state as usual and the instrument cluster will show that.

If you have an older Silverado / Silverado model with a rotating knob,to select the 4WD mode, the previous steps will be the same for your vehicle also. 

Instead of pushing the 2H button for 5 times in the new Silverado, you have to rotate the knob and hold for about 10 seconds in the neutral position (next to the 4L position )until the N graphic indicator turned on. 



Wrapping up..

So far I think you understand what are the major types of transfer cases silverado trucks come with, what are the 4WD modes they have, when those 4WD modes should be engaged and how to engage those modes safely. 

Make sure to check the specific user manual to your truck model and year before attempting to do anything above, because this is a general guide line that has been given with the idea of giving general idea of how  to operate silverado 4WD systems. 

But it’s possible to differ the instructions according to the vehicle model, year like things. So I highly recommend you to check your vehicle’s user manual for more specific instructions!

If you think this guide may be helpful for someone else you can share this with them. You just have to hit a share button below. 

Have fun and safe off-roading!!

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