Off-Road, Reviews, Trail Tested

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Road Features Explained

Updated 10/17/18 / Read Time: 12 mins

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Road Features Explained

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Road Features Explained

The Complete Guide on how to use your 4Runner’s Off-Road, Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Select, Active Trac (A-TRAC) and E-Locker System

There are many different four-wheel drive systems on the market today. Each has its own characteristics, but for the most part all four-wheel drive systems are similar in design – they all want to give traction to four wheels. Not all systems are created the same, but in the case of the Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road, this is for good reason.

The Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road is what I would consider as the most bang for your buck 4Runner you can get, and probably one of the most bang for your buck all-terrain vehicles on the market today. The TRD Off Road has a lot of features, but for this article, only the four-wheel drive system will be discussed.

For comparative purposes, the 4Runner TRD Off Road (also the same as the previously named Trail) and TRD Pro share the same four-wheel drive system. The SR5 4Runner will not have Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Select, or an electronically locking rear differential. Here are some of the main features of the system you will find on the Toyota 4Runner TRD Off Road, TRD Pro, and previously named Trail 4Runner.

TRD Off Road, TRD Pro, and Trail 4Runner Features

  • High and low range transfer case
  • Crawl Control
  • Multi-terrain Select
  • Active Trac (A-TRAC)
  • Electronically locking rear differential

4Runner High vs Low Range

High vs Low Range 2WD & 4WD

Two-Wheel Drive (H2)

The first and most important feature to discuss is the transfer case. Knowing whether you should be in 4HI vs 4LO is crucial off roading knowledge. The first option is not four-wheel drive at all, it is 2HI. 2HI simply gives you power to the rear tires only.

This will give you the best fuel economy and should be used in daily driving. The problem with two-wheel drive is that in some situations the power will be going to only one of the two wheels. This is because the rear differential in two-wheel drive is not locked.

If you ran into a scenario where one of the rear wheels is in the air with zero traction, in slippery mud, ice, or anything with little to no traction you will be stuck…even though you are in two-wheel drive, it is possible to only have power going to one of the two wheels.

Most of the power will go to the tire with least resistance. Although this sounds counterproductive, it is necessary for when you turn. The vehicle needs the inside and outside wheels to spin at different speeds when turning, and therefore this causes the tire with least resistance to receiving the most power in two-wheel drive. This is where 4HI can be highly beneficial.

Four-Wheel Drive (4H = 4 High)

4HI is the first four-wheel drive mode that you can utilize. To switch into 4HI you need to be driving at a speed of 55 mph or less. All you have to do on the 4Runner TRD Off Road is pull back on the transfer case lever to engage 4HI. Once again, this can be done while you are driving, but should be done under 55 mph. You should not engage 4HI in areas of high traction that two-wheel drive could be utilized.

Why is this? When you are driving in a straight line in any mode, all the tires will be spinning at the same speed. However, when you are turning, outside wheels turn faster than inside wheels and the front wheels spin faster than the rear wheels. When in 4HI, the center differential is automatically locked. This means when you are turning the car will “’bind’, as different tires will want to be spinning at different speeds.

4HI Explained (High Gear 4-Wheel Drive Explained)?

4HI guarantees at least two tires will have power to them. The reason is that when you go into 4HI the center differential locks and splits power front and rear to 50/50. This is essentially what defines a four-wheel drive vehicle. Although power is split 50/50 front and rear, this doesn’t mean each wheel will receive 25% of the power equally.

In the same way power can vary left to right in two-wheel drive, power can also shift left to right in four-wheel drive – just not front and back as power is split 50/50. This means that if one tire in the rear doesn’t have any traction and one tire in the front doesn’t have any traction you theoretically could get stuck. This most often happens when you have a tire in the front barely off the ground and one in the back barely off the ground. This said, 4HI gives you much more traction over 2HI.

When to use 4HI?

4HI is great when you need more traction and control that does not require ‘crawling’ speeds. Snowy roads, slick roads, and muddy roads are all good options to utilize 4HI. Any time you need to go at speeds of less than 5-10 mph you should probably shift into 4LO.

4LO Explained (Low Gear 4-Wheel Drive Explained)?

5th Gen 4Runner Features and Technology

To shift into 4LO the vehicle needs to be at a complete stop and put into neutral with your foot on the brake. Grab the transfer case lever on your 4Runner TRD Off Road and complete a ‘j’ stroke by pulling back and over to the right and then up.

After you complete the ‘j’ stroke, simply shift into drive. You will immediately notice a large amount of torque gain from shifting into 4LO. 4LO is great for crawling because in 4LO you do not have to apply much throttle at all to get over obstacles. In 4HI you can experience problems of having to surge over obstacles because you don’t have enough torque to crawl.

This is dangerous and an easy way to damage your vehicle because you are at a stop and then you quickly surge forward. This can cause your suspension to compress more than needed, make you run into a rock, slide on an obstacle and other potentially dangerous situations that could damage your vehicle.

When to use 4LO?

4LO should be used anytime you need to drive slowly or in the more difficult off-road features. Deeper and or heavier mud, steep inclines, rocky terrain, and uneven terrain are all some examples of good times to use 4LO.

One thing to mention about 4LO is that the system is no different from 4HI, in the sense that you are splitting power front and rear 50/50 and you are only guaranteeing that at least two tires will have power, but the difference is in the gearing and also that 4LO automatically turns off traction control and stability control.

4LO adds an unbelievable advantage of torque and really allows you to take control of your 4Runner in off-road situations.

5th Gen 4Runner Crawl Control

5th Gen 4Runner Crawl Control

Crawl Control essential allows a driver to focus on nothing but turning the steering wheel, as Crawl Control will take care of the gas and braking. Crawl Control has to be operated when in 4LO, which makes sense as you are wanting to drive slowly, and you should be in severe off-road terrain.

There are five different speed modes on the Crawl Control knob.

The slowest is with the knob turned all the way to the left, or counterclockwise. The fastest is turned all the way to the right, or clockwise.

  • The slower speeds are recommended for rock, moguls going downhill, and gravel going downhill.
  • Medium speeds are best suited for moguls going uphill.
  • The high speeds are for snow, mud, and gravel going uphill as well as sand, dirt, and slippery grass when going uphill.

One thing to note about Crawl Control is that the slower you have the setting, the more severe the condition needs to be. If you try out crawl control on a flat surface, you will hear all sorts of odd noises and you might think your vehicle is braking. This is not unusual though.

Crawl Control should only be used in lower speeds in severe uphill or downhill situations. One area that I really have appreciated Crawl Control is going down a steep incline. Crawl Control going downhill can kind of act like a reversed A-TRAC system, as it can brake certain wheels with best traction to maintain your desired speed. For drivers that want complete control of the system, Crawl Control will not be a great feature for you. However, if you just want to focus on driving while going downhill or uphill, Crawl Control is great.

5th Gen 4Runner Multi-Terrain Select

5th Gen 4Runner Multi-Terrain Select

This sounds just like the name portrays, a system designated for helping you in different terrains.

There are four different modes

  • Mud & Sand
  • Loose Rock
  • Mogul
  • Rock

So what mode do you put it in? The names help you out a lot and give a user a lot of information on how the system works. Basically, the mud & sand mode is the least invasive and allows the most slippage of the system. On the complete other end of the spectrum, rock is the most extreme mode and tries to limit slippage as much as possible.

Mud & sand mode can be operated in either 4LO or 4HI, but loose rock, mogul, and rock must all be operated when in 4LO.

Selecting a mode in crawl control?

To select a mode, all you have to do is be in the appropriate 4LO or 4HI and press the on/off switch for Multi-terrain Select. The image cluster near your gauges will show the mode you are in. Turn the dial to select what mode you would like to be in.

Depending on what mode you try to select, you might get a message saying shift to 4LO, which means you cannot operate that mode in 4HI. This system can basically be seen as off-road traction control and you get to pick what type of traction you think you are in. It can be very beneficial, especially to an unexperienced driver.

5th Gen 4Runner A-TRAC

5th Gen 4Runner A-TRAC

One of the best features on the 4Runner that set it apart from a lot of vehicles is A-TRAC. There are vehicles with very similar systems to A-TRAC, but we can have a little bias here and say we like the Toyota system best.

Basically, A-TRAC is a brake lock differential. What does this mean?

When you have four-wheel drive engaged with A-TRAC on, A-TRAC will brake a wheel that is spinning in order to shift power from one side of the axle to another. As discussed previously, it is possible to have four-wheel drive engaged but have one tire on the rear axle and one in the front spinning. This is because of how differentials work.

With A-TRAC, the 4Runner ABS system can independently brake wheels that are detected as slipping in order to shift power to the other wheel (the wheel that actually has traction).

My first car I bought was a 2005 two-wheel drive Toyota 4Runner. This car had Auto LSD, which is essentially A-TRAC for the rear axle only. Although it was only two-wheel drive, this system added a lot more capability. This said, the amount of capability you gain from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive is tremendous.

Then you add A-TRAC to all four wheels and you have quite a good system. This is not to be confused with a locking differential but is a very capable tool and can even be more beneficial in some situations.  A-TRAC is an unbelievable feature to have and is something that all four-wheel drive 4Runners share.

4Runner Electronic Rear Locking Differential

4Runner Electronic Rear Locking Differential

You will only find the locking rear differential on Trail, TRD Off Road and TRD Pro model 4Runners.

The rear locking differential adds a lot of capability to an already capable vehicle. It is amazing to think you can get a stock vehicle with a HI/LO transfer case, Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Select, A-TRAC and a locking rear differential. This is a great package that is hard to beat for an all-terrain vehicle like the 4Runner.

So, what does a locking rear differential do for the Toyota 4Runner?

The rear locker guarantees both rear wheels will have the same amount of power split evenly and at least one wheel in the front will have power. This means you are guaranteed to have at least three wheels with power – 25% of the total power applied to each rear tire, and 50% of power applied to the front two tires. You can imagine how hard this would be to get stuck, at least in general off-road conditions.

You do not want to use a locker on surfaces with good traction as it is harmful to your vehicle. When you turn, outside and inside wheels turn at different speeds. When you lock the rear axle, you eliminate the vehicle’s capability to have an outside wheel spinning at a faster speed than the inside wheel.

The rear locker should only be used in loose and low traction surfaces. When utilizing your 4LO with A-TRAC and your rear locker, you are ready for some tough off-road features.

When to Use Each Off-Road Setting on your 4Runner?

5th Gen 4Runner Crawl Control

There are a lot of different features to consider. How do you know what to be in for best traction? I will give a simple guide to what is my opinion on the matter – excluding Crawl Control and Multi-terrain Select, as these are really a user’s preference and adding these two features to the equation practically gives endless options for what “mode” to be in.

Normal Driving Conditions

Your best system for normal driving is two-wheel drive. You are getting optimal gas mileage, do not need extra traction, and driving in anything else can harm your vehicle. Don’t think the 4Runner in 4HI is all wheel drive, it is not, it is a true four-wheel drive vehicle with the center differential locked splitting power front and rear 50/50. Even if it is raining, snowing a little, or some similar situation, two-wheel drive is probably optimal. You really need “slick stuff” for whatever you are driving on in order to go to 4HI.

Snow, Mud, or Ice on Paved Road

4HI is optimal for situations in which you are driving on a paved road that is slick due to snow, mud, or ice being on the pavement. Dirt and gravel roads that are slick are also a good option. 4HI will give you the opportunity to achieve higher speeds (use good judgment and if in doubt go slower) and drive in the safest manner possible.

You will have much better steering input and can reach relatively high speeds. You will have the added advantage of being able to have throttle applied to your steering, meaning you can be pulled in the direction you are steering. Theoretically, you can shift on the fly into 4HI if you are under 55 mph, so I would use this as a judgment as what your top speed should be in 4HI. Generally, if you are in a situation where you need 4HI, you should be under 55 mph anyways or else you probably should be in 2HI.

Should you leave traction control on or off?

This is really dependent on the driver and situation. In 4HI, I think it is beneficial to leave traction control on, especially for an inexperienced driver. For an experienced driver, traction control off can be advantageous if the right condition is met. For the most part, 4HI with all traction aids on is the best route to go. If you do find yourself in a situation where traction control is constantly interfering while in 4HI this means two things: you should be in 4LO, or you should turn off traction control only if you are an experienced driver capable of controlling the vehicle yourself without any traction aids.

Thick Snow or Mud

For thick snow or mud you will want more torque and traction control off. Having traction control on in snow will cause the computer system to constantly try to cut power and therefore you will lose your momentum, which is bad in mud and snow.

Thankfully, 4LO automatically cuts off traction control. 4LO automatically turns off traction aids and you have no need to be driving any faster than single digits on your speedometer if you are in thick snow or mud. 4LO will give you much better torque and there will not be any traction control to interfere from the slippage occurring in thick snow or mud.

Loose Gravel Roads

This is a toss up dependent on your speed and what your motive is. If you are simply driving on a gravel road and cruising, 2HI is the best route to go. You don’t need extra traction. If you are trying to have maximum traction and get from one point to the other with lots of control, 4HI is the best route. This is really dependent on what you are confident and comfortable with.

Large Rocks and Ruts

Without a doubt you need to be in at least 4LO for large rocks and ruts. Being in 4HI will get you through it, but because of a lack of control from the stock gear ratios, you will likely be surging a lot and could damage your vehicle.

4LO will give you silky smooth control of your vehicle and allow you to safely navigate through some terrain. If you are experiencing slippage and not going through the terrain very easily, consider turning on A-TRAC. If you still are not going through very easily, give it all you got with 4LO, A-TRAC on, and your rear diff locked.

Steep Inclines

Steep inclines are a sure calling for 4LO. You will have more than enough torque to climb and will be in the best possible control of your vehicle. As with the large rocks and ruts, A-TRAC can add a lot of capability. The rear diff locked is a great option too, but I would try A-TRAC out first and if then you don’t make it, go ahead and lock the rear differential.

Muddy Gravel Road

Depending on the level of the mud for the gravel road, 4HI will be best option. However, if the mud is pretty deep and thick and not much of a gravel road anymore, 4LO is best. In 4HI, on a slick muddy gravel road, you will still be able to travel at a reasonable speed with control but have the benefit of more steering input from four-wheel drive. However, always be cautious with turning and braking though. It is easy to get a little too confident and slide out of a corner into a ditch or a fence.

5th Gen 4Runner Off-Road Settings Overview

The Toyota 4Runner is an extremely capable off-road vehicle right from purchase. Whether you have a SR5 4Runner or a fully loaded TRD Pro 4Runner, you are getting a great vehicle with the reputability to back it up. I hope that next time you find yourself traversing across a trail you will have a better understanding and confidence of the individual features of the 4Runner’s four-wheel drive system. When used with knowledge, the 4Runner has the equipment you need to go on many different adventures.

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Caroline
Caroline
2 months ago

I didn’t have a dad for this stuff either. Just after reading this, I now know how to use my 4×4. Snow in San Antonio, who knew?

Jonathan Self
Jonathan Self
2 months ago

Thanks man. Finally bought a 4Runner but I didn’t have a dad for any of this kind of stuff! A lot of help.

Tony DiLernia
Tony DiLernia
5 months ago

I have a 2017 4runner off road, when I turn on the locking differential the icon, (red), flashes and I have to drive the vehicle one hundred feet or more before the icon changes from flashing to steady on. Is that correct? The owners manual says if the rear differential flashes, take the vehicle to the dealer. I did and the dealer didn’t really seem to know the off road features and told me to drive the vehicle until the icon changed from flashing to steady. Can someone confirm this is the normal operation? Thanks.

David Dillard
David Dillard
10 months ago

New to the site! Just purchased my first 4Runner…TRD Off Road Premium…love it so far! Hope to hear from you!

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
10 months ago
Reply to  David Dillard

That’s awesome David! Hope you enjoy it!

David Dillard
David Dillard
10 months ago
Reply to  Clint Taylor

So far I’m loving it! Just towed my bass boat up into upper Michigan(about 350 miles) and ran it through the mill…aka,cruise control and varying speeds…tackled it all effectively! Could hardly tell there was a boat behind her! Mileage was average considering not only was there a boat behind her but also the boat itself was filled with all the camping supplies and extra gear we needed for the week,so was heavier than usual! She’s going in next week for ceramic paint protection with a 5 year guarantee(anyone else get this done?)

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson
11 months ago

What about rain? Hi-4 with A-trac?

Ray
Ray
1 year ago

Excellent info Clint! Can someone tell me why we can’t use Crawl Control AND Multi-Terrain Select at the SAME time? If you answer is a fact, excellent. If it’s just an opinion please say so. For safety reasons, in most aviation circles, you generally fly fully coupled to the automation systems or not at all

Thank you.

Max Sheehan
Editor
Rambler
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray

They are two software systems that have different functions over the same hardware. MTS is designed to optimize the traction control system to a different set of parameters presented during different conditions. It allows the tires to spin up more in mud, and delays throttle response in snow/ice. Crawl Control is a full ABS and throttle control system designed to give you maximum traction/control over any surface. If you had CC and MTS on at the same time, one wouldn’t benefit from the other as they are designed to do different things. I hope that makes sense and helps. — Max

Steve Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Sheehan

Quite informative. Can you adress the power surging issue a bit more? I experienced some surging yesterday in gnarly 4WD desert conditions. Also, can you add a statement about how to turn on or off the locking rear differential?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Johnson

Steve, the surging you can experience is typically in 4HI. In 4HI, you don’t have quite the torque you do in 4LO…and torque gives you a lot of control. My recommendation is to simply shift into 4LO if you are on inclines, whoops, rocks, etc…this will really help eliminate surging and give you lots of control. To lock your rear differential you need to be in 4LO and at a complete stop. When you are at a complete stop simply press the rear lock button. There will be a icon on your dash that will flash (it has a schematic of the two axles and an “x” in the middle of the rear axle). When the icon stops flashing and turns solid the rear differential has locked. Sometimes you might have to drive forward just a bit for the rear differential to lock. To turn of the rear differential, simply press the rear diff lock button when you are stopped, and then continue driving. That’s really it! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Michael
Michael
1 year ago

Is there any sort of video demonstration, in particular for getting out of thick mud? Got my 4Runner stuck today 😁

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael

Michael, I can’t think of a specific article or video off the top of my head. I’d suggest researching “how to drive in mud” or “tips for driving in mud” and see what you can find. Maybe I’ll try to put together an article on mud driving tactics sometime.

Michael
Michael
1 year ago
Reply to  Clint Taylor

That would be swell, thank you for the reply Clint. Love this website

adam
adam
1 year ago

Best article I have come across so far. Very helpful for someone like me that doesn’t have a vast off road vehicle knowledge.

Kadie
Kadie
1 year ago

Question- for 4LO, the vehicle needs to be in 4HI when you come to a stop, foot on brake, shift to neutral, and go into 4LO, correct or no? And is it the same for coming out of 4LO? You brake, shift to neutral, and go back to 4HI?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Kadie

Kadie, you got it! Always go into neutral when going in, or coming out of 4LO.

Kadie
Kadie
1 year ago

THANK YOU Clint Taylor! Your information is concise, easy to understand, and much appreciated.

ZachBikes
ZachBikes
1 year ago

Are you able to speak at all to the 4-Runner limited and specifically it’s full time all wheel drive? When driving slick roads (snow, mud, ice) would it be preferential to stay in all wheel drive mode or 4-hi?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  ZachBikes

This is a question that is somewhat up for debate, but here is my opinion on it….

If you are on a surface that is entirely snow, mud, or ice, I’d drive in 4HI. If you are on a surface that contains patches of snow, mud, or ice, I’d stay in all wheel drive. All wheel drive allows some “transfer” of power from front to rear, whereas 4HI splits power equally (50% to front, 50% to rear). In consideration of roads, you should only use 4HI if you are on a road that is completely covered in snow, mud, or ice…all other scenarios all wheel drive is probably your best option.

Ray
Ray
2 years ago

Hi Clint,

So is what you’re saying in 2WD or 4WD HI called “TRAC” as opposed to “A-TRAC”? If so you could add the info in your excellent article. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

Ray

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Ray

Ray, I don’t know if I’m understanding your question fully but I will try my best to answer it. There is traction control and there is A-TRAC. The traction control switch has a drawing of a car that looks like it is swerving with the writing “OFF” below it. The A-TRAC switch simply says “A-TRAC”. Let me know if I need to clarify on something.

Ray
Ray
2 years ago

Excellent info, thank you!

I’ve had a Gen 2, a Gen 3 and just recently bought a 2017 Trail Edition Premium with KDSS. It does’nt say it anywhere in the Owner’s Manual but I definetely get the impression that A-TRAC is active by default even when in 2WD. Do you have info on this cause there’s obviously some “traction control type activity” happening in 2WD when I gun it on snow or ice? Merci!

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Ray

Ray, the 4Runner’s traction control system is on by default in 2WD and 4WD HI. When you are on snow or ice and give a little too much gas the traction control will cut power to the wheels so you don’t keep spinning and potentially lose control. I hope this clears things up. Thanks!

Tom Smith
Tom Smith
2 years ago

Thanks for posting this, cleared up a lot questions I had.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Smith

Tom, thanks, I’m glad it helped you out!

Sean Greenwood
Sean Greenwood
2 years ago

Great info for a newbie like me! Appreciate the time you took. See you on the trails!

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Greenwood

Sean, glad it helped out!

Jennie
Jennie
2 years ago

Awesome! The best article I’ve read so far! Such helpful information for a beginner like me! Thanks! : )

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Jennie

Jennie, awesome! Glad it helped you out!

mark
mark
2 years ago

So I was stuck, in a muddy pasture, and I tried to turn on the locking rear diff. Pushed the button and the red light started to flash but would never go solid like it said. Any idea what I was doing wrong? I was trying to follow the manual instructions.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  mark

Mark, there are a few things you could look into. Did you have your 4Runner in 4LO? Next, the rear diff will lock faster the more you use it (kind of needs to be broken in). In consideration of this, the rear diff may not lock immediately. If it doesn’t, try to give you car just a little throttle and turn your tires full crank from left to right. This can help to get it engaged. As a tip for the future, engage your rear diff when you can to get it broken in. When I go on a trail, I try to use it every once in a while (even if I don’t need it) just to decrease the amount of time it takes for it to engage. I hope this helps!

R. Francis
R. Francis
2 years ago

Clint,

Best article summarizing the features that I have found!! Would you happen to have…or know of…or create a cheat sheet for the glove compartment or sun visor? Learning on the fly…!

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  R. Francis

I’m glad it helped you out! I do not know of a cheat sheet. I recommend reading through the owner’s manual (the parts pertaining to off road features) and then go trying them out on a trail.

Steve Gibson
Steve Gibson
2 years ago

This was SO helpful. I have a 2019 TRD Off road and have been using all these features to gain a clear picture. QUESTION: Is Multi-Terrain Select using the A-Trac system to accomplish modulating traction? Can Multi-terrain Select be thought of correctly as Levels of A-Trac? Or is it a completely separate system from A-Trac? Do both A-Trac and Multi-terrain Select use the ABS system?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Gibson

Steve, I’m glad this article helped out a bit. To the best of my knowledge Multi-Terrain Select is just like A-Trac (both utilize the ABS system), except each level has a different amount of allowed slippage. From testing I have done, A-Trac seems to be the highest level of “off road traction control” (least amount of wheel spin) if that makes sense. To me, they should really just have an A-Trac knob that has adjustable levels of wheel spin. If you are ever off road or on a slick surface, play around with the Multi-Terrain Select and A-Trac. You will really notice the difference in how quickly the computer engages depending on what setting you are utilizing.

Steve Gibson
Steve Gibson
2 years ago
Reply to  Clint Taylor

Thanks Clint! Yep that sounds right. So basically A-Trac is like the “Rock” level of Multi-terrain select. Then the Terrain Levels allow for more slippage to accommodate increasingly slicker surfaces and potentially increased speeds. Got it. Very helpful.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Gibson

Yes, I think you got it now! They are pretty neat systems and the best way to learn more about them is to go find some off road features that cause you to have some wheel spin and try each setting out.

Paul Clay
Paul Clay
2 years ago

In case the guy in front of you is also doing 55 mph.

Reks Tillie
Reks Tillie
2 years ago

Would it be possible to switch to 4WD Hi when going faster then 55 mi/h, but shifting transmission into N first then the gear to 4wdHi, then back to D?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Reks Tillie

Reks,

Toyota recommends engaging 4HI only at speeds under 55 mph. I might also ask, why would you need 4HI at speeds over 55 mph.

Jtrpdx
Jtrpdx
2 years ago

Great article! One point of clarification though: unless you have a 5th Gen 4Runner Limited, there is no center differential to be locked / unlocked (which is why there is no “full time” 4wd option on any model except for the Limited).

Steve B
Steve B
2 years ago

This is about the best article I have seen about the 5th Gen 4Runner 4×4 system. Nice job and Thanks! I have a 2016 Trail. I have owned a 3rd and 4th Gen too. I currently have a 4×4 Tundra too.

Here is my question to add to the mix about Traction control “Trac” (the button with the car and slippery marks below it ) Let’s face it, we spend most of our time in 2Hi. The manual says that when a 2wd 4Runner (not Trail or 4×4 other) has “Trac” disabled it engages Auto LSD.

In most senses, isn’t Trac (startup default) sort of an Auto LSD? So for a 2wd it says if you want Auto LSD to turn Trac off. But my impression of this is that in default Trac mode you already have a sort of LSD and when you have Trac off you have a more powerful LSD with no engine governance and excessive braking.

To the point. A Trail or a 4×4 part-time does not have the option of having “turn off Trac for LSD”. It only has A-Trac in 4×4 Low and the Trail has Locking Differential.

So when I am cruising around on mixed traction pavement in 2Hi in my Trail, what sort of “LSD” system do I have on the rear wheels. Just Trac? The manual does say if I turn of Trac on a Trail you will have more power if stuck in the snow.

So to answer my own question and ask for other interpretations. A Trail 4Runner in 2Hi only has the Trac (traction control default) that stops one wheel from spinning with the brakes if it feels it slip. Which I suppose is good enough. If that’s not doing it for you the only other option is to go to 4Hi or 4Lo (and all of the variations available in 4Lo…locking Dif, Crawl, Terrain etc)

Also, isn’t A-Trac just a 4 wheel drive version of the the default Trac system all 4Runners have in 2wd mode whether they have 4wd or not?

And this whole inquiry started when I laid rubber twice in my 4×4 Tundra in 2wd gunning it to pull out merge into traffic. I haven’t quite figured out if both tires laid rubber or one. But it doesn’t seem like one should have been able. And I have definitely felt one tire lose it for a moment in my Trail in snow 2Hi.

Also FYI the Toyota VIN decoder says my Trail has Auto LSD. Hmmm

Comments appreciated.
Thanks!

John Martin
John Martin
2 years ago

Thanks for your comment. Happy to help if I can.

Paul Clay
Paul Clay
2 years ago

Awesome job! Been looking for this info and finally found you. Toyota does need to get their act together with their own info however very nicely done. You need to be running this department for them.

John Martin
John Martin
2 years ago

Thanks for the info Clint. We just picked up a 2019 4RUNNER TRD Off Road with KDSS. Being a little nit-picky here. I believe the TRD Off Road & TRD PRO with part time 4 wheel drive do not have a center differential in the transfer case. High 2 sends power only to the rear drive shaft. High 4 engages the front drive shaft in addition to the rear. Low 4 employs gear reduction through the planetary gear set and keeps the front drive shaft engaged in addition to the rear. The full-time 4 wheel drive systems in the other models require a center differential so they can be driven on dry pavement in 4 wheel drive.

ROBERT BAKER
ROBERT BAKER
2 years ago

Thank you for your response, people seem to like them
https://www.1010tires.com/Tires/Cooper/Discoverer+A-T3/275-70R17
Have a great day
Robert Baker

ROBERT BAKER
ROBERT BAKER
2 years ago

In your opinion , what would be the best tires for ice and snow, I was looking at the highly rated Nokian R3 SUV that would be great for pavement, good tire for crossovers that never leave the pavement
But I think they would be useless off-road, is there any winter all-terrain tire that’s good on ice too
It would be pointless to have a 4runner that I cant take off-road in the winter, I might as well have a Camry
Thank you – great article!

J Lanc
J Lanc
4 months ago
Reply to  ROBERT BAKER

Don’t have a do-all Ice & Extreme Off-Road Tire, but for two Winters I have run  Blizzax DM-V2 tires on my 4Runner TRD Off Road. They don’t have metal studs, but really seem to grip like they do. They work as advertised.

J Lanc
J Lanc
4 months ago
Reply to  J Lanc

P.S. I’m in Colorado

Dallas
Dallas
1 year ago
Reply to  ROBERT BAKER

Cooper AT3 4S tires on my 2016 ⁴runner limited and I love them. Great in snow or slush and ice. I live in Canada and drive on slippery roads all winter.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  ROBERT BAKER

Robert, unfortunately I would not be the person to ask in regard to a winter tire. I live in Texas, so although I get some ice and snow each year, I do not purchase tires specifically for the winter. I currently run Cooper Discoverer A/T3 in 275/70R17, which I have been very impressed with. I will have to wait a little longer before I can get these tires on the ice and snow. Thanks.

ROBERT BAKER
ROBERT BAKER
2 years ago
Reply to  Clint Taylor

My winter tire solution, as I want ice tires on pavement for safety
And off road all terrain ice tires haven’t been invented yet
I choose these tires, and if I get in trouble off road, I add tire chains
https://www.kaltire.com/en/tires/hakkapeliitta-r3-suv/302604.html
https://konigchain.com/chains/professional2018/offroad2018/konig-polar-hd.html

Last edited 6 months ago by deena@trail4r.com
John Brolin
John Brolin
2 years ago
Reply to  ROBERT BAKER

FOR ROBERT BAKER
I was looking for the same, unattainable tire for everything
You should have a look at these, a tire for everything
As good as a dedicated snow tire, even on ice
No need for winter tire swap
Great on pavement and off-road too
I’ll post some links for you, for all conditions
Look for the video and comparison charts on the tire rack link
http://www.continentaltire.com/product/terraincontact-22560r17-99h
https://www.motortrend.com/news/testing-continental-first-terrain-tire-2016-nissan-titan-xd-pro-4x/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vss-D7ZnLQ0

Ray
Ray
2 years ago
Reply to  John Brolin

I’m 55, have been exclusively owning 4Rs 1990 and I live in Quebec, Canada. I can assure you for the best winter traction NOTHING beats a true winter tire with the mountain pictogram. Add studs for even greater bite. For winter driving, the cheapest true winter tire will outperform the best all season tire!
,

2015 Trail Premium
2015 Trail Premium
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray

Thanks for the great information in this post!!

Should I use crawl control on steep icy snowy downhills? I may get rear ended by non 4Runner folk!

I will be getting the Blizzax DM-V2 for getting to the mountains on icy and snow covered roads this winter here in Utah. I also purchased some 16 hole steel wheels for a separate set of snow tires. Will need to get the monitoring valve stems in order to avoid the pesky tire inflation light too.

I will also get new lugs designed for the steel wheels (alas).

Think that I will like the look of the steel wheels, they are heavier than the alloys, which aids in traction, but will suffer in the mpg rating. For safety, I feel it is a worthwhile trade off.

Wheel caps? Tbd.

Thoughts on the wheel caps?

Ray
Ray
1 year ago

You can’t go wrong with Blizzaks. I did’nt invest in TPMS for my steel winter wheels or wheel caps. Buying cheaper lugs for winter will keep your OEM lugs looking nice for summer.

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray

Thanks from Utah! c

Nick
Nick
2 years ago

I have a 4 Runner TRD Pro Its currently in N when I drive on everyday roads. You did not seem to mention what that is and if its the basic for everyday driving instead of the H2. Can you help with that. What does the H mean then exactly.

Dave
Dave
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick

Nick, I have a 2020 4Runner “Venture” edition. You are in 2H as the “N” is right beside it, so it may appear you are in “N”. According to the manual, “N” means “No power is delivered to the wheels. The vehicle must be stopped.” Yes, this is for the 4WD shifter, not transmission shift lever…

Excellent article, very useful information.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick

Nick, I am not sure how you are driving in N everyday. N on the 4WD shifter is a “neutral zone” for when you shift from H4 to L4. I do not think it is possible that you are driving in N. Potentially you are actually driving in H2 instead. As discussed in the article, two wheel drive high (or H2) is what you need to use for everyday driving. It is simply two wheel drive, in which the 4Runner will only send power to the two rear tires. Four wheel drive high (or H4) is when the center differential is locked, therefore sending power equally (50% to the back and 50% to the front) back and front. H4 should not be used everyday and or on dry pavement. H4 is for loose surfaces such as snow, light mud, rock and gravel. I hope this clears up things a bit.

Sally Hand
Sally Hand
2 years ago

We got the KDSS because we plan on driving across the country visiting national parks. It should make for better/more comfortable road driving. Haven’t taken it on an off road trip yet. After doing some more reading it sounds like the KDSS system just automatically adjust to the situation and off road features being used.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Sally Hand

Sally,
KDSS is basically a hydraulic system that helps to keep your vehicle from swaying all over the place (like a lot of off road vehicles do). From a design perspective, KDSS always tries to keep your wheels planted on the ground and your vehicle level.

Andrew
Andrew
2 years ago

I am looking at a kdss 4runner also, any input would be awesome

Brenan - @Trail4R
Admin
Scout
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew, if you are looking to wheel your 4Runner hard, remove sway bars, throw on a lift of 5″(ish)+ and mount 37″ tires, then non-KDSS for sure. You may end up ripping KDSS off if you intend on going this big and this hard. Removing KDSS will allow for more travel in your suspension. If you want better on-road stability, less body-roll, less nose-dive, less sway all the way around, then go with KDSS.

With KDSS, you can corner harder and faster than non-KDSS 4Runners, but we’re not talking a 40+mph here. Give or take 15-20mph around corners and you will absolutely notice a difference with the KDSS equipped 4Runner. I have owned both 2014 Trail with KDSS and a 2016 SR5 non-KDSS, and from my personal experience, would have to say KDSS is very nice feature. Keep in mind, it is a little more difficult to work on if you are planning on playing with your suspension. Read more on how partial I am to KDSS here. https://trail4runner.com/2018/03/03/trd-pro-vs-4runner-trd-off-road/

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew, as I stated above, I believe the engage and disengage procedure for a 4Runner with or without KDSS should be the same (I cannot personally verify though as I don’t own a KDSS 4Runner).

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew,
I have always had a 4Runner without KDSS so I cannot personally give my opinion. As I mentioned in a comment above, “To the best of my knowledge, the manner in which you would engage and disengage 4WD systems on a 4Runner with and without KDSS is the same (although I own a TRD Off Road without KDSS, so I cannot personally verify). Although I have tried to cover a lot of the 4WD information in this article, it would always be a good decision to take a look at the operation manual yourself to verify.” I hope this helps.

Sally Hand
Sally Hand
2 years ago

Just bought a 4Runner TRD Premium with KDSS. How does that factor into the information in this article? The dealer said you have to go through features in a certain order, and come out in reverse order or you can mess up the system.

Brenan - @Trail4R
Admin
Scout
2 years ago
Reply to  Sally Hand

On a 4Runner with KDSS, you simply shift to neutral and then engage 4LO or 4HI. Nothing different on KDSS vs. Non-KDSS.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Sally Hand

Sally,

To the best of my knowledge, the manner in which you would engage and disengage 4WD systems on a 4Runner with and without KDSS is the same (although I own a TRD Off Road without KDSS, so I cannot personally verify). Although I have tried to cover a lot of the 4WD information in this article, it would always be a good decision to take a look at the operation manual yourself to verify.

DezynGuy
DezynGuy
2 years ago

Outstanding post, well-written, thorough, and instructional. I have a 2015 Trail Premium I bought in December 2015, and have only thrown into 4Lo once. I’ve read in the owner’s manual it’s good practice to run the vehicle in 4WD at least once a month.

Thoughts?

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  DezynGuy

According to the owner’s manual, I believe it says you should try to put your vehicle in 4WD for 10 miles a month. I think just putting the vehicle in 4WD is the main idea; however, if you can find an area to crawl around in 4LO, I think it would help the transfer case stay properly lubricated.

Ryan C.
Ryan C.
2 years ago

Excellent help for us noobies!!

James
James
2 years ago

This is by far one of the most helpful posts out there!

Mike Molloy
Mike Molloy
2 years ago

Excellent article! Helped me understand these features.

Please note that more than once, you use the word “break” when I think you mean “brake”…

Brenan - @Trail4R
Admin
Scout
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Molloy

Mike, thanks. Fixed and updated. Thank you for pointing that out.

Suzanne Ryan
Suzanne Ryan
2 years ago

I have owned Sarah Jeeps for 30 year to get to camp…I am thinking of going to more comfort and 4 wheel..looking at the 4Runner limited..concerned about clearance..do I need to be?

Jeff
Jeff
2 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne Ryan

Hi Clint. Thx for the article.
Is it ok to shift to 4h when stopped or should you only shift to 4h when you’re moving? I ask because I’ve only shifted into 4h when stopped so far and I always get a 10-30 second delay before the 4h light goes solid or goes away when I shift back to 2h.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff, the manual says you can shift into 4H at speeds under 55 mph. I shift into 4H while moving most often. If you do shift into 4H while stopped, you may have to drive forward a little to get the system to engage and the light to stop blinking.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne Ryan

Suzanne, Toyota lists the off road capabilities of the Limited 4Runner to be the same as a TRD Off Road (33/26 approach and departure angle, and 9.6 inches of ground clearance). Assuming this is correct, you shouldn’t have to worry about ground clearance. However, the limited does not have a locking rear differential, crawl control, or multi-terrain select like both the TRD Off Road and TRD Pro do. The limited will also come stock with much more road oriented wheels and tires. Depending on the severity of the trails you traverse the limited could do just fine. If you are wanting a little more capability, I’d recommend the TRD Off Road or TRD Pro.

Gus
Gus
3 years ago

Great Article! Clear and provides what I was looking to better understand all the traction features. I was not aware of the downhill which now seems like a perfect feature.

Thanks for the information.

Andrew
Andrew
3 years ago

Finally, the information I’ve been searching for!!! This is by far the clearest explanation of all the off road features. Thank you sooo much!!! This was a huge help in understanding the features. If only I had some mud roads & woods around here to try these things out! Recently bought a 2017 Off Rd Premium, and I can’t wait to explore this further. For now, I’m limited to a little snow on paved roads.

Bruce
Bruce
3 years ago

I keep going back and re-reading this great article. Thank you.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Bruce

Bruce, I am glad you like the article! There certainly is a lot of features to learn about on the 4Runner.

Trevor
3 years ago

Really good post! The information was clear and concise, I look forward to trying out some of these features.

Clint Taylor
Clint Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Trevor, Thank you, I hope you get to put the 4Runner’s off road features to good use.

Jordan
Jordan
3 years ago

This is a great article. I’m getting a Runner in April, so I’m trying to familiarize myself with everything before it arrives. Any good videos you would recommend that explains all this again?

Brenan - @Trail4R
Admin
Scout
3 years ago
Reply to  Jordan

Jordan,
There are a bunch of them on YouTube obviously but I don’t think any of them cover it to this level. If you find a good one, let us know and we will throw it on this page.
Thanks!

Jay
Jay
3 years ago

Dude, went out this weekend and hit some trail where I was so stoked to have crawl control. Two decents and one uphill that were steep AF and the crawl control kept things nice and under control through the gnar! Just hood and sky! It does make some weird ass noises especially going downhill, almost like things are breaking.

William
William
3 years ago

Real awesome post. I never used the multi-terrain select or crawl control before since the labeling is so ambiguous. Now I know and will definitely give it a try.

Josh
Josh
3 years ago

Awesome article, thanks alot for all the info on the features and condtions to use the features our 4runners have. Love the site.

Jay
Jay
3 years ago

Good post!

Sylvain
Sylvain
2 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Awesome! Excellent for 4wd beginners, I would just add, somewhere, that although 4WD gives you mores traction and obviously more speed and better accelerations in snowy conditions; braking capability will be the same as any other vehicles. You know what I mean, just worth mentioning it… 😉

Thanks!

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