How to Engage a 4 Wheel Drive Gmc Sierra? (My Real & Honest Tips)

When crossing any tricky road conditions, such as muddy areas, snowy hills, or loose graves, one can feel very safe if he is using a four-wheeler that can deliver power to all four wheels when needed.

Nowadays, The Sierra is considered one of the most reliable and capable 4WD trucks. For a driver, it is very important to know when and how to engage a 4 wheel drive Gmc Sierra. Don’t worry it is very easy to learn. 

How to engage a 4 wheel drive gmc sierra

Whenever you need to pass a muddy trail or any challenging terrain, you just need to turn on the GMC 4 Wheel Drive mechanism through the electronic transfer case (ECT) switch. In most cases it is located at the instrument panel.

After enabling 4-wheel drive, your vehicle can easily pass any off-road difficulties.

Our detailed research on this topic will help those readers who are too concerned about engaging the 4 wheel drive system in the gmc sierra.


What Is A 4 Wheel Drive System?

You may hear the term 4 Wheel Drive System (4WD). It is a special type of vehicle drivetrain. In this mechanism, all 4 wheels of the vehicle receive simultaneous power from the engine. It helps the vehicle to pass any rough terrain or muddy spot almost effortlessly. 

What Is A 4 Wheel Drive System

4WD is of two types: part-time and full-time. In such a system, where you can switch between 2WD and 4WD, that is a part-time 4WD system. In a full-time 4WD system, you cannot switch it. In most of the vehicles of this time, we can get a part-time 4WD system. 

By using a transfer case, the 4WD system splits the engine’s power between the front and rear axles. If needed this transfer case can lock the front and rear axles together. It is used in low-traction situations. 

Understanding the 4-wheel drive system on the GMC Sierra?  

The GMC Sierra’s 4-wheel drive system improves the performance of the vehicle by distributing power to all 4 wheels (instead of 2) of the car. As a result, the car gets improved traction and stability that helps it to drive over any uneasy muddy field; or any uncanny off-road conditions. 

The transfer case, front differential, and rear differentials are the main components of a 4-wheel drive system.

The transfer case is a mechanical device. The main responsibility of this device is to split the engine’s power between the front and rear axles. The driver of the GMC Sierra can switch among various modes, such as 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, and 4-wheel drive low, depending upon the condition.

This system generates extra torque for tackling steep hills.

Understanding the 4-wheel drive system on the GMC Sierra

The front differential is a geared assembly that sits between the front wheels of the car. For this feature, the two front wheels of the car can run or turn at different speeds. This feature helps the car to pass through very uncanny and unusual turns. 

The mechanism and the purpose of the rear differential are the same as that of the front differential. The main difference is this is made for rear wheels.

When a driver turns on the 4-wheel drive system, then the transfer case takes the power from the engine and distributes it to the front and rear axles via the front and rear differentials. Then these differentials transfer the power to the wheels. The driver of the car has full control to decide whether it is necessary to engage the 4WD or not.

Easy Steps to engage a 4 wheel drive Gmc Sierra

Before using 4WD, it is important to go through the vehicle’s manual for proper instructions and while applying 4WD, it is important to give special attention to the driving conditions. Some vehicles have different 4WD modes.

To engage these modes you need to go through certain steps before engaging the system. By following these instructions properly, you can ensure that you are using 4WD safely and effectively. And always be alert about the warnings mentioned in the manual.

Preparing to engage 4-wheel drive

Off-road terrain

4WD is very helpful while driving through rough or uneven surfaces; for example- dirt roads, muddy trails, or rocky terrain. However, it is important to drive slowly and carefully in these conditions. The car can roll over or lose control of the extra traction provided by 4WD mode.

Inclement weather

When driving on a slippery surface, such as snow, or ice, or if you are driving under heavy rain, it is good to engage the 4WD. It will improve stability, and traction so that the vehicle can pass through these conditions easily and safely. But it doesn’t mean that the chances of an accident are zero. To improve your driving style and be cautious while driving.

How to Engage 4 Wheel Drive GMC Sierra – Step by Step Guide  

You need to follow some steps, if you want to engage 4 Wheel Drive GMC Sierra, properly and effectively.

  1. Before engaging the 4WD, you need to make sure that the vehicle is on a flat or paved surface. On a moving car, it is difficult to activate the 4WD. So, before engaging it you need to stop the car for a while.
  2. Then you need to shift the gear to neutral. So that the car remains in its position and doesn’t immediately start to move after engaging the 4WD.
  3. In most of the GMC Sierra models, the controller of 4WD is a button or lever. It is placed on the dashboard of the cars, sometimes it is placed on the center console.
  4. The GMC Sierra offers several moods for 4WD. Choosing the correct mode is very crucial.
    • Two-Wheel Drive: This is the default mode in the GMC Sierra. In this mode, only the 2 rear wheels get power from the engine. This mode is suitable for any regular driving conditions.
    • Four-Wheel Drive (High): In this mode, power is distributed equally to all four wheels of the vehicle. As a result, the car gets extra traction and stability to deal with any rough or slippery conditions. To drive on any off-road terrain or inclement weather, the users need to engage in this mode.
    • Four Wheel Drive (Low): The mechanism of this mode is almost similar to that of the ‘Four Wheel Drive (High)’ mode. But in this ‘low’ mode the lower gear engaged. As a result, the vehicle gets more stability and traction. It is used in extreme off-road conditions. If you are carrying a huge load in your car, then you can also engage it.
    • Automatic Four-Wheel Drive: In this mode, the car itself engages 4WD when needed. Before engaging it, the car analyzes the road condition and the speed of the car. Most drivers use this mode as it frees them to think about the traction of the car.
  5. After knowing the position of the button, or the lever, it will become easy for a driver to activate the 4WD when needed. In some cars, one needs to hold the lever or button down for a few seconds to activate the system. So while reading the manuals, please be attentive.

Which GMC Sierras Have 4WD?

Most GMC Sierra models have the option of 4-wheel drive (4WD). Some popular models are Sierra 1500, 2500, and 3500, as the Sierra Denali and Sierra AT4 trim. In some models, this is an optional feature, so it is good to be sure of the authorized seller before purchasing any.

Using 4-wheel drive on the GMC Sierra

When using the 4-wheel drive system on a GMC Sierra, it is important to pay attention to the driving conditions and to adjust the car’s speed and steering accordingly. Here are some tips for driving safely, when 4WD is engaged:

Using 4-wheel drive on the GMC Sierra
  • Drive very slowly: 4WD can improve traction and stability, but it can’t assure that the car will not roll off. When driving on rough or slippery surfaces, it is good to drive very slowly, and calmly. In this condition the car doesn’t easily lose its control.
  • Use smooth, gentle turns: If you want that your car doesn’t lose its stability and traction, then don’t take any irregular turns, avoid jerky steering and resist yourself from taking any sudden acceleration or irregular braking. 
  • Read the vehicle’s manual: Some GMC Sierra models have some special features. So read the manuals carefully to know about them thoroughly. And always put special emphasis on the warnings mentioned in the manuals.

To get consistent and reliable performance from the 4WD mechanism, it is good to put a special emphasis on its maintenance. If you find any worn or damaged components, then you need to replace them as early as possible. You should follow the maintenance schedule instructed in the vehicle’s manual.


Understanding the mechanism of 4WD and knowing the proper way to engage it can improve your driving skills a lot. Especially when you are off-road, then you need to pay special attention to the stability and traction of the car.

If you don’t follow the proper steps, then any mishap can happen; such as the engine can stop, or the car can roll off.

So reading the car’s manual properly is very important to engage the 4WD effectively and to know many hidden features of the car, you should read the manual attentively. If you have any issues or doubts regarding this system, then it is good to seek advice from professional assistance.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top