The dreaded blinking 4×4 light on Suzuki Vitara and Chevy Trackers is pretty common. I could diagnose and fix it, but I am going to take a different approach on this repair and make it permanent! In this article I will show you how to take the front differential out, disassemble it, and permanently engage the actuator in the front differential.
The 2nd generation 4 door Vitara ‘PJ’ I picked up a couple of weeks ago had this issue. The repair for the 4×4 light blinking could be any number of things such as blown fuses, bad wiring, air leaks, pump failure, etc. however I bought this truck to be a reliable 4×4 offroad machine, so I am going for the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid).
I did some light diagnosing and determined it was likely the pump that was having issues, but I am not going to take it apart to find out. I am more interested in permanently engaging the actuator so I never have to think about it again
While it might be more work to pull apart the front differential and weld the actuator in the engaged position, it will be well worth it since there will no longer be any of those systems to break on the trail or when I really need them.
On these little trucks, it is super easy to put manual hubs on. Now that the front differential is always engaged, I will just unlock the hubs so the shafts no longer spin when I don’t need 4wd. I will show how to install the manual hubs later in another article.
On a positive note, this differential is all aluminum and I can pick it up myself with no grunting required. This is nice, I am used to working on 1 ton axles that require jacks, people helping, and cherry pickers.
A replacement c clip on this axle was actually REALLY hard to find. Auto parts stores these days are more interested in selling air fresheners than actual ‘repair parts’ so all they carry is an entire shaft. I was able to find the inner axle retaining C clips at the only remaining Suzuki dealer in town and the part number is: 44111-65D00. My dealer didn’t stock it on the shelf, so if you are planning on this project you might as well go ahead and order a couple.
I have seen some people disassemble the diff and remove the actuator diaphragm from the right side when they weld the actuator in the engaged position. I really didn’t want to disassemble and have to re-set gear backlash, etc. So I decided to just leave the actuator assembly in there. It won’t hurt anything just hanging out in there.
DO NOT weld gears up after using chlorinated brake cleaner!!! Choose a safer cleaner such as acetone. Also, always work in a well ventilated area.
” The chemical in the [Chlorinated] brake cleaner is Tetrachloroethylene. When this chemical is exposed with excessive heat and argon (used in MIG and TIG welding) it also produces phosgene.Taken from this article. See this article for more information: https://www.brewracingframes.com/safety-alert-brake-cleaner–phosgene-gas.html
Some Phosgene facts. Google Phosgene and read more!
It can be fatal with a dose as little as 4 parts per million. “
UPDATE: the weld above is not enough, make sure you really weld it good
About a year after I made this repair, I was at an offroad park beating on PJ pretty hard up a steep hill, heard a clang, then no 4wd anymore. No visual damage from the outside so I figured I had broke my weld. Took it apart when I got home and sure enough I didn’t have good enough penetration on my welds. The second time I took it apart I removed the carrier from the housing then drilled holes and plug welded around the outside in addition to welding what I could reach on the inside (without affecting the spider gear movement).
Here is a video of me going through the parts of the differential while trying to figure out how I was going to fix it for good
Here are the pics I posted on Instagram of the second repair:
If what I did below doesn’t make sense, watch my youtube video above. The part I plug welded was the inner carrier part to the outer carrier. These are the two parts that get locked together when the 4wd actuator engages the collar. All we are doing is permanently engaging it by welding it all together. The outer big part of the differential carrier is easy to drill, the inner cage that holds the spider gears is hardened and can’t be drilled. It is still an open differential and the spider gears work like they always did.
After that, we are done. Just need to make sure any weld spatter or dirt that got in the case is cleaned out, reassemble using gray permatex RTV, then throw it back in the truck and fill it up with differential fluid. We have an offroad trip coming up soon, so I will get a chance to try out the new mods!
Additional generic 4wd pump diagnosing and repair discussions:
In case you don’t feel like going to all of this work, the last post in the link below talks about purchasing used 4wd actuator pumps from the junkyard and rebuilding them. Rebuilding your actuator pump is free, getting a working one from the junkyard is probably ~$25, but a new pump is ~$170:
Vehicles and their upkeep don’t ‘have’ to be expensive. Do some research, build up your tool inventory, and do it yourself when you feel comfortable with it!
Now YOU, go work on something AND save yourself some money.