Is It Safe to Drive with AWD Light On?

When the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) light on your dashboard illuminates, it is natural to wonder about the implications for your vehicle’s performance and safety. Understanding what this warning light means and how it affects your driving experience is crucial for any driver relying on the enhanced traction and stability of an AWD system. In this article, we will explore, is it safe to drive with AWD light on your car and what steps you should take upon noticing it.

awd light on

What does AWD light mean on a car?

The AWD light on a car indicates something related to the vehicle’s All-Wheel Drive system. This light can mean different things depending on the situation:

  1. Illuminated when starting the car: It is usual for the AWD light (along with other dashboard lights) to briefly illuminate when you start your car. It is part of the car’s self-test procedure. If the light turns off shortly after the engine starts, everything functions correctly.
  2. Stays on while driving: If the AWD light remains illuminated while driving, it indicates a problem with the All-Wheel Drive system. The issue could be minor or significant, ranging from sensors needing replacement and issues with the AWD system’s electronic or mechanical components to requiring maintenance or fluid changes.
  3. Flashing light: A flashing AWD light can signify a temporary condition affecting the All-Wheel Drive system, such as overheating or a communication error between electronic components. Once the condition is resolved (e.g., the system cools down), the light should stop flashing and turn off. If it continues to flash, a more severe issue may need attention.

When the AWD light stays on or flashes, it’s a signal to the driver that the All-Wheel Drive system is not functioning correctly, and the vehicle may be operating in front-wheel drive (FWD) or rear-wheel drive (RWD) mode instead of AWD. It is advisable to consult the vehicle’s manual for specific meanings related to your car model.

Is It Safe to Drive with the AWD Light On?

Driving with the AWD (All-Wheel Drive) light on can be safe in the short term, but it is vital to understand what the illuminated light means for your vehicle’s operational condition. Here’s a breakdown of considerations:

  1. Temporary vs. Persistent Issue: If the AWD light comes on and stays on, it indicates a problem with the All-Wheel Drive system. While your car might still be drivable, it may not have the added traction and stability benefits of AWD, which could be crucial in slippery or off-road conditions.
  2. Safety and Performance: Without the full functionality of the AWD system, your vehicle may handle differently, especially under adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, or ice or on uneven terrain. This could potentially compromise your safety and the vehicle’s performance. Your steering assist can also be reduced.
  3. Damage Prevention: Continuing to drive for an extended period with the AWD system malfunctioning could potentially cause further damage to the vehicle. If ignored, what might be a simple fix initially could become a more complex and expensive repair.
  4. Check Vehicle Manual: Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual for specific guidance related to the AWD light. Some vehicles have different indicators for minor issues (which might be safe to drive temporarily) versus major problems requiring immediate attention.
  5. Professional Diagnosis: The best action when the AWD light stays on is to have the vehicle checked by a professional as soon as possible. A qualified mechanic can diagnose the issue, ensuring it’s safe to continue driving the car or if it needs immediate repairs.

While it might be safe to drive your vehicle a short distance with the AWD light on, doing so without addressing the underlying issue is not advisable for the long term. It is essential to get the vehicle inspected and the issue rectified to ensure your safety and the optimal performance of your vehicle.

How to reset AWD light?

Resetting the AWD (All-Wheel Drive) light on your vehicle can sometimes be straightforward, but it’s important to note that if the light has been illuminated, there’s likely a reason that needs to be addressed. Simply resetting the light without solving the underlying issue may only provide a temporary fix. Here’s a general guide on how to reset the AWD light, but remember, the process can vary significantly depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

General Steps to Reset the AWD Light

  1. Check the Manual: Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual before attempting any reset. Some manuals may provide specific instructions for resetting the AWD light that are unique to your vehicle model.
  2. Try a Simple Restart: Sometimes, the AWD light can be triggered by a temporary issue that’s no longer present (like sensor glitches). Turning the vehicle off, waiting a few minutes, and then starting the engine again can sometimes clear the light.
  3. Disconnect the Battery: For a more comprehensive reset, you can try disconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This will reset the car’s computer systems, potentially clearing any error codes, including the AWD light. Here’s how:
    • Turn off the engine and ensure all electronics are off.
    • Disconnect the negative battery cable (black) and wait for about 15 minutes.
    • Reconnect the negative battery cable and start the vehicle.
  4. Use an OBD II Scanner: If the light remains on, using an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD II) scanner can help identify the specific DTC Code triggering the AWD light. The scanner can also be used to clear the error code. However, if the problem that caused the light to turn on initially isn’t fixed, it’s likely the light will come back on.
  5. Address the Underlying Issue: If the OBD II scanner points to a specific problem, or if you’ve noticed symptoms that might have caused the AWD light to illuminate (like unusual noises or changes in vehicle handling), it’s essential to address these issues. This may involve checking the AWD system components like sensors, fluids, or mechanical parts and making the necessary repairs or replacements.
  6. Seek Professional Help: If you’re unable to reset the AWD light yourself or if the light comes back on after a reset, it’s time to consult a professional. A qualified mechanic can diagnose and fix the problem, ensuring your AWD system functions correctly and safely.

Important Considerations

  • Temporary Fixes: While resetting the AWD light might temporarily turn off the warning, it doesn’t fix any existing problems with your AWD system. Ignoring issues can lead to more significant problems down the road.
  • Warranty and Support: If your vehicle is under warranty, or if there’s a recall or known issue with the AWD system, contacting your dealer or manufacturer can provide a no-cost or supported fix.

While resetting the AWD light can be a part of troubleshooting, ensuring the health and functionality of your vehicle’s AWD system is crucial. Always prioritize identifying and addressing the root cause of the issue to maintain your vehicle’s performance and safety.


While driving with the AWD light on for short distances it may be technically safe, doing so is not advisable in the long run. The illuminated light indicates a problem that could compromise your vehicle’s performance and safety. Promptly addressing the issue ensures your safety and preserves the integrity of your vehicle’s AWD system, ensuring it’s ready to perform when you need it most.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

Recent Posts