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2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Help with the "Service 4WD" displaying on the DIC

2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby rsollman [OP] » Dec 28 2012, 3:05pm

Hi all,

I've had a bit of an issue with my 4WD lately, with the 13"s of snow we got over the holiday it's definitely time to try and track down what the issue is.

On my truck, every now and then, the 4WD indicator will stop lighting up/working and the message "Service 4WD" displays on the DIC. Of course the manual just says the usual, "Pull over, turn off then on the engine, if still showing then service your 4WD." Thanks for the in-depth input there manual.

When does this happen?
1st time - About a week after purchasing the truck I took it out mudding and then to the car wash. Really crawled around under it to get all the mud off with the pressure wand. The 4WD worked fine in the mud and on the way to the car wash, but after spraying everything thoroughly the 4WD stopped working and the "Service 4WD" message displayed. This went on while I drove home. About 3 hours later when I went to start the truck up again everything was fine. 4WD worked.

2nd time - Really heavy rains around home for a couple of days that left the road 4-6"s under water on my way to work. Well with my tires I didn't see any problem going through it. I went extra slow through the water also so I doubt it was splashing up too high on my engine. The 4WD worked until after I made it through the water, stopped to get out and take a picture of it, and then when I restarted the truck the 4WD stopped working. The next time I started it for lunch at work the 4WD was working again.

3rd time - Yesterday after using the 4WD to plow through snow for miles and miles of road to get to work. I pulled onto the interstate and put it back into 2WD, drove all the way to work, drove the truck to lunch without any problems, but when the day was over and I went to start it up the same service message appeared. "Service 4WD". This lasted the whole way to the grocery store, but after about 30min shopping it starting working again when I went to leave. It also warmed up enough that day to melt most of the snow packed away everywhere underneath.

So basically I'm convinced that it is something to do with wiring/signaling electronics for the 4WD and not a mechanical issue. It seems that anytime the 4WD system is exposed to a large amount of water it fails shortly thereafter. I'd really hate to take this to a garage because this is the kind of thing they could spend hours and hours searching around for before finding a loose wire or something. I have done my own look-around of the wires and harnesses under the truck for the 4WD but am not really used to an electronic switch system to engage/disengage.

Have any of you heard of this happening? Know if there is typically "one thing" that always happens to cause this? Agree that it is water creating the issues more than a mechanical problem?

I noticed just a couple of other topics in the forum about this, not my particular year or with a definite answer. I'll be hooking a computer up this afternoon to try and get an error code for it. Updates tomorrow hopefully.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby RNGRDVE » Dec 28 2012, 8:23pm

Switches sometimes fail, but the more common failure is the encoder motor/ encoder motor sensor. My truck needs an encoder motor which I have been to cheap to fix.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby rsollman [OP] » Dec 28 2012, 8:26pm

Would it still be able to aggressively switch from 4WD to 2WD repeatedly with the motor malfunctioning? When I was out in the snow I was switching back and forth quite a bit, but it wasn't until I had stopped for a long period that it messed up.

I guess I'm just wondering if it's typical for these to mess up every few weeks instead of *poof* it's broke.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby RNGRDVE » Dec 28 2012, 8:30pm

Mine is intermittent. I used my 4wd wednesday when it snowed. When the light comes on and I need to change modes I turn the truck off and restart it.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby eskeoto » Jan 03 2013, 8:02am

Check your encoder motor. Most specifically, the connector. Sounds like you have a loose pin/break in a wire somewhere. Because of the location of the connector it can sometimes end up rubbing on the front drive shaft and damage the wires or pull a wire out of the connector.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby lostvoyager99 » Jan 07 2013, 12:57am

I also have an 03 that sometimes displays the message. I'll shut the truck off in 2HI and end up set on auto 4wd and it doesnt act like its all the way out of 4wd. I've had to shut it off and start it back up and it acts fine after that. The last 2 times I had to use it was in the snow.
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Re: 2003 Silverado "Service 4WD"

Postby benz604 » Jan 07 2013, 1:19am

unplug the encoder motor (2 plugs) clean the pins use a lil electric grease, sounds like a loose connecter
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