Should I exercise 4WD?

I have a 2004 Ford Explorer SportTrac with 4WD. About 3 yes ago I moved to SE US where
there is no snow or ice. I have 114K miles and keep it fully maintained per factory specs. I haven’t turned 4WD on since moving. Should I activate 4WD from time to time or just forget about it?

Yes you should. Take it to where there are sand or dirt roads. Drive it in high and low. Once every few months should be fine. Just don’t do it on a paved road.

Agree, you should engage the 4WD (or AWD whichever you have) every few months. Oldbodyman’s advice looks good to me.


Gravel roads are better but paved roads are okay for a bit if you keep the vehicle tracking straight. Turning is very hard on the primitive 4wd systems as the they lack a center differential.

I don’t think it makes any difference whether you drive it in 4wd or not. Both ends of the transfer case are spinning anytime the vehicle is moving. You should engage it now and then just to keep the coupler lubricated, but you don’t have to be moving for that.

My old 92 Explorer would lose electrical contact in the shift motor if not used once in a while. I guess a slight corrosion on the motor’s unused internal contacts would not allow them to transfer energy.
A machanic diagnoses that condition as needing a shift motor.
I take off the shift motor’s little round cover, emery board the tips of the finger contacts inside, and turn around and ask him ( as all four wheels are happily spinning now ) why would it need a shift motor ?

During the 15 years I had it I needed to clean the contacts twice ( but never had to buy a motor ) because I forgot to ‘excercise’ the 4x4.