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Re: how do i engage 4wd in a 2003 jeep grand cherokee?
Jeep transfer cases are designed to be engaged when rolling from 3mph and up...low range should only be selected at low speed (around 3mph). Don't attempt to shift unless vehicle is moving...gears will not mesh properly. Try to find a manual to get the specifics of all variations of using the shift combinations available. (many times can be found in the gloveboxes of vehicles in scrapyards...just ask!
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On the Jeep models, ESP means electronic stability program which is the same as traction control. There are 3 different versions of four wheel drive on Jeep Grand Cherokees with the base version being all wheel drive. Your owners manual should tell you which version you have and how it operates.
Locate a dirt parking lot or field and engage the 4wd. Make a slow tight turn and you should feel some resistance while turning as the wheels dig in and fight one another causing the steering wheel to shake somewhat too. Do not attempt this on pavement or damage may occur. If you can turn freey and not notice any difference then when your in 2wd its likely not working.
If you are asking for an opinion about the GC, They aren't much different than any other vehicle. I say that because every vehicle has it's share of problems. GC's don't seem to have any more or less of them than those of any other manufacturer. The only thing from an engineering standpoint I do not like is the quadratrack 4wd system. It is too sensitive to slight tire size variations and engaging when it wants to instead of when you tell it to bothers me, especially in off road use. Being a larger vehicle, you cannot expect much economy and the actual cargo area isn't that much larger than a "normal" Cherokee ( of which I have several). If the one you intend to buy is in very good condition and has been well maintained, (and, you continue doing that), It's not a great vehicle but not a bad one either.
4 wd part time is the most fuel efficient becuase it only engages when the tires start to spin. to engage the different 4wd modes pull up on the lever next to the shifter and you'll feel it engage into to its respected modes. recommended you engage the 4wd while moving slowly except for 4wd low full time which you need to put the shifter into neutral before you can engage it. remember 4 wd low full time is needed when none of the other modes work.
Neutral is only used when you need to tow the jeep. Normal two wheel driving is done in 2h. To engage 4wheel drive keep rolling slowly and engage either 4h or 4L. Generally 4L is almost never used as it is for pulling weight like a vehicle stuck in a snowbank. If it does not return to 2h when you go back into two wheel operation, many times it will if you back up about ten or twenty feet. Don't engage 4 wheel drive while standing still. and never force the lever if you hear grinding.
When engaging the 4WD system, you are pulling the lever on the Transfer Case right? Not the transmission, it's a different gearbox.
There were several versions of transfer cases that used both full and part-time 4 wheel drive.
From your description this sounds like a part-time transfer case.
Going with that, it is somewhat normal to hear and feel a mild clunk when engaging 4WD high range, especially if you are at a complete stand-still or under full throttle.
Try engaging 4WD High while slowly rolling at idle - no throttle. It should pull in fairly smoothly.
Once 4WD is engaged it will literally LOCK the front and rear axles together. So do not do it on hard dry pavement. These older style 4WD systems need a little "give" especially when turning. The engineers assume you are not engaging 4WD unless you are in a somewhat slippery scenario.
Many CV joints, axles, U-Joints, differentials, and transfer cases are damaged and broken by folks who don't understand this.
Reading the owners manual should provide a clearer description of what you've got.
Bear in mind that when you come out of 4WD it may not completely release, again due to hard pavement binding up the axles. You can try this: backing up 10-25 feet in a straight line, or getting one set of wheels on the shoulder or in some gravel. That should allow it to release the transfer case and go back to everyday 2WD high.
I hope this helps.