1997 Ford Expedition 4 Four Wheel Drive doesn’t Work

This is my first article so here we go. I purchased this Expedition in 2001 with 93,000 miles on it at was perfect and well maintained. In 2005 the 4 Wheel drive quit working so I just did without, which is quite difficult seeing how I live in Northern Michigan, and we get a lot of snow. My wife found a plow truck for sale about 100 miles from where we live and we bought it. So we parked the 97 Expedition and used the 97 Dodge ram 2500 in the winter. In 2006 I decided to fix The 97 Expedition, so I took the Expedition to dealer for them to fix it. My daughter had just drowned in Orlando and I was too depressed to work on it myself.

The dealer took in my Expedition and I asked for an estimate before I would let them fix it. They worked for about 2 hours while I waited, and they told me I needed a new Actuator for the front axle and a new Transfer-case motor. The cost will be about $535.00 and they had to order the parts.

I left the Dealer and stopped  at the grocery store, it had just snowed about 4″ and when I left I turned right and hit the gas, Low and behold I saw snow coming front the left front tire, Yes the 4 wheel drive works. I took it out the next day and checked it again, and it still worked. I called the Dealer and told them to cancel the parts order. The next day the Dealer called and asked if I would pay them $65.00 for their time.  I thought about it and decided that whoever goes to the Dealer and gets their car fixed for $65.00. And I felt the mechanic needed to paid for his time.  My wife on the other hand said they tried to rip us off and we should not pay them anything. Well did pay them but they weren’t trying to rip us off, they had no clue what was wrong with the 97 Expedition.

The next season the 4 wheel drive didn’t work, now what I am I going to do? I looked on an online forum and they said the transfer-case motor is the problem.  The problem was the computer gets confused when the switch position inside the transfer-case motor doesn’t lineup.  This is why I didn’t have any indicator lights on the dash lit. I jacked up the 97 Expedition and took out the transfer-case motor. It was no easy task seeing the exhaust was in the way. I was going to open it up and see if the contacts on the switch were corroded. Well the transfer-case motor was put together with security screws, I had no security bits, the transfer-case motor didn’t look that bad so I put it back in. Had to splice the wires to the transfer-case motor because there wasn’t a plug for the motor. This didn’t make me happy all I can think is all salt water from the road will cause corrosion. I used water resistant spades and wrapped well with black electrical tape. I hope this holds up under the adverse conditions.

I waited tell the next season and thought I would try again. I looked online again and found another forum. A man said he didn’t have any 4 wheel drive indicator lights on the dash, so he pulled out all the fuses one at a time and put them back in. Well I had tested all the fusses with a test light and they checked out good. I didn’t take them out, so I pulled and replaced all the fusses and low and behold I had indicator lights for the transfer-case. Yea team so I thought, the transfer-case would shift into low-rang but no 4 wheel drive. Well am farther along than I had been for some time.

Now I am thinking the front axle Actuator must be bad. So back online a different forum, I see someone found that their plastic vacuum lines had cracked and there was no vacuum getting to the front actuator. So I crawled under the front of the 97 Expedition and took off the cover to the actuator (3 small bolts very easy 10mm I think). With the engine running and the selector switch turned to 4×4, I took off the vacuum line to the actuator and there was no vacuum on the line. The lines looked good by the axle so I traced them back to engine compartment. I lost track of them by the battery try, I took out the battery and battery tray that was quite easy. There between where the battery tray and the firewall were the vacuum lines and an electric valve to engage the 4×4. Again with the engine running and the selector switch turned to 4×4 I check to see if the valve was engaging and letting vacuum through. No vacuum coming through the valve in fact no vacuum coming to the valve.

During all of this I cracked two lines. They were easily spliced with rubber vacuum line, like about 2 inches. Still no vacuum well I disconnected the vacuum line going to the valve (The vacuum line that feeds the valve). I looked around and saw a vacuum line on the driver side that runs the vapor canister (I think that’s what it is). I disconnected that vacuum line and rout it over to run the actuator valve. Two thing happened first my check engine light went out (go figure don’t even care about that now) seconded when turned the selector switch to 4×4 the front axle engaged right away. Yea team we have four wheel drive. So the Dealer must have reset the computer by tampering with everything. This is the same thing as pulling and replacing the fusses. The next problem was insufficient vacuum going to the actuator valve.

All of this aggravation and all I had to do was first pull and replace fusses and the check between the battery tray and the fire wall. I wonder how many trans-case motors and actuators get replaced for no reason. The Dealer said to run the four wheel drive every few week of a minute of two to keep everything working. I really don’t know why the computer gets confused for no reason, but I guess it does. During all of this I did disconnect the battery and short the terminals to rest the computer, but I can’t remember when, but that didn’t work anyway.

If you have trouble with your four wheel drive I hope this helps.

Have a great day,

Gerald McKee