Nissan Titan 4wd System Explained (3.0) (2023)


The 4WD drive system of the Titan is much more than just your typical part time system. The addition of Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) and the optional Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Traction Control System (TCS) and Electronic Locking Rear Differential give the Titan much greater capability.

Under good road conditions, you are in 2WD with the rear axle getting all the power. Power is split between the right and left wheels by an open differential. Open differentials are extremely reliable, require very little maintenance and last longer than limited slip differentials. If you have equal traction at both wheels, power is evenly divided between them. If one wheel begins to slip, the open differential begins to send all available power to that one slipping wheel. Normally, this would be very bad.

This is the first opportunity for the Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) system to show itself. ABLS applies brakes selectively to the slipping wheel. This braking action literally fools the open differential into sending power to the wheel with traction. When you are in 2WD, this only will send power left to right on the rear drive axle.

Another option when traction is lost in 2WD, is to engage the 4WD system. The 4WD system on the Titan is a shift on the fly system allowing the choice between 2WD, 4HI, and 4LO. It uses a free running hub design that allows engaging and disengaging from 2wd to 4H at speeds of up to 60 M.P.H. This sends exactly half the power to the front axle where another open differential splits power. The center is a locked transfer case (2WD for normal driving conditions or manually selected 4WD) which is why this is a part-time 4WD system). Between the front and rear axle, normally you will be able to gain forward traction but, because of the open differentials, there is a possibility that you wont.

This is when ABLS takes over again. ABLS applies brakes selectively to the slipping wheel(s). This braking action forces the open differential(s) into sending power everywhere except the slipping wheel(s). In essence the ABLS system gives you two “limited slip differentials” – front and rear – to ensure maximum traction, without the costs associated with a true limited slip differential.

Nissan offers an optional locking rear differential that is an electronically activated switch -on-demand locking rear differential that will send an equal amount of power to each rear wheel at all times for extreme off road conditions. However, this is only available when you are in 4LO. Until 2006, Titans with the locking differential did not include VDC/TCS.

The other optional part of this system is the VDC or Vehicle Dynamic Control. VDC will selectively apply brakes and throttle to prevent understeer or oversteer. This is a rather amazing system and does an incredible job of giving the driver control of the vehicle. Understeer is responsible for a large number of rollovers and oversteer is very common on icy surfaces. The Titan will allow you the option to turn off the VDC. The only reason to turn this off is if you are off road and want to be able to spin the tires and/or slide sideways.

However, there is a second part of the Traction Control System (TCS) [bundled with VDC option] that can be hazardous if you are not paying attention. This is the engine speed limiter. This combines the braking action of ABLS with a rev limiter. Your engine speed will be cut back. This allows for controlled forward movement but it will be slow. The danger with this is if it engages when you are trying to pull into fast moving traffic or encounter unexpected loose gravel and slippery surfaces. This danger is minimized when you are in 4WD mode.

Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS)

When ABS wheel-speed sensors detect a loss of traction in one or more wheels, braking force is applied to that wheel to help slow it down. This redirects power to the wheels with better traction.

Traction Control System (TCS)

(Video) Transfer Case Overview Training Module Trailer

The traction control system reduces torque to the drive wheels by altering injector pulse and controlling the Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) motor. If necessary, the brakes are also pulsed via the ABS control unit and hydraulic unit to reduce slipping.

–For injector pulse and ETC functions, the ECM receives wheel slip information from the ABS control unit through the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus.

TCS operates at all speeds and limits drive-wheel slip (wheel spin) under most conditions, improving driver control of the vehicle in slippery conditions as well as on dry surfaces if throttle is over-applied.

Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with TCS and ABS

• The system integrates ABS and TCS with additional cornering controls.

• The VDC control functions (integrated into the ABS control unit) monitor the input from steering wheel angle, vehicle speed, wheel speed, G-force and yaw rate.

• When vehicle stability is affected by road conditions or the need to make an emergency maneuver, the system helps to maintain optimum speed at each wheel.

• The system controls engine output by reducing fuel and throttle opening, and provides individual braking control for each wheel to reduce or prevent skidding.

VDC changes engine power and/or applies the brakes individually as necessary to help stabilize the vehicle in severe turning situations. VDC helps enhance performance in emergency avoidance maneuvers, helps improve vehicle directional stability, and helps provide improved control even on slippery road surfaces.

Note: VDC not available with locking rear differential.


When accelerating or driving on slippery surfaces, the tires may spin or slide. With the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system, sensors detect these movements and control the braking and engine output to help improve vehicle stability.

• When the vehicle dynamic control (VDC) system is operating, the slip indicator in the instrument panel blinks.

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• When only the traction control system (TCS) portion of the vehicle dynamic control system is operating, the slip indicator will also blink.

• If the slip indicator blinks, the road conditions are slippery. Be sure to adjust your speed and driving to these conditions. See “Slip indicator light”, and “Vehicle dynamic control off indicator light” in the “Instruments and controls” section.

• Indicator light If malfunction occurs in the system, the “SLIP” and “VDC OFF” indicator lights come on in the instrument panel. As long as these warning lights are on, the traction control function is canceled.

The VDC system uses an Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) system to improve vehicle traction. The ABLS system works when one of the driving wheels is spinning on a slippery surface. The ABLS system brakes the spinning wheel which distributes the driving power to the other drive wheel. If the vehicle is operated with the vehicle dynamic control system off using the VDC OFF switch, all VDC and TCS functions will be turned off. The ABLS system and ABS will still operate with the VDC system OFF. If the ABLS system is activated, the slip indicator light will blink and you may hear a clunk noise and/or feel a pulsation in the brake pedal. This is normal.

While the VDC system is operating, you may feel a pulsation in the brake pedal and hear a noise or vibration from under the hood. This is normal and indicates that the VDC system is working properly.

The computer has a built in diagnostic feature that tests the system each time you start the engine and move the vehicle forward or in reverse at a slow speed. When the self-test occurs, you may hear a clunk noise and/or feel a pulsation in the brake pedal. This is normal and is not an indication of a malfunction.


• The vehicle dynamic control system is designed to help improve driving stability but does not prevent accidents due to abrupt steering operation at high speeds or by careless or dangerous driving techniques. Reduce vehicle speed and be especially careful when driving and cornering on slippery surfaces and always drive carefully.

• If brake related parts such as brake pads, rotors and calipers are not standard equipment or are extremely deteriorated, the vehicle dynamic control system may not operate properly and the vehicle dynamic control off indicator light may come on.

• Do not modify the vehicle’s suspension. If suspension parts such as shock absorbers, struts, springs, stabilizer bars and bushings are not NISSAN approved for your vehicle or are extremely deteriorated the vehicle dynamic control system may not operate properly. This could adversely affect vehicle handling performance, and the vehicle dynamic control off indicator light may come on.

• When driving on extremely inclined surfaces such as higher banked corners, the vehicle dynamic control system may not operate properly and the vehicle dynamic control off indicator light may come on. Do not drive on these types of roads.

• If wheels or tires other than the recommended ones are used, the vehicle dynamic control system may not operate properly and the vehicle dynamic control off indicator light may come on.

• The vehicle dynamic control system is not a substitute for winter tires or tire chains on a snow covered road.

(Video) How 4WD Works - Four Wheel Drive

Electronic Stability Control - ESC

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a stability enhancement system designed to electronically detect and assist drivers in critical driving situations and under adverse conditions...automatically.

During Understeer:

In an understeer situation, the front end of the car tends to slide out. ESC automatically applies the inside, rear brake to help you acheive your desired turn. It may also reduce the engine's power.

During Oversteer:

In an oversteer situation, the rear end of the car tends to slide out or "fishtail". ESC automatically applies the outside, front brake to help you correct "fishtailing

Advantages of ESC:

• ESC constantly compares the driver's intended course with the vehicle's actual course and compensates for any differences.

• ESC responds to help you drive safely whenever it senses impending wheel lock-up, wheel spin or loss of vehicle control.

• It helps improve traction, maneuverability and stability in all weather conditions.

ESC Assists During All Driving Situations:

• Braking

• Accelerating

(Video) Serv 4WD Cheap Fix Transfer Case Tip

• Cornering

Putting Technologies Together to Help You Control Your Vehicle:

• ABS Anti-lock Brake System

• TCS Traction Control System

• AYC Yaw Control Stability System

Traction Control System - TCS

Safe Acceleration and Enhanced Driving Stability.

Among the countless dangers motorists have to contend with are wet, slippery roads where a vehicle can unexpectedly go into a skid. This can happen when accelerating and can make steering or controlling the vehicle nearly impossible. The Traction Control System (TCS) can help in a dangerous situation like this by preventing the wheels from spinning.

The system can also improve vehicle acceleration. Sensors tell the Traction Control System if a wheel is spinning. If this occurs when a vehicle is travelling at low speed, only the spinning wheel is braked. At a higher speed, engine output is throttled until all the wheels regain their grip. A light on the instrument panel indicates that TCS is active.

In addition to contributing to an improvement in driving stability and safe acceleration, TCS also reduces tire abrasion. TCS was initially presented to the public in 1990 and is offered today as a standard feature on many vehicles.


-2004 TITAN MODEL Introduction Manual (found on this site)
-2004 Titan Price Comparison brochure
-2004 Nissan Titan Owners Manual
-Dealer emails (Fred Schuler Nissan [now Ken Pollack Nissan], Wilkes-Barre, PA) – Toyota forum – Toyota 4WD systems explained


Is Nissan Titan a 3 4 ton? ›

Is the Nissan Titan XD a 3/4 ton? Many truck buyers refer to midsize, 1/2 tone, 3/4 ton, and full-ton pickup trucks. Heavy-duty trucks (such as the F-250 or Ram 2500) are often called 3/4 ton trucks. And the 2022 Nissan Titan XD falls at the lower end of the heavy-duty, 3/4-ton category.

Are Nissan Titans four-wheel drive? ›


What is the AWD button for? ›

Why Lock the All-Wheel Drive. The all-wheel-drive lock means that power is distributed to all four wheels. The other option is automatic, meaning that the power shift changes based on road conditions.

How does Nissan AWD system work? ›

Nissan Intelligent AWD

The system adapts to transfer power between the front and rear wheels when a change in road conditions is detected, making it more economical on the highway. Additionally, the wheel sensors function to detect traction loss, indicating which wheels require additional power.

How does hill descent control maintain a controlled speed downhill? ›

Hill Descent Control reduces the wasted braking potential by changing braking pressure to each wheel, which means each is then braked to its traction limit. The driver sets a descent speed, and the computers take care of the rest. The speed of the car is calculated from averaging the speeds of each of the four wheels.

What speed does hill descent control? ›

On a downhill grade, Hill Descent Control can maintain a vehicle speed between 2 and 12 mph. Above 20 mph, the system remains activated, but the descent speed cannot be set until you are below 20 mph again.

Is a Nissan Titan bigger than a Ford f150? ›

Passengers in the extended cab will be able to stretch out a lot more with the Ford F-150 than the Nissan Titan. The Ford F-150 will be a favorite with tall drivers and their passengers, since it has much greater head- and legroom than the Nissan Titan.

Which truck is bigger Tundra or Titan? ›

The Titan is 228.2 inches long, 79.5 inches wide, and 75.1 inches tall. Comparatively, the new Tundra for sale is slightly bigger at 233.6 inches in length, 80.2 inches wide, and 78 inches tall.

Does Nissan Titan use Cummins? ›


This partnership led to the production of a full-size TITAN XD with a 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 released in 2015.

Does 4WD power all 4 wheels? ›

Generally, a vehicle with the 4WD tag simply means that it can power all four wheels, which means that 4×4 and AWD vehicles might also be referred to as 4WD.

What years did Titans avoid? ›

Quick Answer: Avoid 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2016, and 2018 Nissan Titans. Nissan's first foray into full-size pickup trucks didn't go off without a hitch; in fact, it took them a few years to get things rolling.

Why did Nissan discontinue the Titan? ›

Perhaps anticipating low sales numbers, Nissan offered the Titan in just a handful of configurations, and though its standard V8 provided plenty of power, it wasn't suitable for all buyers. (The more expensive Titan XD also offered a pricey diesel engine for a few years.) Then there was pressure from the outside.

Can you turn off AWD while driving? ›

The AWD switch may be turned on or off while the vehicle is moving.

Can you use AWD all the time? ›

AWD is optimized for on-road use. It has the capability to send the engine's power to all four tires all of the time.

Does AWD kick in automatically? ›

How Does AWD Work? In an AWD system, torque is automatically sent to all four of a vehicle's wheels. Drivers typically don't need to act to start the process, though some systems offer selectable modes that allow drivers to determine how power is distributed. There are two types of AWD: full-time and part-time.

What is the difference 4WD and AWD systems? ›

AWD uses a variable connection that your vehicle can adjust on the fly, at any speed, to shift power where it's needed. 4WD connects your front and rear wheels through a transfer case that splits power evenly, and it's meant to be used at lower speeds and in challenging terrain.

What is the difference between intelligent 4WD and AWD? ›

A Ford Intelligent 4-Wheel Drive system is similar to AWD but provides the extra ability to handle rugged (or severe) off-road conditions, like sand, water, mud, rocky trails or steep hills with little natural traction. It can handle heavier loads than AWD. Typically you will find 4WD in larger SUVs, jeeps, and trucks.

When should you use hill descent control? ›

Hill Descent Control helps your vehicle maintain a set speed as you drive downhill on an incline. So, you can use this feature when driving downhill. This is especially useful for off-road driving, where the ground can be uneven, and gaining speed on a slope can be dangerous.

Should I use hill descent control when going down a steep hill? ›

When Should I Use Hill-Descent Control? Hill-descent control was primarily created for, and is most often used for, going down a steep grade on rough terrain. This usually happens when you're off-roading. You shouldn't be using it while traveling down the highway.

Can you use hill descent going uphill? ›

Once the engine has enough power to stop the vehicle from rolling, Hill Launch Assist releases the brakes so you can drive away smoothly – with no roll. Works whether you're driving uphill or down, so it's a great help when you're parked on an incline.

What is the difference between hill assist and hill descent control? ›

Hill Descent Control can be used when navigating steep inclines, particularly in rough terrain, which can put your vehicle at risk. Hill Start Assist is useful in any situation where you're stopped on a hill, particularly so in bumper to bumper traffic, or driving a steep driveway or ramp.

How should you control your speed while descending a steep hill? ›

When it comes time to travel down a steep hill, be sure to:
  1. Shift to the lowest gear.
  2. Do NOT use your brakes as it can damage them. Allow the engine on a low gear control the speed.
  3. Shift to a higher gear, overtake, and shift to a normal gear to be on your way once you reach the bottom.
Oct 10, 2018

Can you use hill descent control in snow? ›

The Hill Descent Control (HDC) plays a vital role both in the snow and sand.

Should you go downhill in gear or neutral? ›

When you put your gears in neutral when driving downhill, you are taking away from yourself the ability to control the car completely. You still have the capacity to use your brakes without any problems, but you cannot increase the speed instantly.

Does hill descent control work in reverse? ›

Hill Descent Control in action

In vehicles with a manual transmission, HDC can be used in first and reverse gears in high range and all gears in low range. Once the vehicle is moving, the clutch pedal should be fully released.

Is Nissan Titan better than Toyota Tundra? ›

The Nissan Titan boasts a more powerful base engine than the Tundra, thanks to a big V-8 that churns out an impressive 400 horsepower. In the Tundra, the standard engine is a twin-turbocharged V-6 that puts out between 348 and 389 horsepower.

Is Nissan Titan better than Ram? ›

The 2022 Nissan Titan got a "Great" score of 85 out of 100 for Quality and Reliability3 from J.D. Power. Compare the Nissan Titan vs. Ram 1500, and you'll see that the 2022 Ram 1500 truck received an "Average" Quality and Reliability score of 80 out of 1004 from J.D. Power.

Where does Nissan Titan rank in trucks? ›

The 2023 Nissan Titan's #6 ranking is based on its score within the Full Size Pickup Trucks category.

Is it bad to switch from 2WD to 4WD while driving? ›

Thankfully, you can change from 2WD to 4WD while driving as long as you're traveling 60 mph or less. However, avoid switching between low and high 4WD when you're driving. This can damage your gearbox and differential. In addition, you shouldn't rely solely on 4WD to keep you safe while driving in snow.

Do you have to be in neutral to switch to 4WD? ›

Shifting into low-range four-wheel drive is a little more involved than shifting into high-range four-wheel drive. Drivers will need to shift the transmission into neutral to disconnect torque to allow the transfer case to shift gears.

Can I switch from 2H to 4H while driving? ›

You can move the control from 2H to 4A or 4H at a stop or while driving.


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