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How to Put a Jeep Compass in Four-Wheel Drive: Step by Step

How to Put a Jeep Compass in Four-Wheel Drive: Step by Step

Putting a Jeep Compass in four-wheel drive is different from most other models. It is a simple process that can be confusing if you are not used to the Active Drive system that controls the 4WD. So how do you put a Jeep Compass in a four-wheel drive?

To put a Jeep Compass in four-wheel drive make sure to be completely stopped and the Jeep is in neutral. Then use either the dash buttons or the switches found near the gear shifter to put the Jeep into 4WD or 4WD low.

The Jeep Compass is a mid-size SUV that comes with some exciting upgrades or lack of them that some might need help understanding how to use. The four-wheel drive engagement alone could be enough to create a headache that lasts for a week. Don’t let it get you down! Read on and learn all you need to know about putting your Jeep Compass in four-wheel drive.

Putting a Jeep Compass in Four-Wheel Drive

One of the major differences between the Compass and the Wrangler is how the four-wheel drive is initiated.

In the past models of Wrangler and Cherokee, the four-wheel drive lever is located next to the gear shift. It is a shifter with a diagram on the top labeling the modes of four-wheel drive. The Compass has a much different approach but some of the exact locations.

Here’s a walk-through video with a lot more info and written steps below:

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Finding Which Type of Drive you Have is the First Step.

Both four-wheel-drive inputs are push buttons and vary from other Jeep models. Each way that allows you to enter four-wheel drive will be either on the dash or down by the gear shifter. The switches will be clearly labeled and have buttons that light up when the drives are engaged.

The types of input that Jeep Compass has for four-wheel drive are as follows:

  • Dash Buttons – One of the most obvious ways to engage the four-wheel drive in a Jeep Compass is with a set of buttons. The buttons are next to a panel that labels the different terrains the 4WD will operate.
  • Switches – Another way you can engage the four-wheel drive in your Compass is with the buttons by the gear shifter. The higher-end models of the Compass have a toggle switch that initiates the four-wheel drive. In addition, you can enter an Auto mode that engages when needed.

The drive initiation mode is the best place to start when looking to engage the four-wheel drive in your Jeep Compass. Once you know which mode you have, there’s a step-by-step method to employ that will get you off-road and into an adventure in no time.

Initiating the Four-Wheel Drive is Simple in the Jeep Compass

The Compass is one of those vehicles designed to be easy to use. Their input of 4WD is either a switch or a button that will help the electronic drive select which mode works best for your situation. The guesswork is taken out of the equation, and you are left to enjoy the terrain and experience of your Compass.

The steps to engage the four-wheel drive in your Jeep Compass are as follows:

  • Stop the Jeep – The first thing you need to do is make sure that the Jeep is stopped on a level grade and that the transmission is in neutral. This will allow the four-wheel drive to impact the transmission and engage all four wheels.
  • Flip the Switch/Button – Depending on your four-wheel drive type; you should flip the switch or push the selector button. There should be a light that acknowledges the mode and the drive engaged. You should also feel the drive as the Jeep will move slower and have a different sound.
  • 4WD Low – Some models of Compass will have a 4WD Low option. This mode will work best in mud and slick conditions. To engage, you must push the 4WD Low button and wait for it to stop flashing. Once the flashes are finished, the mode is ready to go.
  • Shift to Drive – Once you know your Jeep is in four-wheel drive, you should take it out and let it move around a bit. If you have a problem starting, you should shift into the park and back to drive. Once drive is engaged, you should be on your way with 4WD engaged.

Once you understand how the Active Drive 4WD works, it will give you lots of perspective on how it can be used. For example, there are places where it will go back to two-wheel and engage for a small climb or when fording a creek.

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Is the Jeep Compass Four-Wheel Drive All the Time?

One of the exciting things about the Jeep Compass is that it has a feature that allows it to run in all-wheel mode.

This four-wheel drive option is suitable for hybrid areas filled with rocks, mud, and long stretches of even terrain. Moreover, engaging the auto four-wheel drive is easy and just requires the flick of a switch.

A few things that the auto four-wheel drive can do are:

  • Conserve 4WD – Think of the auto mode of four-wheel drive as a spotter. When you can’t get up a hill or through a rut, it engages and gives you the extra boost you need to get across. It conserves the four-wheel drive gears for when you need them.
  • Protect Transmission – An essential thing auto does is protect the transmission against excess friction. Using itself sparingly and letting the four-wheel mode do little heavy lifting, the trans will last much longer.

The auto four-wheel drive function is critical to the life of your Jeep. While it might not seem like one of the vital systems, it bypasses unneeded shifting and grinding, weakening the connection to the transmission and axles and leading to excess service time. (source:

What is a 4WD Lock on Jeep Compass?

A feature that comes with the Jeep Compass is 4WD Lock. This button is located with the other shift buttons and ensures that the power transfer unit stores any torque you need. The power transfer unit is the electronic area where the transmission and 4WD communicate to determine the vehicle’s mode.


Engaging the four-wheel drive in a Jeep Compass is much different than the other Jeep models. The Compass was designed to be easy to use, and the push button and auto four-wheel drive are as easy as it gets.

The push button activation is easy but requires that you be on a level grade with the transmission in neutral. When the 4WD Lock is engaged, you must wait for the button to stop flashing before you get back to driving.

Whichever mode you use to engage four-wheel drive, remember that excess time spent in low modes will shorten the vehicle’s life.

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