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How Do You Know If Your Vehicle's Automatic Locking Hubs Are Working Properly?

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Many 4x4 vehicles are fitted with automatic locking hubs that can disconnect the front wheels for everyday driving. These components are fantastic when they are working correctly, as the driver will not need to worry about having full-time all-wheel drive when they don't need it, which can certainly help with fuel economy. However, what happens if an automatic locking hub fails? How do you know that something is wrong, and what can you do about it?

Understanding the Mechanism

When an automatic locking hub is engaged, it will remove power from the front wheels. The system uses a clutch mechanism that can detect when the driver shifts into two-wheel drive mode and will move backwards, releasing the hub from the driveshaft and allowing the wheels to turn independently. As the engine is no longer providing power to those front wheels, this can save on everyday wear and tear, and you will also spend less money at the pump.

Stuck Off

Occasionally, the automatic locking will not perform as expected and remain unlocked. This can sometimes happen when grime builds up against a hub, or parts begin to wear out. Occasionally, the mechanism may become rusty and be unable to move, and the first sign of a problem may be strange grinding noises when you shift into the appropriate mode.

Stuck On

Further, the hub mechanism may stick in the "on" position and prevent the hub from releasing. Again, dirt, debris or corrosion could prevent the clutch from sliding into its intended position, but there may be no noticeable symptoms when this happens. Instead, you may simply find that you are spending more on fuel or that the front tyres seem to be wearing down too quickly. Alternatively, you may notice a lot more road noise when you are out on the highway due to the transmission working more than it needs to.

Self Check

Elevate one of the front wheels if you suspect that you may have an issue with an automatic locking hub. If the transfer case is set to two-wheel drive, then the hub should turn freely when you try to spin the wheel by hand. If the entire axle shaft turns when you do this, you have your answer.

How to Avoid Issues

If you insist that your vehicle is serviced regularly, you should not run into any issues due to a build-up of dirt or corrosion. If you've encountered a problem anyway, make sure that you take the vehicle to a qualified technician so that they can repair everything safely and effectively. For more information, contact a 4WD servicing company.