Driving in Low Range without the hubs locked in


The instructions and labels that are attached to my '55 wagon, Wilford

U. Wagon, indicate that running in four wheel lock (high or low)

withoout the front hubs locked will cause damage. I’ve always been

careful to operate per the instructions as I figure some engineers had

good engineering reasoning behind these instruction.

But (always a but) … I encounter many situations (dry, bumpy dirt

roads & fields, parades, etc.) wherein it would be desirable to just

slip into and out of low range while leaving the hubs free-wheeling.

Can anyone explain what damage can or cannot occur.

Disclaimer - Wilford and I will hold noone but ourselves accountable

for our final decision.

Fred Schreiner

& Wilford U. Wagon - former NYS Park Ranger

'55 Willys Utility Wagon

s/n 54168-11049


Operating in low range with the front axle free wheeling often causes the ring and pinion to strip on the rear axle due to the high torque produced by the transfer case.


If you operate in 4-low with the hubs unlocked the torque going to the rear end is double what it would be with the hubs locked.

There is potential for overloading the rear end in this case. I do this from time to time though, w/o any problems. The weak link is usually the axle shafts or the U-joints.


Well, the other option is that if you’re taking a drive where you will need to go in and out of 4-wheel, there’s no reason that you can’t just leave the hubs locked. I believe (and willy’s fanatics may correct me here) that with a truck that old, locking hubs were probably an option, if they were even avaliable back then.

That’s the way I do it with my rig-- if I forsee needing 4wd, I lock the hubs when the pavement ends and free them when I’m off the dirt.


The situation is not that I need 4WD but deisre low speed on dry, binding surfaces without riding the clutch (a parade for instance).
I’m getting the same opines from many sources. The additional torque stress seems to be the bottom line.
Thanks to all for your info.


Using low range for puttering in a parade is perfectly OK.

FWIW I taught 3 boys to drive in an antique Jeep with the lock-out removed from the transfer case. The low ratio made it very forgiving of my klutzy kids.