Locking hubs


The automatic locking hubs seem to be failing on my ?96 Ford Ranger 4WD that has about 105,000 miles on it. They only engage with great difficulty and strange noises. Someone recommended that I replace them with Warn manual locking hubs (I believe there is some kind of kit for this). Is this something I should ask my regular mechanic to do? Or am I better off taking the truck to a 4 wheel drive shop for this kind of service? Advice appreciated, thanks!


It should be done by someone who KNOWS how to do the job correctly.

When in doubt, ask about.


I’m sure any competent mechanic could do it…IMHO though, I had better success with the dealer on my Toyota manual hub work than my local mechanic, who was outstanding otherwise. An installation is a different animal than work on unit already installed, but dealers genually have the right tools and experience for the job. I believe that at least a visit to the dealer would be worthwhile and a little Q and A. Then make your choice based on cost. There were times that even though the labor cost per hour was higher at the dealer, they did a job quicker and more efficiently than my “man”.


Auto hubs are very simple to convert to manual. I run Warn hubs on my Blazer, it literally takes about 15min per side to swap them out.

Unfortunately very few new trucks use hubs to disengage the front driveline. Ford has held on longer than most manufactures.



Replacing the auto locking hubs to Warner manual hubs is pretty straight forward. I’ve done it twice on two different vehicles.

If you want to fix the current one’s…I think this system is vacuum activated. Make sure the vacuum diaphram is working properly. This was the cause for MOST of the lock hub problems I’ve seen with GM S-10 series trucks and the Newprocess NP207/6 transfercase.


Look at your front axle. Is there some strange looking stuff mounted on top of the LEFT side axle tube? That’s a vacuum servo which disconnects the front axle when the transfer case is not in 4wd. THAT’s where the strange sounds are coming from. Step one is replace all the vacuum lines between the vacuum servo and the T-case shifter. A REAL pain. Usually found with NP transfer cases and Spicer 44 front axles…Pretty slick when they work right…

True automatic hubs can be restored by servicing them, cleaning and properly re-lubricating them so they don’t drag and stick.