Using 4 wheel drive with Locking front Wheel Hubs

I have recently purchased a 2000 Toyota Tacoma pick up truck with 4 wheel drive. This is my first experience with a 4x4, and want some advice on its use.

This truck has the front wheel hubs that you have to lock, and an extra shifter that you shift into 4 wheel drive at up to 25 mph.

I drive about 45 miles to work every day, mostly on country roads. This means that I need to make the decision to engage the front wheel locks before I begin the trips each morning or afternoon.

Here is what I have been doing.

If there is any possibility that I may need the 4 wheel drive (which has been most days this winter) I engage the front wheel hubs. However, most days I do not actually use the 4 wheel drive. This brings up the first question: Is there any harm in driving the majority of the miles with the front wheel hubs engaged? Do I wear anything out?

Then, once I hit the road, if there is any snow drifting, I slow and put on the 4 wheel drive. Once I have it on, I usually leave it on, because you never know when you are going to run into a patch of snow that will need 4 wheel drive. So there are frequent trips that I put on the 4 wheel drive at the beginning of the trip and leave it on the whole trip, even though it is often not necessary for the rest of the trip. This brings up the next two questions: it there any downside to leaving the 4 wheel drive on for 30-40 miles even when it isn?t necessary? Do I wear anything else? The other option would be to continually slow down to 25 mph, kick in the 4 wheel drive, pass the snow spot, slow back down to 25 mph, turn off the 4 wheel drive, and continue to repeat this shift in shift out behavior. Which is better? Or I should ask, which is easier on the truck?


This has always been the problem with locking hubs. You never know when’s a good time to lock them. You don’t want to stop the car on a cold snowey night and get out to lock them. You want them LOCKED before you need them. But knowing when that is is difficult.

The only downside in leaving the hubs locked is a little worse gas mileage.

You should only put the vehicle in 4wd when it’s needed. And you CANNOT put it in 4wd UNLESS the hubs are locked.

The auto locking hubs have been around since the early 80’s. Most if not ALL 4wd systems have that. And I think your vehicle actually came stock with auto locking hubs. A previous owner probably put them on to save gas mileage. They have been known to increase bas mileage by a small fraction when NOT in use. So you might be able to switch them BACK to the way they came from the factory.

I have been assured (by my independent toyota mechanic) that these manual hubs are the originals. So changing back is not a possibility.

If a bit of gas mileage is the only downside to leaving the hubs locked, I can live with that. I was worried about wearing them out.

Why do you say you should “only uses 4 wheel drive when needed”? what problems does it cause if I over use 4 wheeel drive?

Toyota trucks can handle the hub lock engaged for the entire trip, no problem. I would hesitate to leave the 4wd engage all the time when you may never use it. If you hit snow and your truck has handling problems, you need more weight in the back. I used at least 350 ibs of tube sand in my Tacoma with good treads and you’ll seldom need 4 wd except for hills and deep snow. It’s made to shift in and out on the fly at speeds discribed in the manual. I wouldn’t depend on 4wd so much for handling, it can actually cause you to loose control in some conditions (on ice especially), and you may tend to drive too fast for conditions…better tires and weight balance is safer, 4 wd is no substitute.

If you’ve got an owner’s manual, it has a good discussion of the 4wd system.

You don’t ever want to use 4wd on dry pavement. Basically, the 4wd system has no way of equalizing the speed at which the front and back wheels are spinning, unlike an awd car that has a center differential. Basically, if you can imagine your truck turning and visualize what the wheels have to be doing to allow the truck to turn, you’ll realize that without some sort of give, it won’t happen. When you use 4wd in slippery conditions, the wheels just slip and it’s no problem, but if you try to turn in 4wd on dry pavement, it won’t work and you can cause some serious damage to your transfer case.

Oh, and the Tacomas with manual transmissions did come with manual locking hubs as original equipment.

PS NEVER drive on paved roads at highway speeds with 4 wd engaged…read your manual. Bad things happen to drive train, tires etc. with the “part time” system on your Toyota. It’s called “part time” for a reason…

Only use 4wd when the roads are slippery (i.e. Snow or ice). On dry pavement driving in 4wd could/will DESTROY the transfercase. Even in snow and ice…MOST of the time I’m in 2wd. I just slow down. The only time I’ll put it in 4wd is if the snow is very heavy and not plowed (this does happen during snow storms sometimes). When I do shift to 4wd on the highway it’s because the weather is very bad and I’ve already slowed down to about 30. I can shift into 4wd at any speed, but if it’s bad enough to be in 4wd then driving at 65mph is NOT a good idea.

I did a little searching on Google. You could get the Tacoma with Auto locking hubs or manual. You MAY be able to switch to auto-locking hubs.

With the only vehicle I ever owned with manual hubs ('78 Jeep Cherokee), I left the hubs locked most of the winter, but used 4WD only on slippery surfaces.