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Non-working automatic hubs now work

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Old 12-11-2007, 11:38 AM   #1
gsmaclean
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Non-working automatic hubs now work

Sometime over the summer the auto-locking hubs on my 94 Limited decided to quit working. They would sometimes engage (when they didn't, they would instead make a horrible grinding and/or clunking noise), and when they did engage, they would then not disengage - or one side only would disengage. I would have to jack the front end up, hold the wheel, and jiggle the drive shaft forward and backward by hand to get them to disengage.

Now I know you rabid manual-hub-loving freaks here think it's great fun to get out and schlup around in the mud and snow every time you want to turn your 4wd on and off, but call me crazy - I'd rather just sit in the comfy dry warmth of my truck and push a button. So I read up a bit here, and decided to have a look at them.

The hardest part was sending my wife to NAPA to buy the "cheapest bottle of automatic transmission fluid they have." The guy there, bless his heart, refused to sell her the cheapo NAPA brand, saying, "you don't really want to put that in your car." When she told him that it was actually for "the wheels on my husband's truck"...well, let's just say he shook his head, figured she was a dumb blonde (she is not - well, she is blonde, but not dumb) who had no idea what she was talking about, and sold her the cheapo fluid.

When I pulled the hubs off, they were absolutely PACKED with grease, as was the mechanism on the spindle. I bought a big can of brake cleaner and cleaned all the grease off the spindle mechanism. I filled the hubs with brake cleaner a couple times, worked the spring mechanism up and down, and emptied it, each time watching gobs of grease fall out. Then I filled them with hot ATF, let them sit a half hour, dumped them out, and did it again. The second time I let them sit overnight full of ATF, then dumped them out and let them drain for an hour or so.

Lastly I put a thin film of new grease on the spindle mechanism, fitted the hubs back on...and hey presto, they work better than they ever have.

So if you are having problems with your automatic locking hubs, don't be swayed by the fanatical "you must convert to manual hubs" cult that hangs out here - a little bit of cleaning and chances are you'll be as good as new!
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Old 12-11-2007, 01:28 PM   #2
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Thanks for the voice of experience. I've noticed a few folks around here don't think very highly of auto hubs. I'm hoping to preserve mine as long as I can. I use my Ex as a work vehicle, and need it to reach tractors in the field. Even though I might get dirty while I'm working on site, I like to at least arrive looking professional. Auto hubs are just a better fit for some people.




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Old 12-11-2007, 01:59 PM   #3
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...nice writeup...

...you do know with manual hubs on a first gen X and up to a second gen ranger, that you can leave the hubs locked..
... i think what the manual guys were trying to express is you have less maintenance with the manual hubs and less, they don't work stories...




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:15 PM   #4
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MY biggest problem with the autos was when I really needed them, usually on a very cold day in the middle of the woods. They would not lock in properly even after trying all the tricks to get them to lock. I just got tired of the game and replaced them with manuals. Then when I would go somewhere that I anticipated using the 4x4 I would lock them in for the trip, so I knew without a doubt that I was going to have 4wd when I really needed it.

Oh, and before you ask yeah, I service my complete 4wd system every year.




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:26 PM   #5
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There is nothing wrong with having automatic hubs (especially if you routinely service them). If you have autohubs and they work it indicates they are fine for the type/style of driving you subject them to.

The subject of auto vs manual hubs primarily comes into play when someone's autohub has mechanically failed (beyond a simple cleaning). At this point the owner has to decide if its worth spending a few hundred $ to replace a single automatic hub, or switch over to a complete set of manual hubs for less than the cost of a single automatic hub.

For strength and reliability manuals are the proven way to go. If you mainly stay on-road and don't mind paying $$$ for the convenience of not having to manually lock hubs then go with Automatic hubs.

IMO I would switch to manuals on their strength and reliability alone (the cost savings is an added bonus I don't mind spending 30 secs to get out of the cab and lock the hubs. Obviously not as convenient as automatic hubs, but the peace of mind is worth it.
Ford Explorer Automatic hub (91-94)




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:28 PM   #6
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Cool

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Originally Posted by tbars4 View Post
...you do know with manual hubs...you can leave the hubs locked..
...you have less maintenance with the manual hubs and less, they don't work stories...
No doubt--they're a stronger, more dependable setup. I'm mostly going places on other peoples' land where I've never been before, and mud can suddenly appear under me from out of nowhere [read: I wasn't paying attention ] so I like the "last-minute, effortless engage" option. Call me scatterbrained, call me lazy, both sometimes apply! I'm sure due to cost alone I will replace my autos with sturdy manuals when they break/wear out, which is why I said I'm "preserving" mine.




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:31 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ThreeQuarter View Post
No doubt--they're a stronger, more dependable setup. I'm mostly going places on other peoples' land where I've never been before, and mud can suddenly appear under me from out of nowhere [read: I wasn't paying attention ] so I like the "last-minute, effortless engage" option. Call me scatterbrained, call me lazy, both sometimes apply! I'm sure due to cost alone I will replace my autos with sturdy manuals when they break/wear out, which is why I said I'm "preserving" mine.
Thats why you lock them before you go off paved surfaces...

I don't like auto for one simple reason, they decide when they want to work and when they don't.




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gsmaclean View Post
...
When I pulled the hubs off, they were absolutely PACKED with grease, as was the mechanism on the spindle. I bought a big can of brake cleaner and cleaned all the grease off the spindle mechanism. I filled the hubs with brake cleaner a couple times, worked the spring mechanism up and down, and emptied it, each time watching gobs of grease fall out. Then I filled them with hot ATF, let them sit a half hour, dumped them out, and did it again. The second time I let them sit overnight full of ATF, then dumped them out and let them drain for an hour or so.

Lastly I put a thin film of new grease on the spindle mechanism, fitted the hubs back on...and hey presto, they work better than they ever have.

So if you are having problems with your automatic locking hubs, don't be swayed by the fanatical "you must convert to manual hubs" cult that hangs out here - a little bit of cleaning and chances are you'll be as good as new!
Nice right up.. It always amazes me how much grease gets into the hubs, and how many mechanics still pack them thinking they need it..




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:36 PM   #9
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Thats why you lock them before you go off paved surfaces...
LOL, farmers tend to get a chuckle out of city boys who lock their hubs every time they leave pavement--I don't want to be that guy. I leave the pavement several times a day, and in West Texas seldom need my 4wd. But when I need it, I need it.




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:41 PM   #10
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...i've worked and lived on a lot of farms and ranches and the guy they laff most at is the guy who get's stuck...




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Old 12-11-2007, 02:51 PM   #11
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LOL, farmers tend to get a chuckle out of city boys who lock their hubs every time they leave pavement--I don't want to be that guy. I leave the pavement several times a day, and in West Texas seldom need my 4wd. But when I need it, I need it.
I'll go in 2 wheel untill i get stuck or suspect i'll need 4wd. And i lay under the truck to engage 4x4 so the mud and snow actually have become good friends of mine.




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Old 12-11-2007, 03:22 PM   #12
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But when I need it, I need it.
Thats when your auto hubs won't work

Happened to me

Do you want to look like a city boy who locks his hubs, or do you want to look like the city boy who gets his X towed out by a tractor?
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Old 12-11-2007, 03:42 PM   #13
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I knew this thread was going to light up.

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...i've worked and lived on a lot of farms and ranches and the guy they laff most at is the guy who get's stuck...
LOL I've been that guy before, but never due to the hubs I'm running.

I appreciate everyone's concerns for us auto hub guys--I think we get the point. As of today, though, my autos have worked 100% of the time. When they stop working is when I'll relube or replace them. I've been stuck before (understatement) & it's not the end of the world.




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Old 12-11-2007, 04:01 PM   #14
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...one thing is for sure, manual hubs aren't bullet proof either...





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Old 12-11-2007, 04:08 PM   #15
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Sweet shirt tbars




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Old 12-11-2007, 04:17 PM   #16
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...be sure to keep an eye on the Explorerforum store in my signature for the new shirts that will be coming out soon, plus there is flags for sale on there too plus a bunch of e.f. items...




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Old 12-11-2007, 04:43 PM   #17
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Ya i know bought one of the last shirts Maniak had, Someone should make Hubs that say EF on them or something..




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Old 12-11-2007, 06:59 PM   #18
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...one thing is for sure, manual hubs aren't bullet proof either...
Manual hubs are Definitely not bullet proof, and I wouldn't want them to be. They act as a fuse (weak link in the drive line) and blow up as pictured. If the hub is stronger than the axle or U-joint you may have been looking at longer and messier axle swap instead of a relatively quick hub change.




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Old 12-11-2007, 07:20 PM   #19
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...actually, i think i brought this to your attention awhile back...something along the lines of shear pins and you mentioned your boat....




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Old 04-06-2008, 12:43 AM   #20
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4x4 Problems. Auto Hubs?

My 4x4 is not engaging. I can hear the computor clicking in the rear when i puch the 4x4 button, and the light comes on. I can also hear the shift motor engage the front drive shaft. This being the case I am assuming that the problem lies my auto hubs.

I just wanted to make sure I do the right thing to check this theory. I need to put the car in 2 wheel drive and try to rotate front axel? If the truck is in 2 wheel drive wouldn't the hubs be unlocked?

I'm going to clean out my hubs tomorrow so I was also wondering if there are any ways to tell if the 4x4 is engaging (i.e. do the hubs make a noise when they lock in? or can you feel a difference when driving?)

Thanks everyone!!!
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