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How to Put a Truck in 4 Wheel Drive

by Jody L. Campbell

4-wheel drive trucks are not like they used to be. Now, they are much easier to switch into 4-wheel drive. There are two types of 4-wheel drive hubs on trucks of today. One is the common manual locking hub and the other is the automatic locking hub. The automatic locking hubs are more common on SUVs and work a couple different ways. The manual locking hubs are more common on trucks.

Inspect the center hub of one of your front tires. This will tell you right away whether you have manual or locking hubs. If there is an inset hub with a small turntable in the middle, look for words like "free" and "lock" or "4X2" and "4X4." These options will be stamped on the edge of the manual hub and there will be an arrow pointing which way to turn the hub turntable and engage 4-wheel drive.

Place the hub turntable to the "lock" or "4X4" position on both front wheels. If you do not have manual locking hubs, skip this step.

Get into the driver's seat of the truck.

Turn the ignition key to start the truck. If you have automatic locking hubs, look for the button on the dashboard or console of the truck and engage it so the "4X4" light illuminates on the dashboard.

Locate the 4-wheel drive transfer case stick-shift. There are three common positions for the stick shift (usually displayed on the knob or a sticker near or on the console of the transfer case stick-shift. "4X2" or "2 Hi(gh)" is the normal driving position. "4X4 Hi(gh)" or just "4 Hi(gh)" is normal four-wheel drive for added traction. "4X4 Lo(w)" or "4 Lo(w)" is used when plowing or getting the truck unstuck. If you have automatic locking hubs, you may have push buttons to change into different 4-wheel drive options instead of the transfer case stick-shift.

With the truck in park or neutral and your foot on the brake, place the transfer case stick-shift into the "4X4" or "4 Hi(gh)" position. If you have push buttons to activate your automatic locking hubs, press the "4X4" or "4 Hi(gh)" button. You're now in 4-wheel drive.

Tip

  • Refer to the owners manual to determine if you can switch into 4-wheel drive when driving the vehicle so you do not damage the truck. Some older trucks may need to be stopped and in neutral or park to engage the 4-wheel drive option. You can drive trucks with manual locking hubs in the "lock" or "4X4" position nowadays, but you will burn more fuel and put more stress on the front end components and experience more tire wear.

About the Author

Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.

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