Any off-road enthusiast knows locking hubs are important to the four-wheel driving system of trucks, SUVs, and jeeps. These vehicles use manual locking hubs or automatic locking hubs. Typically, locking hubs work to engage and disengage the front wheels from the front shafts. While modern vehicles are fitted with auto-locking hubs, older 4WD vehicles use manual locking hubs. Can you differentiate the former from the latter? How does the mode of operation of the auto-lock hub vary from its counterpart? Tire shop Tampa fl has compiled a guide to help you distinguish auto-lock hubs from manual hubs. Let’s get started!


Manual locking hubs Vs. Automatic Locking Hubs

The difference between manual locking hubs and auto-lock hubs lies in the design, mechanism of operation, and maintenance.

  • Design

Locking mechanisms in automatic hubs function like a one-way clutch, which is controlled by the drive selection mechanism. The torque applied by the driveshaft pulls the hub inward and locks it. The hub remains locked while the transfer case is still in 4WD mode. Switching to a two-wheel-drive activates the clutching mechanism, which initiates the sliding and release of the hub. This makes the wheel turn independently of its axle shaft. Unlike the auto-lock design, the manual lock design involves twisting a dial on the wheel by hand. This action locks the driveshaft to the hub. In its locked position, the 4WD activates the spring mechanism, which locks the shaft, hub, and wheel together. When the dial or switch is tuned to free, the spring mechanism gets deactivated, and the wheels turn independently. 

  • Mechanism of operation

Like its name, auto-locking hubs engage and disengage the front wheels when it’s not in 4WD mode. Meanwhile, manual locking hubs engage and disengage the front wheels by hand. This means that the driver will have to stop the vehicle and manually lock the hubs.

  • Maintenance

Automatic locking hubs can be quite cumbersome to maintain. Auto-locking hubs often undergo engagement problems which can be due to mud, rust, or worn parts. This can alter its working condition, preventing the sliding and locking mechanism in the hubs. The factors that prevent the hub from engaging also stop it from being released. Furthermore, it causes increased fuel consumption, noise on the highway, and front tire wear. Due to this, automatic locking hubs may require regular maintenance. Compared to auto-lock hubs, manual lock hubs are easy to maintain. The ease of maintenance increases efficiency in manual hubs.


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Are you googling tire shopping near me? Or looking for a tire shop in Tampa, FL? You’re in the right place. Sam the HubCap man offers various automotive services, including rim repair, custom accessories, etc. Let’s help with your car needs.

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