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How To Replace Manual Locking Hubs

Upgrade Your 4X4 to WARN Premium Manual Locking Hubs

how to replace manual locking hubs

As any off-road enthusiast knows, having functional locking hubs on your 4×4 pickup, SUV, or van is an integral part of your 4WD system. When the hubs lock, whether automatically or manually engaged, they transfer a portion of the engine’s power to the front tires, providing additional traction. However, when a hub fails, your 4WD vehicle is left with power going only to the rear wheels. At some point, you may find yourself wishing you knew how to replace manual locking hubs.

Manual hubs are actually preferred by most die-hard off-roaders because there’s no doubt the hubs are “locked” when you physically engage and disengage them by hand, whereas automatic-locking hubs don’t always engage when needed or expected. Manual hubs also provide better fuel economy than automatic hubs because fewer parts of the front drivetrain are rotating when they are unlocked.

Regardless of the type of hubs you have, years of hard use, moisture, dirt, rust, and other factors will take their toll and your hubs will all eventually fail. This is exactly what happened to one of the factory manual-locking hubs on a 2004 Ford F-350 4×4 that came into Mobile Diesel Service in Sutherlin, Oregon. So what options do you have if this happens to your vehicle?

Repairing a broken hub is actually very straightforward. You will need to replace both hubs, and, like shoes, they are sold in pairs. We replaced the OEM hubs on this Super Duty with WARN Premium Hubs, the gold standard for many 4WD owners. WARN’s premium line of replacement locking hub kits is available to fit decades of solid-axle 4×4 applications.

Shop WARN Hubs

The all-metal construction and ZA Alloy dial of these hubs ensure years of reliable performance. The hub’s dial requires a full 9/10ths of a turn to ensure positive engagement of the inner drive gear to the clutch ring, and to make sure they stay engaged, these hubs use a thick internal wave spring and heavy dial detents. WARN also covers their hubs with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

The WARN Premium Hub kit (p/n 38826) that we ordered and installed fits these pickups with Dana 60, 30-spline front axles:

  • Chevrolet/GMC – 76–90 C30, L30, V/R/K3500
  • Dodge/Ram – 90–93 D250/350 & W250/350
  • Ford  ‘77–04 F-250/F-350, ’99-’05 Excursion

Below, we outline the steps for how we removed and replaced the OEM Ford Super Duty manual-locking hubs with WARN’s Premium Manual Locking Hub kit. It only takes about 15 minutes per side.

How To Replace Your Manual Locking Hubs in 8 Steps

Step 1. Use a 9/32-inch hex bit to remove the six socket-head hub screws that hold the OEM manual locking hub’s cap in place.

Step 2: Remove the cap to expose the locking hub assembly.

Step 3: Use the blade of a small screwdriver to lift up the exposed end of the spring-like retaining ring. Pull the retainer out and discard.

Step 4: Screwing in two of the socket-head retaining screws makes an easy way to grip and pull out the hub assembly. Note rust and grime accumulation on the non-functioning OEM hub.

Step 5: Use a rag and cleaner to remove any debris that is in the hub. Then slide the new WARN hub assembly back into the hub using the supplied mounting screws as little handles.

Step 6: Install the new locking ring supplied in the kit. Make sure it’s seated in the groove in the hub.

Step 7: Align tab on the inside of the cap (arrow) with the notch (arrow) in the hub when installing the new manual locking hub’s cap assembly.

Step 8: Install the six new socket-head cap screws supplied with the WARN Premium hub kit. Torque them to 35-45 in./lbs. (not ft./lbs.). Turn the dial to make sure the hub lock mechanism moves freely between “FREE” and “LOCK.”

The WARN Premium Manual locking hubs have a Lifetime Limited Warranty. It’s good practice to lock the hubs prior to engaging 4WD or when heading into driving conditions that will require shifting the transfer case from 2WD to 4WD. Just be sure to unlock them when you shift back to 2WD.


Mobile Diesel Service: (541)-459-8939

WARN Industries: 800-543-9276

About Bruce W. Smith

A veteran automotive photojournalist with more than 30 years experience as editor, writer, photographer for national 4x4, RV, boating and outdoor consumer magazines. Over the years Bruce has been a regular contributor to such titles as Four Wheeler, Diesel Power, Off Road Adventures, Jp, Offroad, Sports Afield, Truck Trend, Motortrend, Trailer Life, Motorhome and several boating publications. Also book author: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Guide-Trailering-Your-Boat/dp/0071471642