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4 wheel drive/stick vs. push button??

patriot41patriot41 Posts: 2
edited March 2014 in Ford
I'm Buying a 2002 F-150 4x4.Can anyone comment on floor(stick) vs. Pushbutton (dash) 4WD.Pros/ Cons????????
thanks bob


  • sebring95sebring95 Posts: 3,241
    I've always been a fan of the manual shifter myself. I just like to have more control. Plus, many older vehicles with the push-button systems seem to have problems. Less to go wrong with the manual system IMHO. If you only plan to keep it a few years, it probably wouldn't matter.

    I've had a couple rental explorers with push-button but never needed it. Anyone comment on push-button low-range? I've never tried that either, but it seems like it would be difficult for the electronics to get right on an automatic transmission.
  • eagle63eagle63 Posts: 599
    I personally like stick shifters vs. pushbutton. A pushbutton 4wd usually uses some type of electric engaging system - which is just one more thing that could break. Whereas a stick shifter is generally a direct connection to the transfer case. Besides, a stick shifter seems more "manly" if you need a little ego boost. :)
  • Thanks for your advice.I'll go with the Manual shifter.I plan on keeping the truck for a while. I've had a 4x2 for 11+ years & 200k+ miles.
  • On almost all newer trucks push button or shifter style they both use the same electrical engagement selanoid to engage the 4x4 so by pushing the shifter it's still pushing a button under the truck.
  • sonjaabsonjaab Posts: 1,057
    MY 90 Gmc had the lever on the floor.
    MY 94 Yukon had the button
    My 97 Chevy x cab had the button
    My 01 chevy has Auto 4x4 gizmo
    Loved them all but that button thing is
    great !!!!!

    BTW: I snow plowed with them all !!!!!!!!
    Run hard and put away wet !!!
    Toyota.......HA HA !!!! (and i owned 2)
  • sonjaabsonjaab Posts: 1,057
    The GMs (and others) have (most) that bulletproof
    NPG transfer case too !!!!!!
    Also made in Syracuse NY USA
  • Everhart has a point that some of the new trucks just use a lever to push the button but in most cases this is not true. The biggest draw back of the push button systems is they can not be towed. They must be flat bedded. I can put my truck in park with the tcase in neutral and tow it anywhere. None of the push button tcases have neutral. My advise, if you lease get a push button. They are neat while they last. If you are going to keep the vehicle or do any serious off roading, stick with the basics. I had to order my new truck from the factory to get the manual setup. All the high dollar trucks on the lot come with that automatic JUNK! By the way, I have had all of them. Even the chevys with half and half. My blazer has a manual tcase with a vaccume activated front axel. Guess what? The tcase works great, the front axel doesn't!
  • In newer trucks it's the norm, manual shift linkage is now few. I to have had them all, (in 26-yrs of driving) over a doz. 4x4's. My 2000 Tahoe 4x4 You can push a combination of buttons & it's transfer case is in neutral & can be towed. So not all but many.
  • My mistake. Great to see some manufacturers comming around to practicality. The top two reasons I wouldn't have push button is the the lack of a neutral position in the tcase and the other is longevity. Seems the tahoe has eliminated one of them. Another reason to get the manual is towing. I have a 10,400lb trailer and it is nice to use low range without locking the hubs to position it in tight quarters. Easier on the tranny to. By the way my blazer was an 84.
  • mledtjemledtje Posts: 1,123
    Locking hubs seem to be a thing of the past. All the new 4wd's I've looked at have an automatic actuator for the front axles.

    Shift into 4wd HI or 4wd LO on my new Silverado (manual t-case; special ordered) and the fronts are engaged. You have to pull the 4wd fuse to get 2wd LO range.

    I still don't like the pushbutton; with the manual lever, you engage the gears for Hi Range or Lo Range; the front axles automatically engage. With the pushbutton, you select the range, and the truck engages the t-case. It is at least one more thing to fail.

    It is difficult to find manual t-cases for the same reason it is difficult to find manual transmissions: The dealers stock up on them because they make more money on each one!! If the factory limits how many trucks the dealer can order (the infamous allocation system), then the dealers stock up on the high profit trucks.

    Mike L
    '00 Silverado 2500LS 4x4 Reg Cab Longbed 6.0L 5spd
  • Yes, they seem to be going away sadly. I ordered mine through the factory on my Ford F350. I was looking at the Chevys to but you cant get manual hubs on them. If I remember right they do not have hubs but instead a center disconnect front axel due to the IFS fron end.(another thing I would never have on my truck) Ford took a step in the righ direction with dual mode hubs. They work automatically but if there is a failure you can get out and manually lock them.(The perfect compromise) Too bad they only come in the push button (knob) configuration. You can always get your hubs locked but the tcase may not engage. Oh well, they are halfway there. My blazer is like you silverado, a manual tcase but instead of an electrical actuator mine was vaccume. I have been in some pretty hairy situations and lost 4WD. If yours ever fails they sell a kit that runs a cable to the cab to physically engauge the axel.
  • tomh12tomh12 Posts: 240
    Posts. I've had 4WD since '73 Super Jeep in '73. Next Toyota Landcruiser. Both manual tranny/manual transfer. Both were in situations with deep snow where you could not shift transfer case due to ice build-up. Next came Chevy suburbans with auto tranny/manual transfer case, followed by '94 GMC 1/2 ton shorty auto/manual. All were in spots where engaging 4WD was tough, but accomplished. Currently, I have '01 GMC 3/4ld, auto/push button. Love it! I would not go back to the manual system and give up auto-trac 4WD. Mixed surface is the most tricky to me, and I love the auto system in this situation. Would not want a C3/Denali without true high/low range, but based on my 28 years of 4WD use, give me push buttons!
  • mledtjemledtje Posts: 1,123
    You trying to spoil the party? It's a lot more fun when we all agree and support each other's ideas.


    To each his own. It would be a boring world if we all thought and acted alike.

    Mike L
  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    some of the early push-buttons had problems but so did my 65 jeep J200.(stuck IN 4lo repeatedly)The Sierra 2500HD is my first auto trans auto 4x4 and it hasn't let me down(YET)
  • For anyone who has had trouble locking manual hubs do to freezing conditions or poor maintinance, there is an easy solution. Go to your local hardware store and buy a $.39 1" PVC irrigation "T". Notch the bottom to the same size as your hub dial and you have a tool that will turn even the toughest hub.
  • Give them time and all will fail. Don't get me wrong, they autos definately have their virtues. If I lived somwhere that it got cold or wet and I was not going to keep a vehicle longer than 4-5 years I would have one. Lets face it though, most of the people who buy 4X4 vehicles don't need them anyway which makes my argument moot. To each his/her own. Besides, I am outranked here as I only have 16 years experience in 5 different rigs.
  • kg11kg11 Posts: 530
    I didn't say I had confidence in them,and for mud lakes or rubicon I use the Taco with manual hubs 5spd 4" lift and BFG 33s.I like the auto and I've heard they've gotten alot better in the last few years.The sierra is not an off road vehicle.
  • I would say the bigger problem with the manufactures is the scarcity of future 2 speed tcases. All the cute ute demand is pushing them away from true 4X4's
  • minikinminikin Posts: 389
    4X4 was a 1975 K-5 Blazer with the NP-203 (full time) transfer case and an auto tranny. Loved both (Like Tom said; mixed surface driving) and I used it off-road pretty hard; but back then those two options were damn near enough to make me an outcast in the serious off-road community. I never did figure out whether I was ahead of my time or just a very lucky idiot.
    -- Don
  • I almost bought a plymouth trailduster with the NP203. Its a stout case. The only draw back to full time back then was it used more fuel and wore tires and drive components faster. Most full timers today do not have low range but your K5 did. As far as Auto trannys go, that is a matter of taste. Both have drawbacks and advantages over each other. Auto trannys are more popular now than ever but purists refute them.
  • minikinminikin Posts: 389
    I think I'd rather have a manual for trail work in a stock truck. I always liked automatics for foot on the brake/foot on the gas/don't worry about the clutch basic crawling but I'm not too sure today's (stock) transmissions would like that too much. For sure, they ain't got no compression braking!
    -- Don
  • You definately gain more speed with an auto than most serious descents will tolerate. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to manually lock up the torque converter on an auto with a toggle switch? Or if they made it lock up any time you are in low range and take your foot off the gas.
  • tomh12tomh12 Posts: 240
    Now you are on to something! I'll also agree that for a vehicle used purely off road, I'd probably go with the manual transfer case shifter. Easier to crawl under and wiggle a linkage than try to activate a selenoid.
  • mledtjemledtje Posts: 1,123
    The pushbutton is only available with an automatic transmission. A manual trans requires a manual t-case.

    When we were at an off-road park, my friend (has a similar truck, except his is automatic) was following me down some steep grades. In the middle of the day he asked if my brake lights were working. After he found out they were working, he asked why I never use my brakes going downhill.

    Love that lo-range and 5.61 1st gear.

    Mike L
    '00 Silverado 2500 4x4 Reg Cab Longbed 6.0L 5spd
  • minikinminikin Posts: 389
    steep downhill, especially slickrock, new trucks; don't forget to pull the ABS fuse.
    -- Don
  • downhill than an auto and that is ABS. The manufactures of 4X4's with ABS should follow suit with an ABS lockout switch like the airbag overide in most vehicles.

    Mledtje, I disagree about pushbuttons only being available with autos. My buddy had a late 80's early 90's ranger with a 5 speed and a push button 4X4 system(that failed of course). He could not aquire low range, gathered to much speed for an uphill tight corner and ended up high centered in a deep rain rut on a 2 to 1 slope.
    I think another good thing for an auto tranny 4X4 would be 11/2 times more low range gearing than a standard to help compensate for the lack of compression braking and a gear selector that actually selects the gear you put it in. 1st means 1st, 2nd means 2nd and so on...
  • xyz71xyz71 Posts: 179
    When I orderd my truck I wanted the manual Tcase shift - no girly push buttons for me. But then I found out that the LT I wanted only came one way. I wanted the LT more than the manual shift.

    Now I am glad I got the push button. The autotrac in the Chevy is the only way to go. I use it whenever it rains. Also works great when road is part snow/ice and part dry. I would not want a 4x4 without this feature.
  • When it fails you will wish you had orderd a manual from the factory. They are great while they work but they all eventually fail. Usually sooner than later. If you do not keep your vehicle more than 5 years/ 100k miles then you will be all right but I keep my equipment for life and then mantain it to last.
  • xyz71xyz71 Posts: 179
    when they first put A/C in cars, same with automatic tranny, power windows, locks, mirrors. I can't even imagine buying a new truck without these features. Is a hand crank window more reliable than a power one? My guess is yes, but do I want manual crank windows - no. I will take the small risk that someday my switch will fail and leave me stranded out in the sticks.

    Also if the system does fail it just stays in the last mode you were in - so it is no like it can't be driven.
  • ak4x4ak4x4 Posts: 126
    If I am not mistaken almost 90% of all 250's and 350's have a manual locking hub. It would be a waste to get an electric or button shifter. I was told that Ford did not offer automatic locking hubs when I was looking for a new truck. I was looking at the 250's and 350's before I bought my Rado. Ford was the same price point, but no EXT cab. I have a 01'base EXT cab 4x4. Yes the 4x4 is stick and has auto hubs. But in Alaska where I live would you want to get out and lock your hubs in -2 degree weather???
  • ak4x4ak4x4 Posts: 126
    Not to say that you don't have a nice truck, I have the same truck as you. But you're more concerned with options then your truck. You should be worried about the engine and such. For me I could care less about leather and power windows. Just one more thing to worry about. But don't get me wrong they are good features, but just not for me. Also take a look at your Z71 compared to a normal 4x4 sometime. My 4x4 sits higher then your z71!. Look at length in inches in the '01 brochure between a Flareside and a fleetside. Flareside more money fleetside longer and bigger. And for Autotrac, I think the system is a POS. I have a stick shifter. The autotrac will engage itself when you put it on that setting. That is unsafe. I I am going 70 and have the autotrac on automatic, then when I slip on ice, snow, or rain the system will activae the 4wd system. At that speed, boom yu've just ruined your 4x4 system! And I do live in Alaska so I do know my 4x4's.
  • eagle63eagle63 Posts: 599
    "Also if the system does fail it just stays in the last mode you were in - so it is no like it can't be driven."

    -well, maybe. My '97 Explorer recently got "stuck" in 4wd Hi. If you you know anything about part-time 4wd, you'll realize that's it's pretty difficult (not to mention extremely hard on the vehicle) to make a corner. It's made me curse pushbutton 4wd systems ever since.
  • Your point in post #30 is well taken and valid to an extent but remember that nobody ever got stranded in the middle of nowhere because their A/C quit or they couldnt get their window rolled up. Also nobody ever rolled their vehicle because the electric door lock failed at a crical point during an off camber hill climb.


    I know that ford has had auto hubs since at least 2001. 99% of the trucks on the lot today are auto hubs with electronic shift on the fly. I could not find a manual set up after searching 5 dealerships and had to order what I wanted. What may have you confused is that all of fords automatic hubs can be manually operated. Your Silverado does not have hubs. If I remember correctly it has a center disconnect front axel and IFS. As far as getting out in the weather to operate your hubs, don't. Leave them locked and just use the tcase to select two or four wheel drive until it warms up or you don't plan on using it for a while.
  • Is your 84 blazer an S10?
  • hillhoundhillhound Posts: 537
    "That is unsafe. I I am going 70 and have the autotrac on automatic, then when I slip on ice, snow, or rain the system will activae the 4wd system. At that speed, boom yu've just ruined your 4x4 system! And I do live in Alaska so I do know my 4x4's."

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding you here. I know my 4x4s also-well enough to know that the transfer case should'nt be engaged if you intend to be going 70. As a matter of fact, it's probably not a good idea to be doing 70 in any of the low-traction conditions you mentioned. Listen-if your rear-end loses traction for 1 second at that speed to the point where the Autotrac system needs to engage the front axle...your "ruined 4x4 system" will be the least of your problems!
  • mledtjemledtje Posts: 1,123
    You may have missed the point of the AutoTrac system. It can be left in auto at 70mph. If it senses wheel slippage, it will engage 4wd until the slippage is gone. It will not ruin your 4wd, cause it disengages once traction returns.

    I'll agree it might be possible to damage a 4wd system if it is left in 4hi on good traction surfaces. But, it may not damage anything - I know someone who left his truck in 4wd hi for a few hundred miles at freeway speeds (70-80) without damage to the 4wd system. Certainly that puts more stress on the driveline. 4wd auto doesn't do that.

    That said, I have a manual trans and a manual t-case, and don't want the automatic system and I certainly don't want to pay for it either.

    Mike L
  • sonjaabsonjaab Posts: 1,057
    I have the auto trac in my 01 2500 ld
    and make a 200 mile round trip hauling a
    snow plow up interstate 81 once a week.
    Mounted on the nose not in the bed either.
    I will drive 60 or so in autotrac mode
    sometimes in just 4 Hi.
    Don't bother me at all and
    don't worry about breakage on drivetrain !
    If the snowplowing won't kill it....
    I put about 200 miles on it going back
    and forth JUST plowing x-mas week too !
    Just crusin' up the highway can't hurt !
    Just my .02..........Geo
  • lariat1lariat1 Posts: 461
    The autotrac system does not put your truck into 4wd all it does is tranfer some of the torque to the front wheels. If you would like to test it go get a set of ramos and try to drive up them using auttrac in the winter. What will happen is the rear wheels will start to slip then the front wheels will grab if they start to slipp the rear wheels wil spin and you go nowhere. When you lock the transfer case in 4 hi then the front wheel will spin the same as the rear wheel(s). The reason you can leave autotrac on all the time is because the front end is not directly coupled to the rear end in that mode.
  • When you drive with autotrac switched on, your transfer case is engaged (front driveshaft spinning), but the front axle is disengaged, so no torque applied up front. When slip is sensed, the front axle is locked, now putting you into 4hi. After a period of no slip, the axle is unlocked again. But the transfer case remains engaged if autotrac is selected. Lariat is wrong, because the autotrac does put the truck into 4Hi, and you can go up a ramp in autotrac just like 4Hi. He's right to say you can leave it on all the time because until slip is sensed, the front axle is decoupled from the transfer case. When autotrac is switched off, the transfer case is disengaged, and the front driveshaft stops spinning.
  • dch0300dch0300 Posts: 472
    So now I'm curious.
    Was AK4x4 right when he said...
    "I am going 70 and have the autotrac on automatic, then when I slip on ice, snow, or rain the system will activae the 4wd system. At that speed, boom yu've just ruined your 4x4 system! "?
    Can you do 70 mph while in 4HI and not damage your truck?
  • lariat1lariat1 Posts: 461
    If you are in auto trac your transfer case is not engaged it is in "standby" when your rear wheels slip it engages and the front wheels recieve torque then when there is no more slipping the t-case disengages and it is in rear wheel drive. IF your tires continue to slip then it will fully engage into 4-hi.
  • lariat1lariat1 Posts: 461
    Also I am not to sure why you would be going 70 mph and need 4wd at that time. I am thinking you only need 4wd when it is slippery, if you are going 70 mph see you in the ditch with or without 4wd. Just asking.
  • >If you are in auto trac your transfer case is not engaged it is in "standby"....<

    This statement is false. There is no "standby" for the GM transfer case. It's on or off. "On" in autotrac, 4HI and 4Lo, "off" at other times. When the autotrac button is pressed, your transfer case is engaged, and your front driveshaft turns. But torque is NOT delivered to the front wheels until the front axle is also locked. It is the front axle that remains in a "standby" state until slip is sensed. You're not in 4Hi until BOTH the transfer case is engaged AND the front axle is locked.

    This is how Autotrac (tm) works on GM trucks. Are you talking about something else on Dodges?
  • While there is no need or advantage to driving with autotrac system on at 70 mph, you will not do short term damage from engaging 4Hi, since all the wheels are turning at the same speed, 70 mph. But you are causing needless long term wear and tear by running the part time system on the highway.
  • Hey... Great topic goin here... :) I don't know much about the autotrac option cause I have a 94 Z71 with the good ol stick on the floor.. I have used fourwheel drive doing 90 kilometers per hour.. The reason being that when you are on the highway and you want to pass a car and the roads are either covered in slush or snow, when you press down on the accelerator your back wheels start to spin and you quickly find your rear end fish tailing.. But other then that, steady cruising in 2 wheel drive is all that is needed..

    Swoosh Man
  • hillhoundhillhound Posts: 537
    "While there is no need or advantage to driving with autotrac system on at 70 mph, you will not do short term damage from engaging 4Hi, since all the wheels are turning at the same speed, 70 mph. But you are causing needless long term wear and tear by running the part time system on the highway. "

    That's what I was thinking too-it's not like your front wheels/axles are forced to go from 0 to 70 in a split second when the power tranfers to them. The front wheels are turning along with the rear so there's not as much stress delivered to them as ak would like to have us believe!! And you also are right when you say while the Autotrac is engaged, the transfer case is engaged (on) and the front propeller shaft is also moving-there's just no power delivered to it unless a rear wheel slips!!
  • xyz71xyz71 Posts: 179
    Like I said before - I wanted the stick - but now that I have used autotrac I would not want to go back to 1980 technology. It makes a 4x4 more useful in normal driving situations - rain covered roads for example.

    I will admit - shifting into / out of 4x4 with a stick is easier than trying to find a button to push at 40 + MPH. That is why I just leave the truck in autotrac when the road is slick.
  • For anyone who is concerned, you can run in 4HI as fast as you can go in 2HI without any damage. The front axel is designed to operate identically to the rear. This is good for high speed cornering like when you are running through desert washes or faily smooth fire roads. The only way you will damage your 4WD system is operating continuously in high traction situations such as on the street. Also,you may do better in the rain and snow in 2WD. If you have a long wheelbase vehicle and a locking or 50/50 split tcase the front tires will fight the rear tires during turning causing a skid. It is best to leave your vehicle in 2WD until you have a traction problem, then select 4HI to get you moving, then back to 2 Hi for maximum control while turning. If you are in very icy conditions and need constant 4WD to operate then try to turn wider to compensate.
  • lariat1lariat1 Posts: 461
    Ok I guess the auto trac is different than most of the other transfer cases I will accept that but I still have one question about how it operates. When the rear wheels are slipping what keeps the gears from "ratcheting" until the gears finally mesh? If you are unsure what "ratcheting" is it is when the rear wheels are spinning faster that tne front wheels and the "button" is pushed to go into 4-hi. The only way I know of to eliminate this is to have a viscous coupling in the center to allow the power to tranfer to the front wheels. I know this is how the Ford, Jeep, and Toyota all work.
    By the way I guess I am old fashioned I like to feel the front end engage when I pull the lever it is one of the reasons I got a ram.
  • The autotrac system is a simple adaptation of the anti-lock brake sensors to a conventional part time 4x4 system. To prevent ratcheting, I believe it relies on little more than a speedy engagement of the front AXLE (actuated by an electric servo motor), before the wheel slip gets more than a few degrees out. But in any case, autotrac is not designed to be an off-road feature (where wheels are coming up off the ground), but is intended simply for slick on-road conditions.
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