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Old 02-20-2008, 06:36 AM   #1
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Atlas 4 wheel drive operation

Newbie here. I am looking at a 2003 Ford 4X4 SMB. I do not live too far from the location of the SMB and went to look at it one time already with a carfax report that was clean. It is at a RV dealership and I plan to go back and look again 02/20 or 02/21 and while I know how to check out all the RV related items including the solar panels, the basics on the 7.3 PSD (including litmus test for the coolant) I do not know how to engage and disengage the 4-wheel drive system. My current 4X4 (81 Ram Charger and Jeep CRD) have only one lever to engage the 4 wheel drive system. The SMB has two levers and the lettering on the knobs are gone. The seller DOES NOT have the owner’s manual and since he bought the SMB at an auction he has no idea how to operate the 4 wheel drive system. I have down loaded the SMB owner’s manual from this website and it is silent regarding the 4 wheel drive system. Can someone tell me the proper procedures (including the free spinning hubs) to see if the system goes in and out of 4 wheel drive hi / low and neutral?
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:44 AM   #2
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The forward left lever is the front axle, the forward position is L the middle is N and the rear is H.

The reward right lever is the rear axle, the forward position L, middle N and rear H.

If the front stick is in Neutral you can put the rear in L or H.

The rear stick in N you can have the front in only L.

Of course both in L or both in H, usually with the rear shifted first and the front following.

To test you can lock the hubs and put the rear in N the front in L. If the van moves you're in good shape. The atlas is hard to shift, I expecially think so in the van. However they are also as bomb-proof as you can get.

Shift with the transmission in neutral for best results. (I've shifted while driving several times now that I'm more used to the van).

I'd say more important than shifting is to inspect the Atlas fill tube (crawl under the driver side a little forward of middle and the back of the Atlas has a clear fill tube, dark reddish liquid should be approximately half way up, maybe a litte lower, no less than 1/3 don't be surprised if it's hard to see) also look for leaking/spewing from the yokes which will happen if the yoke nut isn't tight.

If there is any reasonable amount of fluid and the case looks intact I wouldn't worry about it... like I said, pretty bomb-proof.
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Old 02-20-2008, 09:52 AM   #3
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jage, thanks for the reply.
Is it safe to assume that there is very little distance difference between the left forward and reward right levers? I am looking at the pictures I took and there must not be a four (4) inch difference between the two levers.
I like the SMB and I think it will fit our needs for a going to see grandkids and as a tow vehicle (about 3,000# travel trailer) but close to $50,000 for a vehicle that has over 80,000 miles on it is a hard pill to swallow.
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:25 PM   #4
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There is very little distance between the knobs. About 4" sounds right for the front in N and the rear in H. Without measuring I think it's about 1.5" when they're both in H or L. On my Jeep's Atlas II the stick throw can be adjusted with a few nuts (haven't looked at that side of the van T-case) so the positions might vary.

80K on the 7.3L is nothing and the Atlas II in my Jeep came with a million mile warranty (don't know about the van version) so that shouldn't be an issue either.

I'd personally buy an 80K 7.3 over a 40K 6.0 just from the reliablity standpoint and I don't think there are many with the 7.3 and the SMB 4x4 (I never saw one while I was searching for mine).
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:35 PM   #5
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Okay thanks again. Now I am waiting on Ford to tell me if the VIN number has a limited slip in the rear. Strange that SMB said they did not know so I am having to ask Ford.
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Old 02-21-2008, 09:37 PM   #6
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Bubba, don’t be surprised if you have to apply pressure to the shifter(s) while shifting in and out of forward and reverse then to neutral to get it to engage. Don’t grind the gears, but at times it might be hard to get it in. If it will not go in you probably have the front shifter opposite the back or one not in neutral. You can shift on the fly in high but the hubs have to be locked in to do any good. Just adding to the confusion.
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Old 02-22-2008, 10:58 AM   #7
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This may be a stupid question, but what are the issues with leaving the hubs locked but staying in 2WD? In other words, if you are in 2WD (rear) and you have the front hubs locked, what is happening compared to unlocked?

On my Jeeps I have never had manual hubs.

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Old 02-22-2008, 12:47 PM   #8
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Steve, it will work fine, but you will be unnecessarily rotating your front axle, diff, and driveshaft all the time. Needless wear.
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Old 02-22-2008, 11:21 PM   #9
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2 wheel Drive with Hubs

Engaging your Hubs in two wheel a couple of times a month will increase your Hub life as they require lubrication , this does not take more than five to ten miles . I do this for a few miles every week .
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Old 02-23-2008, 11:14 AM   #10
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Just FYI, extended driving at high speeds (e.g. 70+ MPH) with the hubs locked (even in 2WD) can cause the front differential to puke out fluid, spraying it on the left-front shock absorber. It really freaked me out when this happened to me driving down in Baja.

And, yes, shifting the Atlas transfer case is difficult. With practice, you'll learn the finesse of driving in just the right way to unload the drive-train for an instant to allow a smooth shift. Otherwise, you can try turning off the engine before shifting.

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