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4X4 High intermittenly engages without cause; noise from front end.

(2002 Ford Explorer)
in Pearland, TX on September 08, 2010
Has anybody had this proplem. What could cause this.
The 4X4 High light intermittently comes on (normal dry flat road). The front end of the car makes a noise like something is rubbing against a tire, a whining noise. I press the 4X4 Auto button and all goes back to normal. This occurs mostly before the car gets to a good operating temp and sometimes with a thump-thump noise in the rear end. Otherwise the SUV runs well. Over 115000 miles.
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