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Depending on the vehicle, there may be externally locking (warn) hubs on the front wheels. These have to be manually dis-engaged at the wheel hubs by rotating a fitting at the center of the hub. Otherwise, there should be a shift lever or switch inside the vehicle that will dis-engage the 4WD
if you engage the 4wd in the cab and it doesnt engage, but you can move the arm at the front axle and then it does engage, you probably have a vacuum leak causing the actuator to not work. That model truck was bad about that. There is now an aftermarket kit you can install that works manually from inside the cab to engage/disengage the front axle.
First thing to do is engage the lock out hubs on the front axels if it has them, they should say "free" or "lock". Turn them to lock. Then inside the cab on the floor hump will be the 2H 4H N 2L slector. Pull the slector lever into 4H and you are in 4WD high range. Do not drive the truck in 4WD on dry pavement, only gravel/dirt or snow. The minor difference between the front and rear wheel speeds will "wrap up" the driveline and make it hard to pull the lever out of 4WD. It is recommended that you back the truck up at least 10 feet after you remove it from 4WD to "unwrap" the drivelines. Your choice as to disengaging the front hubs, but it will save wear and tear on the front axels and dirveshaft if you disengage.
sounds like the seals are gone on the 4wd shaft, it takes oil pressure to keep the 4wd off, but if the seals are worn the all passes through and the 4wd will not dissingage, you will need a experianced michanic