By Ryan Boudreau, Colorado Crew
Gone are the days when manual locking hubs were considered normal for a 4wd vehicle. Nowadays, everything is switch or knob activated and weak unit bearings are the driving force behind nearly every solid axle front end. Although convenient for the daily driver, this setup leaves much to be desired from not only the hardcore wheeler, but also the weekend warrior.
See, when you are using a unit bearing or a drive flange setup, your front axle internals are always spinning regardless of if you are in 2wd or 4wd. It doesn’t matter if you are driving down the block to grab some milk, or if you are camping out on the Rubicon for the weekend, all the mechanical parts in your front axle are wearing down with each mile you drive. This is where locking hubs have a lot of benefit.
Having the ability to completely unlock the front internals is fantastic. No need to worry about how we are getting off the trail with the broken front shaft without doing any more serious damage. Just unlock those hubs and the front end no longer turns. Increased gas mileage due to less rolling resistance? Yes please! There are just so many benefits to the offroader that I’m shocked manual hubs are not a factory option. However, there are a number of aftermarket options out there for you. I decided to purchase a set of Yukon Hardcore Locking Hubs made by Yukon Gear and Axle.
First impressions are everything, right? Well, right from the start, I was highly impressed with the packaging. The hubs are packaged in their own box and then put into a larger box filled with packing peanuts, thus ensuring their safety just in case brown santa gets a little careless.
When you open the box, all your bolts, snap rings, and small items are sealed in a ziplock bag. The driver, cam, and selectors are all shrink wrapped and everything is nice and neat. Yukon also includes a nice installation booklet. Once I opened everything, it was clear these things were complete beef compared to my old locking hubs. Obviously, that shouldn’t have been a surprise considering these are made entirely out of steel and have zero plastic in them.
The install is pretty easy if you can follow the directions. It did take some work compressing the coil springs and getting the snap rings on, but I got it after some choice language. One thing I learned after installing the first hub though, is that there IS such a thing as using TOO much grease. I packed so much grease in the first hub, that I actually created a suction between the coupler and driver that the coil spring wasn’t able to overcome, thus when I turned the selector to unlock, the driver wouldn’t separate and the hub remained locked. After assembling the other side, and disassembling the first one a couple times, I finally figured out my mistake. So while looking through my pictures, just keep telling yourself, “That’s WAY too much grease!”.
I took it to the trails the next day and tested it all out!
I will say that the selector is certainly more difficult to turn than my previous hubs were, but I didn’t need any special tool for it. I also noticed by the end of the day, they were much easier to turn than when I first installed them, so I think just working them a bit helped. It was also easier to unlock them once I was on flat ground, in 2wd, and there was no load on them. I tried to unlock them earlier at one point, and they just wouldn’t budge. I was also still on the trail on a slight downhill leaning to the driver side.
I didn’t have any issues all day. They did exactly what they were supposed to. I may not have been on a very hard trail, but for a simple test, this worked fine. I am very confident these are going to last, and if something were to happen, Yukon has a fantastic warranty, so I am not worried at all like I was in the past.