Written and Photos by: Christian Sturtz
Most modern production vehicles are not equipped with locking/selectable hubs, but rather the axle shaft is mechanically connected to the wheel hub. This type of non-locking hub does have some benefits. It is simple, virtually maintenance free, and is often lighter than locking hubs. However, these non-locking hubs do have several down falls. Their maintenance free design makes the wheel bearings/hub assembly non-serviceable in most cases, which means the whole unit must be replaced if the wheel bearings become loose or worn out. Additionally, to replace original equipment hub assemblies you are going to be out several hundred dollars. The mechanical connection also causes wear on the drivetrain parts because the axle shafts are constantly turning, which wears out u-joints, differential bearings, ring and pinion, and transfer case bearings.
Alternatively, locking hubs allow you to connect and disconnect the axle shaft from the wheel hub, by typically rotating a knob. Locking hubs do have a few downfalls. They are more complex than non-locking hubs, are not quite as strong, and are heavier (because they have more parts). In our opinion, their benefits far outweigh the few downfalls previously mentioned. Locking hubs, while unlocked, increase fuel mileage, because the only thing turning is the bearings and the wheel hub. While unlocked, they also decrease wear on drivetrain parts that would be turning constantly with non-locking hubs. Additionally, locking hubs make the vehicle more streetable and allow you to run an aggressive traction device in the front end (such as a locker) without feeling the effects on the street, because the hubs can be unlocked.
Another benefit is that if you break an axle or u-joint on one side, and are unable to fix it where you are, you can unlock the hub on that side and it would minimize the collateral damage from the broken parts. Having locking hubs would also give you a 2-wheel-drive low range. By putting the vehicle in 4low and not locking the hubs, you are able to pull or push things in a controlled manner. Additionally, it is nice for cruising slow on backcountry roads without having the feedback feeling you would normally experience in the steering wheel while in 4low. Finally, a locking hub kit, such as the Spin-Free kit by Yukon Gear and Axle, has serviceable parts. So, if something wears out or needs attention the parts can be maintained or replaced as needed, not as an assembly, which in the long run saves you money.
These kits have applications for many models and this installation would be nearly identical on most applications. We chose to install the kit that uses the bigger Hardcore Yukon hubs. This kit does change the wheel bolt pattern from 5 on 4 ½” to 5 on 5 ½”. There is also a kit that uses smaller, not as strong hubs, and does not change the bolt pattern, it is part #: YA WU-07.
Yukon Gear and Axle
10411 Airport Road
Everett, WA 98204
Spin-Free Kit: YA WU-08
Front Inner Left: YA D73898-1X
Front Inner Right: YA-W38875