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Free-Wheeling Hubs and Towing a 2000 Geo Tracker 2-Door


Bird 13
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  • Moses Ludel changed the title to Free-Wheeling Hubs for 2000 Geo Tracker 2-Door
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Bird 13...There are a range of hubs and prices available.  I have always used Warn hubs.  Here is an example at Amazon, you can price shop from there.  Any quality kit will include instructions on how to install the hubs. 

These are pricey; however, if you  want to flat tow the Tracker, you do want durable, reliable hubs.  If a hub becomes half engaged or seizes while towing, you would have a control and safety issue plus stress on the Tracker's front differential and driveline:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000CQI06S/ref=au_as_r?_encoding=UTF8&Make=Chevrolet|47&Model=Tracker|500&Year=2000|2000&ie=UTF8&newVehicle=1&vehicleId=1&vehicleType=automotive

A call to Warn's tech support would like provide a PDF copy of the installation instructions.  You can make an informed choice about how the hubs work, the fit and whether you want to perform the installation.  Outer hubs are not a difficult task if you have good instructions.

Moses

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Thanks, Moses.  I have installed free wheeling hubs on older Trackers.  Reason I was asking, I talked to a Tracker/Sidekick Salvage yard and was told the newer ones (2nd Gen) are different and have an air assist to shift into four wheel drive and that you may have to modify before installing hubs.  But told me to check with forums first to see if anyone has done that to a 2000 Tracker.

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Bird 13...Let's confirm this.  Every hub source says its hubs "fit".   But will they work with your powertrain design?

In drilling down at the Warn official website, there are two hubs sets shown.  One is a traditional flat flange with larger screws, the other is an internal, 35-spline design.  Here is the link for Premium and Standard hubs, the MSRP is quite high, Amazon pricing reflected a strong discount...There are also less expensive brand hubs available in the market:  https://www.warn.com/products-premium-manual-4wd-hubs.  Confirm which hub style you have, internal spline (35 spline) or the flat flange with heavier screws (six) that has 26-splines.  Check out the link.

I'm puzzled why Warn is not footnoting these free-wheeling hubs with comments about axle disconnect systems and other issues.  If they fit but do not work properly with your powertrain, that's would not be appropriate.  

Your other point is well taken.  I'm exploring the axle disconnect system on these Trackers.  Some talk about welding the front axle actuator.  Jeep YJ Wranglers had a front axle disconnect system (vacuum actuated), and now the 2018-up models have returned to a front axle disconnect (FAD).  This is an alternative to free-wheeling hubs, although it does not keep the differential pinions from whirring away within the front axle.  With an FAD system, there is a limited amount of drag, the driveline does not spin into the transfer case, and there is less frictional loss.  One front axle shaft and the opposite partial/outer axle shaft (outboard of the disconnect) still spin with the wheels.  

Free-wheeling hubs disconnect at the end of each axle shaft.  With free-wheeling hubs in free mode, the only turning parts are the wheel hubs on their spindles.  However, you cannot run free-wheeling hubs with an FAD in its disconnect mode.  You do need to consider your Tracker's front axle system.  

Do you have an automatic transmission?  Any other information you can share?

Moses

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Bird 13...I went to lengths in search of a responsible example of installing free-wheeling hubs and exploring, actually eliminating, the actuator disconnect system.  In a routine search, I found DIY Metal Fabrication.  They do metal/mechanical work and approach their work responsibly.  "Paul" offers comments, does the footwork and provides substantial illustrations. 

Eliminating the disconnect system is not simple if done correctly.  Some forums discuss doing this impromptu or homespun, which may be okay for a trail buggy.  For toting at interstate speeds behind a motorhome, the approach DIY Metal Fabrication took is more professional and responsible.  Paul even talks about the health risks of using the wrong parts cleaner and heating it into the lethal gas phosgene.  There is an earnest effort to assist the viewer, including videos and clear photo steps.

The hub installation is straightforward.  By contrast, eliminating the actuator function involves several sequenced, specific steps (including the air actuation of the clutch and aligning the mechanism properly before welding.  There's concern for removing every trace of loose metal, slag and MIG spatter.  Review these two articles, the illustrations, comments and videos:

https://www.diymetalfabrication.com/how-to-install-manual-hubs-on-vitara-tracker/

https://www.diymetalfabrication.com/vitara-tracker-permanent-4wd-differential-actuator-fix/

Done properly, this job is not for the faint of heart.  I have welded differential spider gears to create a vintage "locker" on an authentic and valuable vintage race car.  My welding process of choice was a liquid cooled TIG/GTAW torch, using a specialized, metallurgic-match filler rod from the tool-and-die industry.  Any welding around axle parts affects the case hardening, tensile and stamina of the parts.  TIG penetrates deeply and locally, confining the heat affected zone (HAZ) better than other welding processes.  If welding on or near the actual gears, the process requires disassembly of all parts, a trip to the heat treating shop for "normalizing" the gears to remove case hardening, welding with a filler rod identical to the base metal/gear, then re-heat treating to the same depth of case and Rockwell C hardness as the original part.  Fortunately, the axle actuator welding is not on the gear teeth.

It appears that most who do this actuator eliminator approach want to get rid of the system due to parts failures, age or not suitable to their driving needs.  (One owner wanted a 2WD low range mode for a steep paved driveway; he wanted to run free wheeling hubs to accomplish this.) 

The welding described by DIY Metal Fabrication eliminates the axle disconnect function at one side of the differential.  Jeep YJs did the same thing further out on the beam axle with a two-piece axle shaft and disconnect.  According to some Amazon reviews, hub customers are just installing the free-wheeling hubs and leaving the actuator intact and functional. 

I know you're simply trying to flat tow the Tracker.   Short of the measures described to eliminate the actuator function, I would consider two simpler approaches:  1)  leave the system intact and use quality synthetic lube in the transfer case and front axle or 2) get a good used two-wheeled car dolly (Kar Caddy, Demco, etc.) and lift the front end completely from the road for towing. 

My approach is a tandem axle car hauler flat deck trailer for our XJ Cherokee or any other 4x4.  I haven't flat towed a Jeep since the late 1960s, and that cost me a Ross cam-and-lever steering gear.  Flat towing can be rough on the steering system of any towed vehicle.  Backing up a flat towed vehicle is nearly impossible.  Locking the steering column will break the lock mechanism or worse.  Where to shift the transfer case and transmission for towing is always an issue...There is a laundry list of reasons why I trailer rather than flat tow.

Moses

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Moses,

Thanks for all the valuable info.  That is more than I want to get myself into.

Good points on towing...going to re-think traveling plans.  I guess the old saying is correct. 'If it has 'T''s or tires, expect trouble'.

Again, thanks for the info!

Jay

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You're welcome, Jay...Apparently there are some who are just installing the manual free-wheeling hubs without consideration for the actuator disconnect system.  The anecdotal vote from Tracker owners at Amazon reviews seem upbeat on this subject.  It's not clear how long they have tried this approach.

Even DIY Metal Fabrication begins with just installing the manual free-wheeling hubs and not dealing with the actuator system.  They went on to terminate the actuator, in their view, to eliminate a potential trouble area.  They wanted to avoid replacing failed actuator pumps.  However, for the amount of work involved with the welding and other modifications, including removal of the entire drive axle assembly to do the work properly, I would opt for installing a new actuator pump.

Anyway, my suggestion would be a call to the tech support line at Warn Industries and maybe other hub manufacturers.  Ask whether there are issues if you install the manual locking hubs and leave the factory actuator system intact.  This would at least raise the question to a manufacturer's level.  The question must come up there.  The call could clarify whether the Suzuki/Tracker actuator disconnect system is compatible with installing free-wheeling hubs.

Beyond that, consider my comments about a dolly.  I prefer a tandem axle trailer, but that is a large and heavy platform for a motorhome and overkill for toting a Tracker.  The dolly is quick to set up and steers readily with the towed vehicle strapped in place.  Towing this way takes a load off the entire Tracker front end, the drive system and the steering.  You can back up the towed vehicle without disconnecting or unloading.  Higher end dollies have disc brakes, which is nice if the towed vehicle is weighty and requires braking.  These dollies are popular in the RV world and often sell for 25%-35% of their original cost for a good used one.  They are easy to handle and usually stand upright for tighter storage. 

To tow, you place the transfer case and manual transmission in the recommended gear position.  For towing most 4x4s with a manual transmission, the transfer case is placed in Neutral, and the transmission is shifted to a low gear.  This keeps the transmission's output shaft from rotating and burning up the transmission bearings.  There would be no resistance from either axle, and the chain in the transfer case would spin components to move lubricant through the transfer case.  Check the owner's handbook for the recommended tow settings and precautions.

When towing at interstate speeds in summer heat, make sure the transfer case is not getting too hot.  Use an inexpensive infrared surface tester to avoid burning your fingers!   Stopping for fuel or food is a good time to spot check the transfer case temperature.  Use quality, recommended synthetic lubricant in the transfer case, transmission and axles.

We're both up the learning curve on the Suzuki/Tracker actuator pump front axle disconnect system and use of free-wheeling hubs.  Worth the time.

Moses 

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  • Moses Ludel changed the title to Free-Wheeling Hubs and Towing a 2000 Geo Tracker 2-Door

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