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Manual hubs vs. live axle - worth it?

Dave18

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Hi everybody,

I'm halfway through converting my 2002 B3000 Dual Sport (Edge) to 4x4, and it's time to decide on a hub setup. I was originally planning on using the '98-2000 CV axles and buying the Rugged Ridge manual hubs for them, but am also drawn to the simplicity and (relative) strength of the later live axles.

First off - does anyone know whether the 98-2000 PVH-based system had any differences in the steering knuckles or Dana 35 axle housing? I already bought the 2002 version of those parts, so if there was a difference that will make my decision easy!

Secondly, what is the consensus on the Rugged Ridge hubs? Are they worth the trouble? I've heard they tend to grenade under heavy use, but I only have 31" BFGs behind the 3.0 Vulcan. I'm wondering if most of the horror stories are from more powerful rigs and/or bigger tires? I really like the idea of being able to unlock everything on the road for gas mileage and reduced bearing wear, etc. Also would be nice if I managed to snap a CV joint...

Anyway I was curious to see if anyone had a strong opinion. Thanks in advance!
 


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4.0blue98

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I put a set of AVM on mine after the PVH failed 5 years ago. I like the manual hub idea. I think the same company makes the AVMs and the Rugged Ridge. I haven't had any trouble with mine and I've used them quite a bit but not anything too aggressive.
 

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I like the live axle idea. It seems that I would always forget to lock the hubs until I was in a snowbank or mud puddle, so the live axle is way better for me.
 

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I think Live Axles extends the life of the CVs and differential by keeping them in motion all the time, i.e. lubed, vs DRY STARTS when manual hubs are locked
But just an opinion, I don't have any stats on it

Would be interesting to see how many 1998-2000 CV shafts are sold vs the 2001-2011 CV shafts, 3 years vs 10 years

The propeller joint will wear out regardless, lol
 

Dave18

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Interesting - I hadn't thought about the better lubrication with a live axle... I was just thinking less cycles with the manual hubs would mean less wear, but you're probably right that most of the wear comes from dry starts!

I'm not too worried about the risk of forgetting them off-road... I'd probably just lock 'em where the pavement ends and let them spin the driveshaft and diff till I need 4x4. I also fairly regularly use low range to get into my parking spot (steep driveway haha) so realistically they'd likely get lubricated at least once a week.

4.0Blue98 - have you ever kept track of mileage with and without the hubs locked? Is there a noticable difference or no? I'm guessing not but that would be another benefit if so.
 

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Ford did that study, live axle vs unlocked, can't find the link anymore
It was 0.2 to 0.3 less MPG with a 4.0l SOHC, so in my opinion not an issue

If MPG was a concern then most wouldn't have an extra 300-400lbs associated with a front drive axle and transfer case, lol
Or 30"+ diameter tires

There are other studies for 2WD vs AWD cars and SUVs
 

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I think Live Axles extends the life of the CVs and differential by keeping them in motion all the time, i.e. lubed, vs DRY STARTS when manual hubs are locked
But just an opinion, I don't have any stats on it

Would be interesting to see how many 1998-2000 CV shafts are sold vs the 2001-2011 CV shafts, 3 years vs 10 years

The propeller joint will wear out regardless, lol
My old F-150 has 200k on it, the only time I ever put a CV shaft in it was for a torn boot. Even then the shaft still ran fine and was fine inside.

It has a CAD so the shafts run all the time for what that is worth.

Ford did that study, live axle vs unlocked, can't find the link anymore
It was 0.2 to 0.3 less MPG with a 4.0l SOHC, so in my opinion not an issue.
One would think that, the new Ranger is live too.

And yet they still keep riding the struggle bus trying to figure out an automatic hub system for half tons that works well...

Our Bronco has a live front axle (because it has the fancier t-case) and it flirts with 25mpg which isn't bad for a brick on 32 AT's with 4.46 gears.

Personally I would go live...
 

Dave18

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Thank you guys I really appreciate all the real world feedback! I'm thinking live axle parts may be easier to come by too, since they were just made for so many more years. I guess I just had it in my head that those CV shafts were weak parts that needed to be used as little as possible. Now that I give it more thought - while they are turning in 2wd they aren't really under load, so that probably makes a difference as far as wear is concerned.
 

Dave18

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Here's another question... does anyone know if there is a difference in the CV shafts from 2000-2002 vs 2002 up? Tasca is showing the 2002 versions discontinued and a version from 2003-2011 still available. I didn't think there was any difference between the switch to live axle in 2000 through production end... I'm just hoping the the new version fits the 2002 steering knuckles I ordered. Or I could just buy an aftermarket CV shaft I guess.
 

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In the later versions of the Ranger, it is "lowered" a couple inches to improve fuel economy. Based on the geometry, it would therefore be possible to shorten the CV shafts a fraction of an inch. When you're making Rangers in the 100s of thousands/year, a little bit adds up. I had the exact axle lengths somewhere but I can't find it at moment.

If your Ranger doesn't have torsion bars cranked up and you don't use the skinny pedal excessively when at full extension/rebound, probably no issues with using newer axles in older truck - most of the aftermarket guys have switched to new part number as replacement for all years.
 

Dave18

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Ohhh that makes sense - hence the "pre-key" mod. Thanks for clarifying, I was trying to figure out what the difference was since it seems like most of the other suspension parts are compatable from 2000 on out!

I'll order the newer shafts that are still in stock from Ford then - might as well get OEM versions of them if I can. I haven't touched the torsion bars, but if I do I won't crank them more than an inch anyway... still wary of the CV joints after all, haha!
 

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