Product Review: Off Road Solutions Manual Hub Conversion Kit
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By: Mark Griese - 5/03

Manual Hub Kit

With the Off Road Solutions Manual Hub Conversion Kit, late model Tacomas, 4Runners, and Tundras with the Automatic Differential Disconnect (ADD) four wheel drive system can safely be lifted higher. Once the Warn manual hubs are installed, you have the option of completely disengaging the front wheels from the axle shafts. This eliminates unnecessary wear on CV joints and boots caused by a spring lift over 2 inches. The kit will leave your ABS and ADD fully functional, and comes with original Toyota parts and custom components manufactured just for your vehicle.

This kit replaces the wheel hub and the outer portion of the shaft which will allow the installation of either the factory Aisin hubs, or the Warn hubs supplied with this kit. From the factory, the ADD on these vehicles will not disconnect the front axle shafts from the wheels or the differential gears. So even in 2WD, there is some wear on the front axle components and loss of gas mileage, however slight. ARB also recommends installing manual hubs when using their Air Locking Differential in the Toyota ADD front axle. With an ARB locker and ADD, an accidental engagement of the Air Locker while driving could potentially cause extensive damage to the ring and pinion, CV joints, or the locker itself.



Parts included in the kit

Pre-assembled wheel hub

I was surprised to learn that most of the parts in the kit were custom made for Off Road Solutions. Wherever possible, the design was made stronger than the original Toyota parts, and ORS provides a two year warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. Warn offers a lifetime warranty on their hubs. The staff at Off Road Solutions was helpful and patient in explaining what is included and the level of technical ability that would be required for the installation. The sixty pound box containing my Tacoma Kit (# ORS-HB001) arrived without damage. The quality of all the components was impressive. The outer joints came pre-greased and sealed from contamination with a plastic cap. The wheel hubs are pre-assembled with the studs, bearings and brass inserts, and were wrapped in the corrosion inhibiting kraft paper. The axle shafts are noticeably much thicker than the Toyota shafts, and come fully heat-treated. Everything was wrapped and bagged to protect it during shipping.

I took their advice and had a professional mechanic install the kit. This project took about five hours to complete. Several specialized tools and fixtures were required. Before starting, be sure to have differential gear oil, thread locking compound, wheel bearing grease, and brake cleaner on hand.


Installation

The knuckle has to be removed from the vehicle to install several of the components. Once the knuckle was off, we were ready for the press work. This was the point where ORS strongly recommended having the assistance of a qualified technician and access to a hydraulic press. The existing wheel bearing is pressed out and the supplied new wheel bearing is pressed in its place. ORS offers a fixture to support the knuckle during the press work. The instructions are detailed and clear, and must be followed to prevent damage to the knuckle from improperly removing or installing the bearings. ORS also suggested that you could take the knuckles to a competent shop if you are considering installing this kit at home. One of the last steps to finishing the knuckles is to torque the hub lock nut to 203 ft.-lbs. ORS offers a special hub locknut socket to use, but it is also possible to fabricate a socket.

Toyota wheel bearing Pressing the bearings Locknut staked onto hub

Next, the CV axle assemblies are removed from the differential. ORS supplies new axle shafts and outer CV joints, along with the necessary clips, snap rings, and boot clamps to assemble the new axles. The existing Tacoma inner CV joint will be installed on the new axle shaft. You will need to supply the CV joint grease, which can be found at any auto parts store. I chose to use new Toyota boot kits since they came with the recommended amounts of grease, inner and outer boots, and boot clamps. These cost about $35 per side, but give the installation a new factory look. After the CV assemblies are re-installed in the differential, the knuckle, brake caliper, and brake rotor are installed in reverse order of the way you disassembled them. Once the knuckle is on, studs are provided to mount the Warn locking hub on the new wheel hub.

New outer joint Inner joint is reused New CV assemblies

The only part we used that was not in the kit, or already mentioned, was a boot kit for the upper ball joint. The upper joints have to be separated to get the knuckles off, so I had two boot kits on hand, and we ended up only using one of them. We did not run into any problems installing this kit. The instructions were fairly easy to follow. But they do not have any illustrations in them. So if you are considering installing this at home, you might want to ask your Toyota dealer for permission to copy a few relevant pages from the Factory Service Manual. When we were finished, I got a big grin watching the axle lock and unlock for the first time! With the truck back on the ground and ready to roll, my first comment was "This is the way Tacomas should come from the factory."


Warn hubs Finished installation

Comments

As of July 2003 and a couple thousand miles of use, I'm happy to report that I have not had any issues with this kit. The Automatic Differential Disconnect(ADD) and the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) work just as they did from the factory. Never having owned a vehicle with manual hubs before this, I had wondered if I would forget to lock them, or if they would get too hot (here in Arizona) to touch with bare hands. Well, we always air down the tires at the start of the trail, so this is an easy reminder to lock the hubs, and un-lock them as we air up when leaving the trail. If you haven't added a hard locker in the front differential, you can shift back and forth between 2WD and 4WD, drive on pavement, or whatever, just as you did with the ADD before installation of the kit.

After installation I had two issues with the way the CV boots were installed. One inner boot did not have the pressure equalized prior to being clamped. It had enough vacuum inside to collapse the fins of the boot. I was lucky enough to create an air gap between the boot and the axle to let some air in to equalize it. One of the outer boots leaked grease over several days, so this one had to be pulled back, re-greased, and a new clamp installed. I also raised the suspension lift another inch, so it is now three inches over stock. With the kit installed and the axles not turning, I know the fins on the boots touching is not a concern. But it is my impression that the way ORS designed the boot grooves on the axle shafts causes the boots to be stretched out farther, and they rub less. Thumbs up to ORS for creating a trouble free Manual Hub Conversion!

Outer Boot fins Inner boot fins


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