COAL: 1998 GMC Yukon – Toy Hauler

All pictures are of the actual truck.

Having a camper was (and is) a lot of fun. We were hauling our new Coleman popup with our 1998 Dakota, but when my friend decided to upgrade to a newish Cadillac CTS wagon, he offered me his Yukon at a good price. Having known the truck, it was a no-brainer to buy.

Aside from the ’67-’72 trucks, these GMT-400’s were my favourite trucks.  To me, they seemed to be a well-made, refined truck, but comfortable like a car.  The styling was pretty good, too.  This particular Yukon was a SLT, which I believe gave one leather bucket seats, and an overhead console.  It was pretty nice.

I replaced the buckets and console with a split bench.

Everything was laid out sensibly, and felt reasonably well-made. The front seats, though had a weird crown in the middle, and were hard on the back. I was lucky enough to get a split bench to fit it, and put it in.  Much better!

Powering the whole affair was the Vortec 350 and 4L60E. Having 150,000 KM when I got it, it wasn’t high mileage, but had some issues over the years. The intake manifold gaskets were done before I got it, and it also was hard on distributor caps. After the caps would get a year or two old, the truck would start misfiring to the point that it wouldn’t go.

The bane of the Vortec’s ignition system.

The distributor cap was of a design that would allow all of the left side plug wires to connect to the left side of the cap, and vice versa. To do this, the conductors ran inside the plastic cap housing to the proper side. After a while of being exposed to high voltage, I suspect the insulation would break down where the conductors were close, and it would misfire.  It was a pretty kludgy setup. A new cap would always clear it up.

Other than that, it had a few little issues. The transmission would start shifting harshly once it would get hot, so I replaced it before it failed. The front ABS sensors had failed, and required replacing the whole bearing, despite the fact they weren’t bad. The bearing had turned enough in the housing that it damaged the sensors. No wonder I couldn’t get the old sensors out. The brakes weren’t great either, only becoming marginal with the installation of a set of EBC pads and a new set of rotors in front.

Beautiful New Glasgow Highlands campground in PEI.

With the truck being in nice shape, we started venturing further and further afield. We went to PEI and New Brunswick a few times with the Coleman, but with a young daughter, we found it to be too much work setting up and taking down.  With the Canadian dollar at par, we and my parents planned a two-week summer vacation trip to Maine and New Hampshire. A better option was needed.

The new-to-us camper.

We found a nice, pre-owned travel trailer in Shediac, NB. It was early May, and with the Yukon down for a transmission replacement, we borrowed my father-in-law’s 2009 F-150 to get it. Once the new transmission was put in, I installed a transmission temperature gauge to make sure I didn’t exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. We did a few long weekend camping trips with the Yukon, and learned some things.  You couldn’t tow in Overdrive on anything but flat land, and there’s not much flat land here.  The torque converter would unlock and the transmission temperature would spike.  Leaving it in Drive allowed the torque to stay locked and stay cool, but rev at 2500-3000 RPM on the highway.  The end result was fuel economy around 8 MPG, and with gas at the time being over $1.30 per litre, it was an expensive proposition. At the best of times, it would get 16 MPG. Not great, but what you’d expect with one of these.

Powderhorn Campground, Old Orchard Beach, ME

Mom and Dad took their 1938 Ford. It’s been modernized, with a 305 V8 and automatic transmission. Dad commented on it being a bit lazy on the trip, but around Bangor, it died on the side of I-95.  The fuel pump had died. Thank God for CAA – one call, and they towed it to their hotel, which luckily had a auto parts store nearby, and a new pump was installed. It ran, but didn’t sound all that good. I could hear a snapping noise at idle. A quick look showed why – one plug wire had burnt on the exhaust manifold, and the other one had wrapped around the steering shaft and pulled the plug wire out of the boot. A new set of wires and it was back to its old self. The Yukon didn’t give any trouble at all.

On Mount Washington.

All in all, the Yukon was a pretty good truck. It had some issues, but nothing earth-shattering. I got rid of it as well as the car I had at the time to downsize to one vehicle, instead of having one for pulling the camper, and one for everything else. I do miss it, though.