Two jeeps climbed the step including Dave B. trying out his new Rubicon Unlimited. I tried to climb the Step with my 3/4-ton Chevy, and I succeeded in climbing the Step without external assistance for the first time ever! However, the left side half shaft in my IFS front diff (with Lincoln locker) gave its all to make this climb possible. Thus, after making it up the Step, I was left in only 2-wheel drive.
Thanks to Dave B. in his new Rubicon Unlimited, my rear Detroit locker, and lots of throttle, I was able to make it out to Oracle in only 2WD. We had to use the strap a half dozen times. The worse places had wet sand where the trail climbs out of the creek. The tricky one was where Dave wanted to 3-point turn around a switchback with a 3/4-ton Chevy on his rear bumper -- that one took a bit of manuevering.
After airing up, the group went its various ways. Some folks went straight back to Tucson, some went to get gas, some went to get a drink. I stopped in Oracle to remove my left CV axle shaft, since it flopped around too much with the inside end unconstrained. I was in theory prepared because I had a stub shaft in my toolbox to hold the wheel bearing in after taking out the CV axle. I just finished putting in the stub shaft when the guys who stopped for a drink went by the Dollar General store. I waved happily at them since I was good to drive to Tucson. After a stop for milk and cookies, I too pulled out on the highway headed for Tucson.
I just got up to about 40 mph, and then the left front wheel locked up! I wrestled the unwieldy beast over to the side the road. At this point I found that the left front wheel had come completely off and was sticking out at a 45 degree angle held in place only by a wedged brake caliper.
Fortunately, I was able to reach Jeremiah "REALIFT" Schnurpel at home in Mammoth. He and his father came up to help with the reconstruction. Jeremiah had the critical knowledge of how to disassemble the CV axle to make a stub shaft of the proper diameter out of it. Then we were concerned that the bearing rollers from the outer half of my wheel bearing were scattered over a 100-yard stretch of highway 87. We put the wheel back on with the stub shaft and only the inner rollers still in place. Remarkably this setup drove pretty well with barely detectable shimmy despite many degrees of play of the wheel. The two bolts that hold the brake caliper in place were also broken, so we tied the brake caliper out of the way with cable ties and the too-small stub shaft to hold it open. I drove to Tucson at speeds below 45 mph, and I made it home before dark. The lug nuts were too hot to touch, but nothing was burning when I got home.
Damage: (just to my truck)
Left side half shaft in front diff
possible the rest of the front diff (TBD)
Left side CV axle assembly
Left side wheel bearing assembly
Flat spotted a brand new BFG MT
Left side front brake rotor
Misc body carnage that doesn't even count any more
Another memorable day of wheelin' in Charoleau Gap! Sorry, I forgot to take pictures after the wheel came off.....