GMC Yukon Problems: 5 Common Issues (Explained)

The GMC Yukon is one of the most popular full-size SUVs of all time. It also is one of the most enduring models.

GMC first produced the Yukon in 1992. That first generation continued production through 1999.

We recently looked at how long the Yukon lasts. Now we’ll dive into the problems with these models.

Several generations later, GMC still is building and selling lots of models. GMC unveiled its fifth-generation Yukon in 2021, and more generations might still come.

But even a vehicle as highly regarded as the GMC Yukon has inevitable issues. The following are some of the more commonly reported issues and how to handle them.

Problems

1. Air Conditioner Does Not Work Properly

If you live in the Desert Southwest or a locale where it gets hot and humid during the summer months, then you know the importance of having a good air conditioning system.

Unfortunately, the Yukon has had problems with its air conditioning either not working sufficiently or not at all.

There is nothing fun about riding in a hot vehicle that is supposed to have a working air conditioning system. And that is especially true of a large SUV like the Yukon.

But you can get the air conditioning to work and make the Yukon’s ride much more comfortable again.

The potential causes of a poorly working air conditioning system could be many. But so are the solutions.

Possible Causes and Solutions

An improperly working air conditioning system in a Yukon most often happens when the cabin air filter becomes excessively dirty and restricts airflow.

Many vehicle owners are unaware that there is a cabin air filter in most private passenger vehicles. So it often goes overlooked.

Replacing the cabin air filter is easy, fast, and relatively affordable to do.

If you are unsure of how to do it yourself, the owner’s manual might detail the steps to do so. A service manual certainly would tell show you. And a repair shop could to it for a relatively small sum.

Other common causes of a poorly working air conditioning system include a dirty or clogged condenser or evaporator, a faulty blower motor, a defective compressor, or problems with an actuator of electrical components.

A certified technician who is experienced in air conditioning repairs should be able to diagnose and fix the problem.

2. Excessive Oil Consumption

Another common problem that Yukon owners have cited is excessive consumption of oil. Excessive consumption does not mean the engine is leaking.

It means the engine is consuming oil, often by burning it or enabling the oil to seep into parts of the engine, such as the crankcase.

Just about any model year for the Yukon could be prone to consuming excessive oil. The same could be said for virtually any vehicle.

But with the Yukon, there might be some underlying issues that could cause you to notice a relatively high level of oil consumption.

Possible Causes and Solutions

A bad piston ring often is the primary cause of excessive oil consumption in just about any motor. And the problem might affect more than one piston.

A compression test can help to determine which piston might have suffered minor damage or deformation over time. It also could help to identify which pistons have bad piston rings.

Replacing a faulty piston ring is the easiest way to address the problem. But that can be a costly repair.

If the Yukon is under warranty, the manufacturer’s warranty might cover the cost of replacing the piston rings.

Some Yukon owners just drive their pickups for between 3,000 and 5,000 miles without checking oil levels. Others only check the oil level occasionally.

Both are mistakes that could result in damage to piston rings.

You need to check the oil level frequently to obtain the best results. If the level is low, you should top it off with new oil right away.

Virtually all vehicles consume at least some oil every couple of thousands of miles. But you might see excessive oil consumption with your Yukon.

You should carry some oil with you and check the level whenever you fill the gas tank. That will help to ensure the engine has the amount of oil needed to prevent engine damage.

With the compression restored and the engine running properly again, you just need to check the oil level and regularly change the oil.

3. Tailgate Light Stops Working

When you are driving an SUV the size of the Yukon, you want people to see you from all angles to avoid collisions.

The tailgate light helps to make the rear of the Yukon more visible at night. It also helps to tell others when you are braking to slow down or stop.

Unfortunately, the Yukon’s taillight is notorious for not lighting up. Although it does not affect performance, it could affect safety while driving the Yukon.

Possible Causes and Solutions

The widely reported problem typically is caused by a defective tailgate light assembly.

A defective tailgate light assembly means the entire unit must be replaced so that you have a working tailgate light once again. You cannot just replace a burned-out bulb.

An entire assembly is costlier than a bulb, but it will ensure that your tailgate light is working again.

It also will help to make your Yukon more visible and less prone to suffering a rear-end collision by another vehicle.

4. Transmission Vibration Shakes Driver Confidence

Vibration can make even a vehicle as large and as stable as the Yukon feel like it is losing control.

Many Yukon owners have reported vibration and other problems with the eight-speed automatic transmission that formerly was mounted to the SUV.

Although GM’s eight-speed transmission works great in most vehicles, some Yukon owners have reported problems. Some even filed legal actions.

When it does not work well, the eight-speed could cause slipping, bucking, kicking, or jerking coming from the transmission.

Owners also reported harsh gear engagement, abnormal wear and tear, and delays in downshifting and acceleration.

The problems often resulted in a ruined transmission despite only seeing normal driving conditions.

Possible Causes and Solutions

Unfortunately, there is no simple fix. Replacing the transmission with a properly functioning unit is the only sure way to get rid of the problem.

The need for a full transmission replacement caused some Yukon owners to file class-action lawsuits to get the automaker to fully compensate them for their troubles.

A new and properly functioning transmission makes the Yukon drive like a honey of an SUV.

But many owners of afflicted models suffered through the problems caused by the problematic transmission until the fix was done.

GM since has switched to the better and more durable 10-speed automatic, which also makes the Yukon perform better.

5. Potentially Dangerous Airbag Deployment

Airbags are designed to improve safety while traveling. The Yukon has a good complement of airbags that deploy upon an impact.

Unfortunately, even an airbag could suffer from design flaws. And a flawed airbag could become dangerous.

Some prior Yukon models were equipped with an airbag that could send shrapnel flying when deployed. And that could be very dangerous for Yukon passengers.

Possible Causes and Solutions

There is no secret about what makes the airbags in many GM models dangerous.

Airbag manufacturer Takata supplied GM with tens of millions of defective airbags that could launch dangerous shrapnel upon deployment.

Replacing the Takata airbags with safe ones will remove the potential danger from your Yukon.

General Pros and Cons for the GMC Yukon

The Yukon is a perfect example of a big, three-row SUV that looks good, drives great, and provides passengers with a very comfortable ride.

Its 5.3-liter V8 is a very strong and reliable engine. And the recent inclusion of a 10-speed automatic transmission helps the Yukon to move more swiftly.

You could opt for a 6.2-liter V8 that is even more potent. And a 3-liter turbo-diesel improves fuel economy.

The interior holds up to 123 cubic feet of cargo space, including the seating area. And it can tow up to 8,100 pounds.

While it is a great SUV, the Yukon is not perfect. Some of its less-desirable traits are:

  • Relatively poor fuel economy.
  • Bulky and very large.
  • New models start at $52,000 and go up from there.

Most people expect a full-size SUV to be bulky and large. And the fuel economy does improve with an optional turbo-diesel motor.

But its starting price of $52,000 for the base model puts a new Yukon beyond the financial reach of many buyers.

What Do the Reviews Say?

The Yukon has undergone many upgrades and changes that help it to continually rank highly among the many full-size SUVs that are available.

MotorTrend says the

“Yukon has made a name for itself as a comfortable family-hauler” and “is GMC’s largest vehicle, seating seven to nine passengers depending on the configuration.”

It has a potent, proven, and very reliable engine from which to choose. And its cargo and towing capacities enable the Yukon to function well as a family-hauler, weekend warrior, or work vehicle.

The choice between a rear-wheel drive or a 4X4 drivetrain helps the Yukon to do whatever you need of it.

What’s the Resale Value on a GMC Yukon

Year Mileage Price
2001 200,000 $1,750
2006 170,000 $4,100
2010 130,000 $8,000
2015 80,000 $30,200
2019 30,000 $43,400

Sources

2022 GMC Yukon Buyer’s Guide: Reviews, Specs, Comparisons (motortrend.com)

2023 GMC Yukon Review, Pricing, and Specs (caranddriver.com)

2019 GMC Yukon Value – $38,141-$58,084 | Edmunds

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