The GMC Yukon is a large and comfortable full-size SUV with a very well-appointed interior.
Aside from being roomy, it has several V8 options that make it a great tow vehicle as well.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the GMC Yukon’s most common problems and their solutions.
Table of Contents
1. Hydraulic Lifter Issues
GMC Yukons with AFM (Active Fuel Management), or DFM (Dynamic Fuel Management) as it is called in later model years, are prone to hydraulic valve lifter problems.
The hydraulic lifters open and close the valves in the cylinder head based on the rotation of the camshaft.
When a lifter collapses or gets stuck, the valve that it’s connected to won’t open completely or will just stay closed.
A collapsed lifter will also hit and damage the camshaft, and the tiny metal shavings can severely damage your engine.
Common symptoms of a collapsed lifter include:
- Loud ticking noise from engine
- Squeak or chirp sound on startup
- Low compression in one or more cylinders
- Service Engine Soon warning
- Rough running
- Stalling or hard starting
- P0300 or P0301 trouble code
Both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8 engines can suffer from lifter failures. Other GM vehicles that use the same engine such as the Chevy Tahoe and Silverado are also affected by this problem.
Premature failures are common in the 2007 to 2020 model years of the GMC Yukon.
Here is how a few owners described their experience on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“2012 XL Denali, 130K miles. I changed the oil when I bought it and ran Mobil 1 5W-30 and changed every 5K. At about the 118K-ish mile mark, I would hear a very light, occasional tick when pulling through a drive-thru, and would go away if I raised the RPM slightly.”
“I have a 2013 GMC Yukon Denali XL. 250,000 km about 155,000 miles (No CEL). Just this morning I started hearing this knocking noise on driver side. The vehicle has had religious oil changes with Synthetic, and transmission flushes.”
“Our 2016 Yukon 5.3 is at the dealership again for lifter failure/replacement within 2 years. We are at 104000 miles now and it was at around 75-80K the last time we had this done. Thankfully all the work that has been and is being done is covered under a power train warranty when we purchased the vehicle.”
GM released a TSB for the 2015 to 2020 GMC Yukon that recommends replacing the lifters and, if necessary, the camshaft to fix the ticking noise and the other engine problems associated with a collapsed lifter.
This repair can cost several thousand dollars if done out of warranty, so you may want to ask other independent repair shops for the best price. Some shops are able to free up the stuck lifter without taking off the cylinder head which significantly lowers the repair costs.
Even though GM hasn’t updated their lifter design much to prevent future issues, it’s still advisable to stick with the OEM lifters if you need to get them replaced. After getting the lifters replaced or unstuck, many owners completely disable the AFM to make sure they won’t have to deal with the issue again.
Many Tahoe owners don’t have any issues aside from the lifter tick noise. However, if you plan on keeping your truck for a long time, it’s best to have it looked at as soon as possible to avoid more expensive engine problems down the road.
2. Oil Consumption Issues
The third generation GMC Yukon equipped with the 5.3-liter V8 is more prone to having excessive oil consumption.
This issue is especially common in the 2007 to 2011 model years of the GMC Yukon.
Oil consumption is often caused by GM’s AFM (Active Fuel Management), which automatically disables cylinders during light driving to improve fuel economy.
When AFM is activated, oil is sprayed onto the deactivated pistons to cool them down. Unfortunately, this also causes lots of engine sludge which can affect how the piston rings operate.
The early designs of the Yukon’s PCV system also had a tendency to draw in oil as well as blowby gasses.
Lots of owners would report needing several quarts of oil in between scheduled oil changes.
Common symptoms of excessive oil consumption include:
- Blue smoke on startup
- Low oil levels
- Oil pressure warning
- No oil on dipstick
- Check engine light
- Fouled spark plugs
These issues are also common in other GM vehicles from the same era equipped with the 5.3-liter V8 like the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Sierra and Cadillac Escalade.
Here is how a few owners described their issue on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“My ’07 Yukon started using a lot of oil around the 85K mark. At 90K it was enough that my dealer did the AFM oil consumption TSB and the result of the process was they determined I needed new rings and pistons.
“Mine is a 2007 Yukon 5.3L flex/AFM engine. Similar symptoms (including at the end, a low idle miss). Along the way of being told 1 qt every 2K miles was within specs (something I never believed), getting an updated valve cover (known problem), new plugs, she ran smooth but still had the oil consumption. We tried unsticking the rings with a solvent treatment to no avail, still a qt every 2K miles or so. GM stepped up with new pistons/rings/etc. (not bad for a 95K engine) and the oil consumption went to essentially zero from that point on.”
Many Yukon owners plug an aftermarket device into the OBD2 port to disable the AFM or get a tuner to reprogram the ECU. In a lot of cases, disabling the AFM gets rid of the oil consumption — as long as the engine hasn’t been damaged yet.
GM also released a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) that recommends replacing the valve cover with an updated design so that oil doesn’t get into the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system and get burned up once it ends up in the intake manifold.
The oil pan was also updated so that the oil valve doesn’t spray oil upwards into the crankcase and into the combustion chamber. The excess oil causes the piston rings to get stuck due to carbon buildup, which eventually allows more oil to leak into places where it shouldn’t be.
If the piston rings are already stuck, you’ll have to get the engine rebuilt and get new rings and pistons. You can also just replace the engine with a used or remanufactured one.
3. Tail Light Issues
Early model years of the fourth generation GMC Yukon often have issues where their tail lights intermittently stop working.
On CarComplaints.com, the 2015 to 2017 model years of the fourth gen Yukon have the most number of reported tail light issues.
Here’s how a few owners on TahoeYukonForum.com described their experience:
“So the driver’s side brake light is out on my 15 Yukon. How are y’all taking care of this without buying a whole new assembly for $400-$700?”
“This happened to my ‘15 Yukon XL Denali. It’s a known issue with the K2XX Yukon tail lights; There’s even an extended warranty program from GMC dealers up to a certain age/mileage. I was beyond that.”
“2017 Yukon Denali. I noticed yesterday the tail light was out on the left, checked the brake light and it does not function either. The light came back on with a little smack and some choice cussing. I had one fail back in May of ’22, changed at the dealer, two hours away, some kind of extended warranty or good faith thing.”
Due to the number of failures, GM extended the warranty of the tail lights on the 2015 to 2016 model years of the GMC Yukon to 6 years or 72,000 miles.
When the tail lights stop working, you can’t just replace the bulb. You’ll often have to replace the whole light assembly which costs around $500.
You can also look for cheaper aftermarket replacements that have lots of positive reviews.
4. A/C Problems
Early model years of the fourth generation GMC Yukon had lots of cases of cracked AC condensers which caused the AC to stop blowing cold air.
This issue is more prevalent in the 2015 to 2017 model years of the GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade.
When the condenser develops a crack, the refrigerant or freon will leak out, making the AC inoperable.
Another common weak point is the hose that goes from the compressor to the condenser, which also has a tendency to develop a leak.
Here’s how one owner described their issue on CarComplaints.com:
“My truck is an 2015 Yukon with 70,000 miles on it and the AC stopped working so I took it to the shop to find out my condenser needs replacing and the service tech told me it is not under warranty but have had many problems with the condenser on this make and model vehicle . He also agreed with me that it should be a recall since there have been so many vehicle with the same problem . He wanted to charged 1200 to fix but drop it to 950 after I made a call to another repair shop.”
Another Yukon owner on TahoeYukonForum.com had this to say:
“The A/C Condenser goes belly up on every 2015-2017 Tahoe/Yukon without fail. Mine went out at 80K miles but most go out a lot earlier.”
GM extended the warranty of the A/C condenser in the 2015 to 2017 Yukon to 5 years or 60,000 miles.
A new condenser costs around $100 to $200 and any competent mechanic should be able to install it and recharge the refrigerant.
The condenser is also used to cool the transmission so the repair is a bit more complicated than standard because of the additional transmission hoses.
Other common causes of A/C problems in the Yukon and Tahoe include:
- HVAC blend doors
- Faulty blower motor resistor
- Fan clutch
- Evaporator leak
5. Instrument Cluster Issues
The first and second generation GMC Yukonhave lots of issues with faulty dash gauges and other instrument cluster problems.
It’s common to see inaccurate readings for the fuel gauge, oil pressure or speedometer. It’s also common to see different warning lights coming on intermittently or the entire instrument cluster not working at all.
Here’s how a few owners described their issues:
“I have an 04 Yukon that I’m currently freshening up. I have this issue since i got the truck a few months ago where when i turn the key to the second position I just get a check engine light and no calibration sequence. Start the engine and the cluster would sometimes come on and sometimes just have the back lighting.”
“My cluster was going out randomly, sometimes I’d have backlighting but no needle movement. I ended up getting a reman’d one from Digital Dash Solutions and it was well worth it.”
“My 2006 Yukon Denali sat for 3 years. Everything worked back then except for an intermittent gas gauge.”
Instrument cluster problems in older GM trucks are usually caused by bad solder connections and faulty stepper motors.
A mechanic or auto electrician might be able to resolder the cluster and swap out the stepper motors for you, but you can also just replace it with a remanufactured unit for around $200 to $400.
6. Cracked Dash
It’s fairly common to see older GMC Yukons from the 1990s and the 2000s with a dashboard that’s cracked in several places.
The third generation Yukon from 2007 to 2014 also had lots of reports of dashboards disintegrating after only a few years.
Here’s how one owner described their experience on ChevroletForum.com:
“Three weeks ago, I purchased a pristine used 2011 Yukon XL Denali; this vehicle came from the mid-west, always garaged, babied. She took the horse/trailer on a dirt road yesterday and the dashboard cracked on both sides.”
Another owner on TahoeYukonForum.com had this to say:
“My Yukon’s dash cracks started appearing a couple months after I got it when the weather started warming up.”
If the crack isn’t too bad, you can use a dashboard cover or a dash mat to cover it up and protect it from future damage. Some owners have also glued it back together using JB Weld or epoxy to keep the dash from falling apart.
You can also just replace the dashboard altogether. OEM and aftermarket dashboards for the Yukon cost around $500. You might also find a used dashboard in good condition online or at a junkyard.
7. Leaky Oil and Transmission Cooler Lines
Leaking oil and transmission cooler lines are a fairly common issue across all generations of the GMC Yukon.
Leaks around the radiator usually start developing on higher mileage vehicles, but they can also occur in trucks that are only a few years old.
By the time you see drips of oil under the truck, the lines have probably been leaking for quite a while. You’ll also notice the oil pressure dropping a bit when it starts leaking.
Here is how one owner described their experience on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“I have a 2014 Yukon XL Denali with the 6.2 motor. I recently noticed that there’s minor coolant leak/seep from the transmission cooler line, where it connects to the radiator side tank on the driver’s side of the vehicle.”
Leaks from the oil cooler lines can often be fixed by replacing an O-ring inside the fittings that connect to the radiator.
In many cases, leaks around the transmission cooler lines are caused by cracks in the radiator, which can only be fixed by replacing it entirely.
8. Transmission Shudder
The 8-speed transmission used in the fourth generation Yukon Denali is prone to shuddering issues.
This transmission was made available during the 2015 model year.
Some of the reported problems with GM’s 8-speed transmission include:
- Hard shifts from 1st to 2nd gear
- Bucking or jerking when coming to a stop
- Shuddering or vibrations at certain speeds
- Hesitation when accelerating
Here is how a few Yukon owners described their experience on the GM-Trucks.com forum:
“I have a 2017 Yukon Denali. I’m bringing my truck in on Friday to the dealer for the 8 speed shudder. Truck has 31,800 miles and just started the shudder 2 weeks ago, now it’s every day.”
“This fall our 2016 Yukon Denali with the 6.2. The transmission had started to shudder & I thought it was the AFM, so I had the AFM cancelled just to find out that the shudder was worst and may needed a torque converter.”
GM eventually switched to a new Mobil 1 transmission fluid in their 8-speed gearbox to address the numerous complaints they were getting.
Many owners reported a marked improvement in the transmission’s performance after changing out the transmission fluids in their older trucks.
Applying software updates to the TCM (Transmission Control Module) and putting it into Fast Learn mode so it can reset and adapt to your driving habits also helps smooth out the shifting performance.
However, some owners have also had to get their torque converters and other transmission parts replaced to fix their issues. Several Yukon and Tahoe owners have also had to replace their transmission altogether.
9. Transfer Case Leak
Older GMC Yukons are prone to developing holes in the transfer case which causes the fluids to leak out.
This can affect Yukons, Tahoes and other GM trucks from 2001 to 2007 equipped with 4WD since the transfer case is responsible for sending power to the front wheels.
Holes can form in the rear of the transfer case due to the continuous rubbing of the oil pump against it from inside.
If left unchecked, all the fluid in the transfer case can leak out and cause it to seize up completely.
Here is how a few owners described their issues on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“I recently rebuilt my wife’s Transfer Case in her ’05 Yukon. It was a NP 246 model which is the most common. Parts for the rebuild were around $100 and easy enough to do if you watch enough videos. You do however need a hydraulic press in order to remove and replace about 5 bearings.”
“I bought my ’03 Tahoe about 6 months ago with only 69k miles. As of writing, I’m sitting at just over 74k. As long as I’ve owned it I’ve heard a bit of a chatter sound from the front end. After inspecting, cv axles, wheel bearings, and driveshaft, I couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from, so I brushed it off. Well… After completing a 1500 mile round trip, that quiet chatter turned into a very loud, crunchy sounding chatter. Turns out the transfer case chewed itself up.
If your Yukon’s transfer case has a small pinhole in it, you can still weld it to prevent the fluids from leaking out.
However, due to the pump rubbing against the case, it will likely end up cracking again in the future.
If the transfer case is still working properly and you just want to fix the hole, you can get a new transfer case housing for around $200.
At the same time, you should also install an aftermarket ‘pump rub’ fix kit which prevents the new housing from getting banged up all the time.
10. Low Oil Pressure
A lot of older generation GMC Yukons have issues with the oil pressure gauge going to zero and displaying a low oil pressure warning.
In older trucks, this could mean you have a massive oil leak or a catastrophic engine failure. But in most cases, it’s usually caused by a faulty oil pressure sending unit, also known as an oil pressure sensor.
It’s also possible the stepper motor for the oil pressure gauge has failed completely.
A new oil sending unit costs less than $100 and can be easily replaced by any mechanic or garage.
The incorrect oil pressure reading can also be caused by a blocked screen that’s just below the oil pressure sending unit near the back of the engine bay.
Cleaning debris from the screen can also fix the oil pressure issues even without replacing the oil pressure sensor.
This screen only costs a few dollars and is usually replaced along with the oil sending unit to ensure no more problems arise in the near future.
11. Broken Exhaust Manifold Bolts
The bolts that secure the exhaust manifold to the engine have a tendency to break off completely in the GMC Yukon.
This issue can affect all model years of the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe.
In some cases, the exhaust manifolds can also crack and develop massive exhaust leaks.
An exhaust leak can also create a noticeable ticking sound that’s often mistaken for the infamous hydraulic lifter tick.
Here’s how a few owners described their experience on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“My manifold stud broke off in the drivers side closest to the steering wheel, it seems to have started ticking too. It appears to be coming from under though and I don’t feel or hear anything at the broken stud area.”
“My 2011 Denali with 95,000 miles is really starting to frustrate me. I had a cracked exhaust manifold. I didn’t want to mess with it so I brought it to a shop I trust. He recommended doing both at the same time and gave me a decent price, so I did. Now comes the head scratcher. Every few weeks or so since they were installed I get an exhaust leak on the driver’s side.”
“Back in wintry 2018 I replaced both exhaust manifolds and all the associated bolts. Well a year and a half later and I have an exhaust leak again. 2 bolts have sheered off again.”
Many owners replace the original exhaust manifold bolts with aftermarket ones from Dorman or ARP to avoid dealing with more broken bolts in the future.
If your exhaust manifold has cracked, it can still be repaired with a little welding. Replacing the manifold itself isn’t too expensive or hard to do either.
12. Brake Recall
Early model years of the fourth generation GMC Yukon can have brake failures due to a faulty vacuum pump.
The vacuum pump plays a crucial role in the braking system by sustaining a negative pressure in the brake booster, reducing the physical effort required from the driver when applying the brakes.
This problem only affects the 2015 to 2018 model years of the Yukon.
Here’s how one owner described their experience on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“Intermittent Braking Loss on ’16 Yukon. I have suddenly experienced occasional “Dead Pedal” at low speeds and when stopped on a hill either headed up or down an incline. I did a bit of research and learned that there is a TSB for 2015~2017 Full Size GM SUVs that address this condition. Seems that the fix requires replacing the vacuum pump, brake booster as well as the master cylinder, etc.”
GM recalled several of their truck models to address potential failures of the vacuum pump.
Dealers would simply update the truck’s braking software so that the brake booster can still work effectively even when there’s not enough vacuum assist.
If you’re concerned about potential failures and safety risks, you can always replace the vacuum pump every 50,000 to 60,000 miles.
13. Air Suspension Issues
Many GMC Yukons come with air suspension systems that are more difficult to troubleshoot and expensive to maintain.
Aside from the air shocks which already cost several hundred dollars a piece, you also have to worry about the compressor, sensors and lines breaking or wearing out.
Here’s how one owner described their experience on TahoeYukonForum.com:
“I purchased a 2007 Yukon Denali with 144,000 miles on it. Since owning this Yukon I have been constantly having the “Check Suspension” message every time I tow or go on long distance rides. I have changed my air compressor, air shocks, compressor relay, all the auto leveling sensors and just recently the suspension control module. I finally have not gotten any suspension messages after towing my boat 20 miles.”
“I have a ’21 Yukon AT4 with ~11K miles. Initially, problems manifest as “service leveling system” and inability to adjust height of ride… dealer captured all codes sent me home (suspension still had air but would not adjust/inflate) with a new appointment for addition overnight diagnosis. Two days later total suspension failure on the front – front tires bowed in.”
If you want to keep repair costs down, look for aftermarket replacements for parts like the air shocks.
It may also be possible to completely swap out the air suspension for a more traditional coil and spring setup which is easier to maintain.
GMC Yukon Pros & Cons
- Roomy cabin
- Third-row seats
- Upscale interior
- Excellent towing capacity
- Powerful engines
- Good overall reliability
- Lots of standard tech and features
- Four-wheel drive with 4Lo
- AFM (Active Fuel Management) issues
- Fuel economy
What Do The Reviews Say?
“The 2023 GMC Yukon is a large three-row SUV with seating for up to nine passengers. Backed by a set of powerful engines, the Yukon is designed to move people and cargo with ease and comfort. Truck-based SUVs like the Yukon are particularly useful for towing and hauling, areas where more popular car-based crossovers can struggle.”
“For 2023, the Yukon Denali Ultimate package has morphed into a trim level that includes unique upholstery and interior trim. It should help further set it apart from the Tahoe, though with that many features, prices push into the territory of the mechanically identical Cadillac Escalade.”
“The Yukon Denali, which is what we tested, is the only model in the lineup that comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8. The engine produces gobs of power, and the Denali’s 6.6-second sprint to 60 mph is among the segment’s quickest. The 10-speed automatic transmission, though smooth and pleasant enough in everyday driving, takes a few beats to shift into a lower gear when you put your foot down.”
“The new independent rear suspension design works wonders for the Yukon’s ride quality. That combined with the adaptive dampers and air suspension makes it ride only slightly busier than a car-based SUV. Another highlight is the quiet cabin. The Yukon is essentially a giant brick cutting through the air, yet wind noise is barely noticeable.”
What’s the Resale Value of a GMC Yukon?
Here’s a quick look at the GMC Yukon’s used pricing on Edmunds at the time of writing.