Originally Posted by helbnt
Thanks for taking the time to respond. Not to sound like a complete dumbass (which I will admit to), how should I go about doing this? Take the wheel off and start pulling on things?
Start with a visual inspection of the ball joints and outer tie rod ends. If the boots are cracked/split open that is the first indicator they could be bad.
I suspect it isn't an issue with the tie rod ends, but you need to check to be sure. You won't be able to inspect the inner tie rod ends unless you remove the boot on the rack and pinion, so hold off on those for now.
With the truck still on the ground rock the tire by pushing and pulling on the top of it. If you have a friend help they can rock the tire and you can get under the truck to check for movement of the upper ball joint and the upper control arm bushings. If there is no play in the UCA bushings or upper ball joint, but you can still feel play (clunking/clicking) while the tire is being rocked than the wheel bearing is bad.
With one side of the truck lifted (use a jack stand), the steering wheel locked, have your friend move the tire left to right (like it would move when steering). Look and feel for play in the tie rod. If there is play than either the inner or outer tie rod is bad. If it's the outer, you'll be able to see it. Process of elimination. Also check the rack and pinion, bit of a long shot but it could be bad as well. Look for leaking, worn mounts, and play in the tie rod as it enters the R&P. You should remove the clamp on the boot (have new ones available or heavy duty zip ties), pull the boot back, and wiggle the tie rod. You'll be able to see the inner tie rod end at this point, so check it for play. I replaced 3 R&Ps over the life of my 95 Taco. *While the truck is still in the air spin the wheel. If you suspect the wheel bearing you should be able to feel a little resistance, or at least it won't spin very smoothly as it should. If you aren't sure because of the weight of the wheel, remove it and give the hub a spin slowly by hand.
Now have your friend rock the tire in and out from the bottom. Observe for play in the lower ball joint and the lower control arm bushings.
Repeat all that on the other side and hopefully you find the culprit. It's important to isolate and fix any worn/damaged parts on the front end ASAP because if they fail bad things happen quickly.