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Steering and Suspension overhaul thread

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas (1995-2004)' started by Rschap, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. Jun 30, 2015 at 8:02 PM
    #1
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    I’m about to do pretty much a full steering and suspension overhaul as well as new headlights and washer fluid reservoir on my truck and I find that doing one of these threads helps keep me motivated through a big project like this. I have done this twice before, once on an 88 Toyota Pick-up and then on a 79 GMC Sierra Heavy Half, both 2WD. The last time was about 7-8 years ago. I’m by no means an expert but I would be happy to answer questions and welcome advice as I go along with the project.

    2 years ago I bought my 98 Taco, when I bought it I had the breaks done and an alignment, because it pulled to the right a little, I also had a brand new set of BFG All Terrain 31X10.50R15 tires put on it, all as a condition of the sale. 28k miles later I have really bad uneven wear on the tires and I get the death wobble around 65 mph and up. I live in a smallish town and rarely get on the hwy so it took me a while to realize. When I crawled under the truck I found the leaf springs bowed back the wrong way with a broken shock, pretty much all rubber bushings are shot, the body mounts are pretty much gone and the ball joints are toast. So I decided to just replace it all (well, pretty much all). Now the truck has 214k miles on it so the amount of wear is somewhat to be expected but it’s obvious the owner before me “used” this truck, and good on him, that’s what they’re built for.

    A little about me:
    My first vehicle in life was an 85 Toyota Pick-up and my primary driver has always been a Toyota truck with the exception of the one year I owned a 92 Saturn (the Dark Age). I love these trucks and will probably always own one.

    3 years, 85 Toyota Pick-up 2WD, 22r, regular cab, regular bed
    4 years, 88 Toyota Pick-up 2WD, 22re, regular cab, regular bed
    9 years, 94 Toyota Pick-up 4WD, 22re, regular cab, regular bed
    2 years, 98 Tacoma, Limited, 4X4, 3.4L V6, Extra cab, regular bed, power everything, cruise, locking rear diff, flawless interior (except one issue soon to be remedied), tow package with trailer break, 4 and 7 pin, topper… Pretty much my dream truck.

    I live on the Western Slope in Colorado and I do a lot of rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, etc so the 4WD helps me get to the places I want to go but it’s also my daily driver and I’m not really all that into off-roading so I’ll be keeping everything stock height. I do take this off-road and on some pretty tough trails but only to get to a cliff or river or… I have a four day weekend starting Thursday so I’m planning of getting the majority of the work done starting tomorrow night.

    Here’s the tick list so far:
    • Wheel bearings and seals, all 4, Napa, pressed in by them
    • Moog Ball Joints
    • Energy Suspension control arm bushings
    • Energy Suspension sway bar bushings
    • Energy Suspension Rack and pinion bushings
    • Moog tie rods
    • Energy Suspension body mounts
    • Gabriel Ready Mount struts
    • Doorman Leaf springs
    • Energy Suspension leaf spring bushings
    • Rancho Shocks
    • TYC head light assemblies
    • Genuine Toyota washer fluid Reservoir, from dealer
    I have an appointment Monday morning for the alignment so my big push for the weekend is to get the front end done but I’m hoping to get all of this done if I can, we’ll just have to see what I run into. I’ll update as I can and post pictures as well. Let me know what you think.
    IMG_1700.jpg IMG_1701.jpg IMG_1708.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2015
  2. Jun 30, 2015 at 10:12 PM
    #2
    gofargogo

    gofargogo Member

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    Subscribed. I have the same truck and I've been thinking of gradually updating the suspension. But I'm new to tacomas and new to working on 4wd vehicles so I'm going to be following your thread closely.
     
  3. Jul 1, 2015 at 8:53 PM
    #3
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Thanks for following, hopefully this helps motivate both of us. I've never done a 4WD or a vehicle with rack and pinion, so far I haven't found it too different and in some ways it's easier. I had to replace the struts on the 79 GMC I did a while back and had to use a spring compressor, I must say the ready mounts are worth their price.

    I took pictures but left my camera at my friends house where I'm working on the truck. Anyways, put about 3-4 hrs into it tonight but a lot of that was running around. I got the front hubs disassembled thanks to a loaner 35mm socket from Autozone and my new Husky impact wrench. Everything came apart pretty easy and I didn't have to really fight anything, nice thing about having a truck that lived in CA before it moved to CO. The Lower ball joints were definitely gone but the uppers were not too bad, I'm still going to replace the uppers since I have them but good to know they weren't shot. The passenger tie rods were also pretty bad. The worst though were the struts, I'm pretty sure they were factory stock, there was still rubber in there but it wasn't doing much, it was almost like bubble gum. One of my strut mounts may be cracked but it's hard to tell when it's still on the vehicle, I'll be removing the control arm tomorrow so I'll inspect it then. My plan first thing tomorrow is to remove the hubs out of the rear axle, I got as far as removing the drums tonight then called it. After I pull those I'll be off to Napa for new bearings and we'll see what I get done from there. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
  4. Jul 2, 2015 at 7:19 PM
    #4
    boostedka

    boostedka Well-Known Member

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    Good luck with the work. I did much of this work to mine recently as well and it made a huge difference in the handling. Most of it was pretty straightforward. Just the upper BJ's were a son of a bitch to remove. The rack bushings were way easier to do with the tie rods disconnected to manipulate the rack easier
     
  5. Jul 2, 2015 at 7:22 PM
    #5
    5 Lug Fury

    5 Lug Fury Well-Known Member

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    Got a lot of stuff lol
    Good luck cant wait to see the results
     
  6. Jul 2, 2015 at 11:51 PM
    #6
    53rdcard

    53rdcard Well-Known Member

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    This is in the future for my 2k4, subscribed. have not done anything like this myself yet, but have done enough other work on vehicles that i feel pretty confident.

    Watching yours however will gain me valuable info, good luck and keep us posted.
     
  7. Jul 5, 2015 at 5:22 PM
    #7
    Caligula

    Caligula Well-Known Member

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    Very eager to hear your impressions of the poly bushings and leaf springs. Please take lots of pics!
     
  8. Jul 5, 2015 at 6:38 PM
    #8
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Update:

    All around the driver side has all come apart real easy, I haven’t had to fight anything. The passenger side on the other hand….
    IMG_1716 edit.jpg

    Rear axle is all complete, new leafs and shocks brought the rear up about 2 ½ to 3 in. I didn’t replace the rear bearings because the seals and bearing looked like they had been replaced not too long ago. When I drained the rear diff I had more than expected metal shavings but it wasn’t too bad. I had to replace the passenger side leaf spring shackle, and I had to fight with it for 3 hrs to get it off, but I’m happy with it over all.
    IMG_1718.jpg IMG_1729.jpg IMG_1711.jpg IMG_1714.jpg IMG_1730.jpg IMG_1731.jpg

    The front end: I have all taken apart and I'm in the process of swapping stuff out. Rack and Pinion looks in good shape and the new bushings were really easy to swap out after disconnecting the tie rods (thanks for the tip). I also had to detach the rack to get the lower control arm bolts out but I didn't have to drain it or disconnect it from the steering wheel. I just pulled all the mount bolts and pulled it away far enough to get the bolts out of the arms. The sway bar also had to be pulled. Napa pressed in the new bearings on the front spindles but they don't do ball joints anymore so I'll have to do those. I got a loaner ball joint press from AutoZone and that damn thing was 1/4" too short to be useful on anything I've tried to use it for so far, I'm about to buy the 12 ton press from Harbor Freight I've been wanting for a while now.

    I do have one gripe about Energy Suspension. The lower control arm bushings don't come with any of the metal so you have to burn out the old rubber and reuse the old metal. This would be fine except the adjustment cam was rusted in one of the bushings and had to be cut out. I tried everything I could think of... Liquid Wrench, heat, fire balls of Liquid Wrench, BFH, crappy AutoZone Press that thing wouldn't come out. It's looking like the only way I can get the metal I need is to buy a new bushing and burn the rubber off, that kind of pisses me off. That and burning out the old rubber took around 4-5 hours (I did doddle a lot) and I would have rather paid a little bit more money to just press one out and the other one in. I also had to buy a bigger pickle fork with a 1 3/8" opening to get the washer off but I never complain about having to buy a tool, I'm sure I'll find uses for it now that I have it. I was using a little hand held propane torch, I've used a rosebud before and it goes a lot faster I just didn't have access to it this time. Anyways, If anyone knows where I can get the metal without buying a new bushing I would appreciate it.
    IMG_1732.jpg IMG_1734.jpg IMG_1735.jpg IMG_1736.jpg

    All in all I'm happy with what I got done this weekend, I missed my self imposed deadline of having it at the alignment shop tomorrow morning but that's the way it goes. I'll be out of town for work all next week so I won't get a chance to do anything till next weekend.


    On a side note: I got really pissed off fighting with the passenger control arm and walked away to install the washer fluid reservoir. It was really nice to have a productive distraction to calm down and it made it really easy to replace without the wheel and everything else in the way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  9. Jul 5, 2015 at 6:46 PM
    #9
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Caligula, I'll post my thoughts on how the ride is with the new leafs and bushings after I get a chance to drive it. I have done one of these suspension upgrades on a 79 GMC Sierra and 8ish years later the they are still holding up great with no visible wear and a smooth ride. I sold that truck to guy at work that is going to finish fixing it up and he's psyched to not have to touch the steering or suspension.
     
  10. Jul 5, 2015 at 6:57 PM
    #10
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    This is a pretty good representation of what all the rubber bushings looked like.
    IMG_1727.jpg
     
  11. Jul 5, 2015 at 11:41 PM
    #11
    Caligula

    Caligula Well-Known Member

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    Good work so far. The Doorman leaf springs, were they supposed to add that amount of lift, or were they made to be near stock? Also the metal you had to burn out, its not the washers on either side of the bushing, but the center tube? Thats odd that they would make the new bushing without the metal.

    If i could offer some tips, youre already acquainted with using a torch for getting rubber bushings out, but were you using propane or MAPP? The hotter burning MAPP gas will make things go faster, also a better torchhead like the Bernzomatic TS8000 ive used will help. Most bushing and ball joint tools are barely universal, i came to learn this years ago when replacing subframe bushings on my M3. I found the most versatile of tools you can buy are the two jaw flippable presses. These are good anytime there is a flange to grab on to. Just remember to wear thick gloves unless you want to loose fingerprints.

    12042009067.jpg 12042009068.jpg 12042009069.jpg

    Without the room or the funds for a press, i needed to get the bushings in and out of suspension parts. Though in my situation, instead of buying a $600 BMW specific tool, i made my own. The allthread was 7/16", being closest to M12 thread. I have since used this tool with various pipe and washer combos on bushings for everything from a Honda Civic to a Chevy Impala. The same tool along with some lithium grease was used to install the new stuff (last pic). The entire setup with about 4 different pipe fittings was under $30.

    If you were able to get the proper sized washer and allthread, plus some torch heat, this might solve the inner bushing issue. Youll want to use an impact on the long nut and the torch on the surrounding material to expand the metal.

    12052009074.jpg 12052009075.jpg 12052009079.jpg 12052009082.jpg 12052009083.jpg IMG_0571.jpg

    Also just to put it out there, until you get your alignment done, you can get your front toe to near the spec of your current alignment by measuring the current tierod length down to the mm, then matching that measurement to the new rods. It will be close enough to drive the car straight until you get the alignment done.

    As someone who worked at the hellhole that is Harbor Freigh.., I can tell you that EVERYTHING there is a loan-a-tool. Save your receipt and get your money back within 90 days. I have 'borrowed' dollies and ramps three times already when moving. If you absolutely want to own something, print out some 20% off and free item coupons. I can tell you that everything in the store is at least a 100-200% markup over the store's cost.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  12. Jul 6, 2015 at 9:47 AM
    #12
    Sundowner

    Sundowner Member

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    optional rusty everything has been progressively installed over the past 14 years
    following.

    I'm doing this right now on my 2002. Got a crunchy sounding wheel bearing, and 'the baddins' didn't stop coming off of my truck until I got where you are now. good luck!
     
  13. Jul 6, 2015 at 7:03 PM
    #13
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Caligula, those are some great tips, I may try that two jaw flappable press to get the upper ball joint out. I do like your homemade jig, it's all about applying pressure in the right place. I was a welder for 9 years and we always made our own presses and jigs but I don't have the access to the tools I used to so I didn't even think about it. I could easily put something together. I'll let you know what I come up with.

    The Doorman leafs were for stock height, I imagine they will compress a little over the first few months but my old leafs were in really sad shape. They were bowed back so bad the upper leafs matched the bow of the overload leaf. I'll have to look up what stock ride height is supposed to be and compare.

    Sundowner, good luck to you as well.
     
  14. Jul 12, 2015 at 10:33 PM
    #14
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Back at it. I broke down and bought the 20 ton shop press and 14 piece die set from Harbor Freight. Made short work of the stuck cam adjuster, the ball joints, and pressing in the control arm bushings. After taking the rubber boot off of the upper ball joints before I pressed them out I found that the driver side had a lot of slop in it. It was hard to tell with the boot but without it the ball moved in and out about an 1/8" so it was on it's way out, that one was a lot of fun to push out as well. I got both front spindles reassembled with the new struts, ready mounts are the way to go, and the rack and pinion remounted. All that's left is to swap out the tie rod ends and remount the sway bar then the front end is done. I have my alignment scheduled for Tuesday so I should be able to have it done in time. I'm driving out to Georgia on Wednesday and looking forward to feeling the new ride.

    I still need to swap out the headlights and body mount bushings and I also bought a 22" off-road bar light. I'll have to see what I get done tomorrow but I'd love to have that all done for my trip as well. Left my camera again, I'll post pictures tomorrow.

    71++dZrLf1L__SL1001_.jpg
     
  15. Jul 13, 2015 at 5:57 AM
    #15
    Sundowner

    Sundowner Member

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    optional rusty everything has been progressively installed over the past 14 years
    if your tie rods are old, you make have more fun getting them out that you realize. Make sure you check your inner tie rods, too. I pulled mine out and they were worse than the outer tie rods, which also sucked. I'd strongly recommend that you consider getting a rebuild steering rack, which will come with new inner tie rod ends, seals, boots, etc., and won't be a royal pain to pull apart from the rod ends. you really should also be replacing the steering rack mounts with new or polyurethane, if you have not done so already. You've already torn the crap out of the truck, and you're 90% of the way to back-to-new. why not finish it out all the way for another $300 and never have to worry about it again?
     
  16. Jul 13, 2015 at 6:54 PM
    #16
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Yeah Sundowner, I read your post just before I started working on the truck today and was hyming and hawing about it till I pulled back the boot on the drivers side and found it all rusted and pitted. At some point someone replaced the tie rods on the driver side and didn't do a good job of securing the boot when they were done. They used a large tie rap on the big side and a hose clamp on the small side that admittedly I would have thought would be fine but it wasn't. So, rack and pinion replaced. Everything that needs to be done for the alignment is done, I have it scheduled for tomorrow. I think I'm going to wait till I get back from Georgia to do the body mounts but the headlights are so bad there's no way I'm driving cross country without swapping them. I'll do those tomorrow after I get the truck back from the alignment.
    IMG_1739.jpg IMG_1740.jpg IMG_1741.jpg IMG_1742.jpg IMG_1743.jpg

    The first picture is the passenger side of the rack and pinion which is what it should look like and the second is the driver side. You can see the pits, I should have taken a picture before cleaning off the rust.

    Originally the new leaf springs and struts appeared to lift the truck up 3" in the back and 2" in the front but after driving it a couple of miles it seams to have settled to about a 1/2" or so but the ride is so much smoother.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  17. Jul 13, 2015 at 6:56 PM
    #17
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    My budy had this in his tool box and I was giving him crap for it but it turns out to be great for grease zercs. I may have to get one.IMG_1745.jpg
     
  18. Jul 14, 2015 at 3:56 AM
    #18
    Sundowner

    Sundowner Member

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    optional rusty everything has been progressively installed over the past 14 years
    again, good luck.
    I dropped mine off yesterday for alignment.
    I called the shop to set the appointment and the guy asked for the particulars on the truck and I told him a 2002 Tacoma.
    He said '$100'.
    Then I warned him that the front end was pretty out of whack since I just replaced everything from the steering rack to the ball joints.
    He said 'so no rusty adjusting nuts? price is $75, then.' ;)
     
  19. Jul 14, 2015 at 9:09 AM
    #19
    Rschap

    Rschap [OP] Active Member

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    Dropped it off at 8 this morning and just got a call that it’s done at 10, stoked to go pick it up. Rust doesn’t tend to be an issue here, we have a really dry climate and they use Magnesium Chloride on the roads instead of salt when it snows. It’s very rear to see a rust bucket out here.


    Tool recap:
    When I was researching for this project I kept looking to see what tools I would need so I wouldn’t have to make a bunch of Sears/Harbor Freight runs so I tried to keep track of the tools I used to help someone else that might be thinking of doing this. Unfortunately I’m not “that” organized so I couldn’t tell you what tools I used where in most cases but at the end of the project I had a pile of tools that were used at some point.

    • Torque wrench up to 200 ft lbs (spindle nut requires 174 ft lbs) AutoZone rents one, mine only goes up to 150 which was fine for everything but the spindle nut
    • 35mm socket (spindle nut) AutoZone rents one
    • Standard pickle fork
    • 1 3/8” open pickle fork (only needed to remove the washer from the lower control arm bushing if you are burning it out to reuse the metal for Energy Suspension Poly bushings)
    • Some sort of torch if burning out bushings.
    • Standard set of open end wrenches and sockets 10mm up to 19mm but also 22mm, 24mm, 27mm sockets and wrenches. 19mm was used the most, I remember the castle nuts being 24mm and 27mm.
    • 10mm and 12mm line wrench, 17mm if you swap out the rack and pinion
    • 24in pipe wrench and 32mm open end wrench, if you’re not swapping the rack but you are swapping the inner tie rods.
    • Break job tools (caliper spreader, spring tool thingy for rear)
    • Bungees to hang calipers
    • BFH
    • Multiple pry bars
    • Flat head screw driver
    • Needle nose
    • Snap ring pliers for upper ball joint if you press it
    • Impact wrench (I bought a 800 ft lb Husky from Home Depot for $120ish)
    • Impact sockets (I bought a set of deepwells from Sears that had 12mm-27mm but I had to use the shallow 14mm, 17mm and 19mm a few times)
    • Some sort of press, I bought the 20 ton shop press from Harbor Freight with a 14 piece ball joint die set for around $280. There are other options but I will use this for a lot of other things so it was worth it to me. I found the C-clamp style ball joint press that I rented from AutoZone to be useless as it never opened wide enough to fit anything but someone else may have better luck.

    Fluid Recap:
    • Dextron II or III automatic transmission fluid, for the power steering
    • Brake fluid
    • Liquid Wrench
    • Brake cleaner
    • Gear oil for the rear differential if you pull the hubs to check/replace the bearings
    • Liquid Wrench

    Parts Recap:
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015
    vagabondmatt, Caligula and Bman4X5 like this.
  20. Jul 14, 2015 at 10:34 AM
    #20
    boostedka

    boostedka Well-Known Member

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    Nice work. I'm looking forward to seeing how those rear leafs settle. My stockers have 170k+ on them and are looking pretty worn and uneven. Looking for a new set but not really wanted to put up $600 for a new set
     
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