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Step-by-Step Lower Control Arm Bushing Replacement on a 1st Gen Tacoma (or 3rd Gen 4Runner)

Over time, rubber bushings wear out and need to be replaced. This happened for me recently when I Replaced All the Bushings on my Tacoma, and I figured that others could benefit from a quick little guide that shows the entire process and lists all the necessary parts.

Before getting started, I should note that when replacing the Lower Control Arm (LCA) bushings, one must remove the steering rack from its mounts. As such, this is also a good time to refresh the bushings that secure it as well, which is not a difficult process: Step-by-Step Steering Rack Bushing Replacement on a 1st Gen Tacoma (or 3rd Gen 4Runner).

When replacing the LCA bushings, there are a few ways to go about it:

  • Completely new LCAs. This is how Toyota wants you to do it, since they don't sell replacement bushings, and replacing the entire LCA means you don't need any special tools to press out the old bushings. But dang, OEM Toyota LCAs are expensive (L: 48069-35120 | R: 48068-35120), if all you need are bushings. Of course, you can always get aftermarket LCAs, which people seem to have reasonably good luck with and are much less expensive (Moog L: Left | R: Right) (Mevotech L: Left | R: Right).
  • Whiteline LCA bushings. Lots of folks go this route, and the Whitelines install very similarly to the OEM bushings - rubber inside of a metal sleeve that presses into the LCA. These work well, but have the possible drawback of the metal sleeve rusting into the LCA just like the OEM sleeves do.
  • Strongflex Polyurethane LCA bushings. These are made of a higher performing polyurethane rather than rubber, but the real reason to go this route is because the poly bushings insert directly into the LCAs, with no pressing in of a metal sleeve. This should - in theory anyway - make future replacement a piece of cake.

All three of these options are covered in this step-by-step guide, and I call out below which steps can be skipped if you're going one route or another.

Parts

Parts for this job are pretty straight forward. Obviously, you need bushings, but it's also highly recommended to get new cam sleeve, nuts, and bolts since it is common that the existing ones will be rusted into the bushings and need to be cut out.

Tools

While this job isn't difficult with the right tools, there are several "specialty" tools necessary in order to get the job done easily. These tools are generally useful for working on the front end of a Tacoma, so don't worry that you'll need them for this job only; you'll use them over and over again.

Doing the Job

Most of these steps are relatively straight forward, and sometimes the order can be swapped around a bit based on your own preferences.

Accessing the Lower Control Arms

The first thing to do is gain access to the LCAs, which need to be removed. Since these are common tasks, I'll outline them without going into too much detail.

  1. Using a floor jack and jack stands, support the front of the truck on the frame with both front wheels completely off the ground.
  2. Remove the wheels.
  3. Lock the steering wheel. This is necessary in order to maintain correct steering wheel orientation once the steering rack is removed in order to access the LCA bolts.
  4. Make sure the parking brake is on, and at least one rear tire is chalked.
  5. Remove the skid plates.
  6. Remove the sway bar and sway bar end links if they are installed.

Disconnecting Outer Tie Rod (OTRE) from the Lower Ball Joint (LBJ)

In order to more easily move the steering rack out of the way of the LCA cam adjusting bolts and sleeves, it's necessary to disconnect the rack from the LBJ.

  1. Remove the cotter pin from the OTRE castle nut.
  2. Use a 22mm socket to loosen the castle nut securing the OTRE to the LBJ.
  3. Use the smaller Pittman Puller in the OTC 6295 Front End Service Set to separate the OTRE and LBJ. Note: leave the castle nut loosely threaded onto the OTRE when you do this, and it will keep the joint from exploding when it's pressed out.

Removing the Steering Rack

Removal of the bolts securing the steering rack is necessary in order to move the steering rack a bit, allowing access to the LCA cam adjusting bolts and sleeves.

This process is covered here: Step-by-Step Steering Rack Bushing Replacement on a 1st Gen Tacoma (or 3rd Gen 4Runner).

Disconnecting Suspension and LBJ from the LCA

  1. Using a 19mm socket and 19mm wrench, remove the nut from the lower shock mount.
  2. With the nut removed, pull the lower shock bolt out of the mount. Note: you may need to relieve tension on the bolt slightly to do this by lifting the hub/rotor assembly.

  3. Support the spindle and upper control arm using a jack stand under the rotor. This will keep unnecessary pressure off of the suspension components as well as the CV axle.

  4. Remove the cotter pin from the LBJ castle nut.
  5. Using a 24mm socket, loosen, but do not completely remove, the LBJ castle nut.
  6. Use the larger Pittman Puller in the OTC 6295 Front End Service Set to separate the LBJ from the LCA. Note: leave the castle nut loosely threaded onto the LBJ when you do this, and it will keep the joint from exploding when it's pressed out.

Removing the LCA Cam Adjusting Bolts, Nuts, and Sleeves

This part of the project can be difficult if your cam bolts, nuts, and sleeves are rusted into place, or rusted to the sleeves of the LCA bushings. Before continuing forward, make sure you have replacement parts on hand for any that might be destroyed in this process, or simply plan to replace them as good practice.

  1. To remove the passenger side front and rear, and  driver side front bolts, use a 19mm wrench to hold the Alignment Cam Nut and a 22mm socket to loosen and remove the Alignment Cam Bolt.
  2. To make room to remove the driver side rear bolt, remove the band clamp securing the steering rack boot that covers the Inner Tie Rod (ITRE), and slide the boot toward the OTRE.

  3. To remove the driver side rear bolt, use a 19mm wrench to hold the Alignment Cam Nut and a 22mm socket + extension to loosen and remove the Alignment Cam Bolt.
    Note 1: to fit the 22mm socket + extension, as well as remove the bolt, you will need to manipulate the steering rack out of the way.
    Note 2: Protect the ITRE shaft using a rag between the extension and ITRE.

  4. As each bolt is removed, pry the Alignment Cam Nut off the opposite side of the joint. Note: the Alignment Cam Nut may be rusted onto the Alignment Cam Sleeve. If this is the case, the sleeves may need to be cut out; see Cutting out the LCA Cam Adjusting Sleeves below.
  5. With the Alignment Cam Nuts removed, pry the Alignment Cam Sleeves out of the LCA bushings. Note: the Alignment Cam Sleeves may be rusted into the LCA bushings. If this is the case, the sleeves may need to be cut out; see Cutting out the LCA Cam Adjusting Sleeves below.

  6. Once all of the Cam Adjusting Sleeves are removed, continue to Removing the LCAs.

Cutting out the LCA Cam Adjusting Sleeves (only if necessary)

If the Alignment Cam Nuts or Sleeves are rusted in place, they will need to be cut out. Carbide tipped blades are necessary for this as the steel in the LCA bushing sleeves is hardened and normal blades will dull quickly.

  1. Using a reciprocating saw with carbide tipped blades, cut through the Cam Adjusting Sleeves, being careful not to mar the LCA surface or frame mounting surface.
    Note 1: A large cut-off wheel can be used for this as well, but a saw is recommended.
    Note 2: After cutting one side of the LCA out, place a Alignment Cam Bolt through the bushing to hold it in place more easily while cutting the second leg.

Removing the LCAs

With the Cam Adjusting Sleeves removed, the LCA is free and can be removed from the frame.

Pressing Out the Old LCA Bushings

Pressing out the LCA bushings entails application of both force and heat. Heat is supplied by a torch, and force can be applied with either a 20-ton press (recommended) or a bottle jack.

Using a Press (recommended)

When using a press, a bearing splitter is used to push the LCA down over a socket on the press surface. As the LCA is pressed down, this socket keeps the bushing from moving, effectively pushing it out of the LCA and into a sleeve placed on top of the bearing splitter.

  1. Using a hammer and cold chisel, bend the flange of the bushing away from the LCA so that the bearing splitter fits between the two surfaces.

  2. Attach the bearing splitter between the LCA and bushing flange. Ensure that the edge of the bearing splitter supports the perimeter of the LCA as much as possible, as you will be pressing on the bearing splitter to force the LCA down.

  3. Place a 24mm socket on the press surface, followed by the LCA, followed by a 76mm outside-diameter press sleeve and cap. Note: For one side of the LCA, a deep 24mm socket can be used. For the other side of the LCA, a shorter socket must be used in order to clear the LCA on the press.

  4. Using a torch, apply heat around the entire bushing area in order to expand the LCA slightly and to help break any corrosion between the LCA and bushing sleeve.

  5. Slowly use the press to press the LCA down while the 24mm socket forces the LCA bushing to remain stationary, pressing it out of the LCA.

Using a Bottle Jack (commonly done; not recommended)

When using a bottle jack, the most important thing to ensure is that you don't apply so much force between the LCA legs that you deform the LCA itself as you press out the old bushings.

  1. Place the OEM bottle jack between the LCA legs with the top against the LCA bushing that you want to remove.
  2. Secure a ratchet strap as best you can around the LCA legs to assist in keeping them from spreading as the LCA bushing is pressed out.
  3. Using a torch, apply heat around the entire bushing area in order to expand the LCA slightly and to help break any corrosion between the LCA and bushing sleeve.
  4. Slowly use the bottle jack to press the LCA bushing out of the LCA.

Prepping for and Installing New Bushings

With the old bushings removed, the difficult part of the job is complete. Reassembly is much easier as long as the LCA legs have not been spread during removal.

  1. Clean out the LCA sleeves using steel wool or Emory cloth.
  2. Apply a coat of primer and paint to the LCAs, in any locations that you heated, to protect from future rust.

If you are installing Strongflex bushings:

    1. Apply grease to the outer surface of the bushings and insert two bushing halves into each LCA sleeve. Note: If you have both red and yellow bushings, the red bushings go in the front hole and the yellow bushings go in the rear hole.

    2. Apply grease to the inner surface of the bushings and to the outer surface of the metal inner sleeve.
    3. Slide the metal inner sleeve into the bushing.

If you are installing Whiteline bushings:

  1. Apply grease on the interior surface of the bushings and the outer surface of the inner sleeves.
  2. Press the inner metal sleeves into the bushings.
  3. Apply anti-seize to the inner surface of the LCA and outer metal surface of the bushing.
  4. Press the bushings into the LCA using a vice or press.
    Note 1: If using a vice, a pair of Channellock pliers can be used between the vice jaw and metal bushing lip to avoid pressing directly on the rubber.
    Note 2: if using a press, a 50mm inside diameter/60mm outside diameter sleeve can be used to press on the metal bushing lip.

Reinstalling the LCA Cam Adjustment Hardware

Installation is essentially the opposite of removal. Repeat this process twice for each LCA.

  1. Spread some antiseize on the outer surface of the LCA Cam Sleeve.
  2. Insert the LCA Cam Sleeve to secure the LCA.
    1. For Strongflex, the LCA Cam Sleeve passes through the frame, through the LCA bushing, and through the opposite side of the frame. Note: There are no washers used between the bushings and frame with this product.

    2. For Whiteline, the LCA Cam Sleeve passes through the frame, through a washer, through the LCA bushing, through a second washer, and finally through the opposite side of the frame.

    Note 1: the LCA Cam Sleeve inserts from the front of the vehicle for the front leg of the LCA, and from the rear of the vehicle for the rear leg of the LCA.
    Note 2: When inserting the driver rear LCA Cam Sleeve, you will need to start the sleeve into the LCA leg with the offset adjuster pointed down in order to slide by the steering rack. Once it is past the rack, you can rotate it into the appropriate position.

    Note 3: Before moving to the next step, ensure that the Offset Cam Adjusters on the Sleeves and Nuts are oriented "up," with the bolt hole on the bottom.

  3. Align the LCA Cam Nuts so that the offset adjusters are aligned in the same orientation as the adjuster on the sleeve and press it onto the sleeve.
  4. Spread some antiseize on the LCA Cam Bolts and slide it into the LCA Cam Sleeves. Only finger tighten the bolts at this point.

Reinstalling the Steering Rack

Whether you decided to replace your steering rack bushings or not, reinstallation of the steering rack is the opposite of removal. Torque specs are as follows:

  • Driver side bolt: 141 ft-lbs
  • Center bolt: 123 ft-lbs
  • Passenger bolts: 123 ft-lbs

This process is covered here: Step-by-Step Steering Rack Bushing Replacement on a 1st Gen Tacoma (or 3rd Gen 4Runner).

Reconnecting the LBJ, and Lower Shock Mount, and OTRE

Installation is the opposite of removal.

  1. Insert the LBJ post into the LCA and thread on the associated 24mm castle nut.
  2. Using a 24mm socket, torque the castle nut to 105 ft-lbs, plus any additional to allow for insertion of the cotter pin.
  3. Insert and secure a new cotter pin.
  4. Insert the lower shock mount bolt from the rear of the vehicle, and thread on the associated 19mm nut to the front of the mount.
  5. Using a 19mm socket and 19mm wrench, torque the lower shock mount to 101 ft-lbs.
  6. Insert the OTRE post into the LBJ and thread on the associated 19mm castle nut.
  7. Using a 19mm socket, torque the castle nut to 67 ft-lbs, plus any additional to allow for insertion of the cotter pin.
  8. Insert and secure a new cotter pin.

Wrapping up the Installation

There are only a few things left to do in order to finalize the installation.

  1. Reinstall the sway bar (if desired) and torque to spec.
    • End links at LCA: 51 ft-lbs.
    • End links at Sway Bar: 22 ft-lbs.
    • Sway Bar frame mounts: 19 ft-lbs.
  2. Reinstall the skid plates.
  3. Reinstall the wheels and tighten, but do not torque, the lug nuts.
  4. Remove jack stands supporting front of vehicle.
  5. With truck supporting its own weight, torque lug nuts to 89 ft-lbs.

Alignment

It's important to take the truck in for an alignment immediately, as your alignment will be significantly off after performing this work. However, even prior to getting an alignment, it's important to eyeball the alignment and get it "close," so you aren't chewing up your tires on the way to the alignment shop.

  1. Park the truck on a flat surface.
  2. Roll forward and backward approximately 20 feet.
  3. From the front of the truck, inspect the alignment to ensure the wheels are as vertical as possible. If they are not vertical, rotate the LCA Alignment Cams to adjust their orientation.

  4. Once you are satisfied that the wheels are mostly perpendicular to the ground, torque the Cam Adjusting Bolts to 96 ft-lbs.
    Note 3: Ensure that the Offset Cam Adjusters on the Sleeves and Nuts are oriented "up," with the bolt hole on the bottom.
  5. Take the truck in for an alignment.

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Dwight
    Dwight August 7, 2021

    Hi Dan,

    I posted this in the Tacoma World forum but haven't gotten any response and would appreciate your 2 cents on it to help me with what direction to take on the bushings and ball joints.

    I'm thinking of replacing upper and lower bushings as I'm installing the OME suspension kit. I got the Energy Suspension bushings but have not decided if I'm going to use them or not. Was seeing what others are saying here first. You said, part of the reason you went the route you did instead of Energy Suspension was that if you ever needed to replace them in the future, it should just be a slip out/slip in with the new ones.

    If I install the Energy Suspension wouldn't in the future if I wanted to replace them it would be the same slip out/slip in also?

    I like the idea with adding the grease zerks. Could I do that with the Energy Suspension bushings? I'm guessing yes but wanted to double check. Would need to drill through the LCA and metal bushing part I left in the LCA.

    Has anyone added grease zerks to the UCA as well? I'm concerned about the squeaking of the poly bushings.

    I looked at Strongflex bushings but didn't find them for my 03 tacoma 2WD prerunner. Do you know if they make the bushings for the UCA also?

    You spoke about keeping the offset cam adjusters on the sleeves and nuts being oriented up, with the bolt hole on the bottom. Could I just mark the spot that the old ones were at and put them back to the same setting to be somewhat close or is the new bushings going to throw it way off anyway that it doesn't matter.

    For longevity purposes, which bushings will last the longest? I don't do off road stuff, dirt sometimes.

    Also, I'm going to replace the upper and lower ball joints. I'm trying to decide to use the OEM or Sankei 555. I've read that the Sanka 555 are equal to the OEM but can't confirm that for sure. Do you have any insights? Is there a better quality option that you know about? It seems the LBJ are a weak point in these tacomas so I want to do what I can to address that.

    Thank you, Dwight

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 7, 2021

      Hey Dwight, hope this helps:

      Ease of second install: Unfortunately, the ES bushings push into the existing OEM metal sleeves, and if you ever want to replace them, you have to burn them out of the sleeves (or remove the sleeves) just like you do the first time. It’s definitely doable, it’s just a bit of a pain.

      Grease Zerks: Yes, you can do it with the ES as well, but you drill through the metal sleeve *and* the bushing - all the way to the inner metal sleeve. Then, you can squeeze some grease in there if things start to squeak.

      UCA Zerks: I’m not sure if folks have done it for the uppers, but it’s exactly the same. @Squeaky Penguin may have done it. He has definitely done it on the lowers.

      Prerunner LCA and UCA Bushings: for the LCAs, you would use the same ones I used - the LCAs on a 4wd or 2wd Prernner are the same. I’ve not seen any for the UCAs as usually people put in aftermarket UCAs if they want poly bushings, and aftermarket LCAs all come with poly bushings.

      Alignment: New bushings are going to throw everything way off. After installing them, you need to get an alignment immediately. Not a week later, immediately. Try to drive fewer than 20 miles after doing the job, IMO.

      What lasts longest?: Rubber bushings last the longest *by far.* Like 5 times as long. If you don’t know why you need polyurethane, stick with rubber IMO. In fact, in that case, I’d look at the option of just purchasing aftermarket LCAs and using those. (Moog L: Left | R: Right) (Mevotech L: Left | R: Right). They will come with rubber bushings already installed. I might go back to rubber next time for that exact reason.

      LBJs: I’d go with OEM. There just seem to be fewer problems with the OEM ones, and as you mention, that’s a place known to be a weak point. 555 is the “second best” from what I’ve heard, but why skimp on the weak point?

      Hope that helps!

    • Dwight
      Dwight August 7, 2021

      While I got your ear on the subject.

      Going to replace the cam bolts and cam adjuster. Would you use OEM or is there a better aftermarket available?
      Would you also replace the long upper control arm bolt with the UCA bushings?

      Thanks you very much,
      Dwight

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