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Shop Day - the Red Head's Rack

March 24, 2018.

"I feel sorry for anyone who needs a cam bolt sleeve in the Seattle area this weekend." said Mike @Digiratus as he and Zane @Speedytech7 walked in the door a little after 4:30pm. See, they'd just driven a 50-mile loop to get every last one they could find - since we were in the process of destroying all four of Mike's.

But we are way ahead of ourselves.

For several months, Dan @drr and Mike have been planning a shop day. Mike wanted to install a new set of W53377A Whiteline LCA bushings as well as a new steering rack (OEM: 44250-35042) - both things that Dan had done in the past. As it turned out, this was the same weekend that Zane was in town, and I'm always up for hanging out with those three guys to lend a hand and learn a thing or two, so we agreed on a time - just after 9:00am - and showed up at Dan's shop.

Well, all of us except Zane, who thought that 9:00am was "wake-up time" - he showed up at 10:00am.

The first order of business of course, was to roll the trucks into the shop and start taking new parts and tools out of the bed. Both Mike and I had a bit of work we wanted to do, so we both rolled in. At the time, that didn't seem at all presumptuous - they were just 4 bearings and a steering rack, after all.

That of course went smoothly enough - we ogled over the new rack, and dilly-dallied a bit as we waited for Zane, but soon enough we were using the fork lift to raise up the front of Mike's truck for better access and of course, safety.

The plan of attack was simple - or so we thought - first drain and remove the old steering rack, then remove the lower control arms. Replace the OEM LCA bushings with the Whitelines and reinstall. Then, install the new steering rack, refill and bleed the power steering system, and perform a quick, good-enough alignment that would hold Mike over a day or two until he could get to his local alignment shop. Then, we'd have lunch, and take a look at the few small things I'd brought along for my truck.

We got started by unbolting the steering rack. Most of that was fine, but the lower passenger-side bolt was giving us problems. It was turning - which was good - but not backing out. Flashlight investigation showed why - the nut that should have been welded on inside the frame cross-member was spinning - the weld likely broken due to Mike's skid being bolted through that same bolt.

We were contemplating what to do when Zane walked in. "Let's cut an access slot and re-weld the nut." he suggested - and so that's what we did; Zane grabbing the grinder and Dan re-welding the nut once he had access.

It was at that point that Dan suggested that we'd "gotten the day's roadblock out of the way early" - hahahaha, if only. But we were making process - the steering rack was as good as off - just a few lines to drain and disconnect, and some castle nuts and outer tie rod ends to remove.

As Dan, Mike, and I wrapped those bits up, Zane started getting the new steering rack ready - lubing and pressing in the bushings - sure that we'd be throwing that puppy in, not too long from now.

New rack ready, we pulled the old rack out and contemplated our next problem. We needed to remove the control valve assembly from the rack, but we didn't have a puller. A knurled, compression fit, we set about with some penetrating oil, pry bars, and a hammer - to no avail.

If only that was the worst of it.

For the time being, we set the old rack aside and turned our focus to the lower control arms. We didn't foresee any problems here, and got to work removing the alignment bolts and cam sleeves. The driver-side seemed to loosen up nicely, but we couldn't break the rear passenger-side bolt loose to save our lives - it was completely seized within the cam sleeve, which was completely seized within the bushing.

We bashed, we tried the impact gun, we lubricated, and we grunted. None of those worked, though the grunting seemed the most promising. Eventually, we gave up - now stymied on two fronts.

Hungry by this point, we decided that the answer was to head to lunch, then to an auto-parts store for a slide hammer to remove the control valve assembly, and finally to the local Toyota dealership, which happened to have three of the LCA cam bolts in stock.

In what would be the only thing that "went as planned," Jersey Mike's got all of our sub orders right for lunch. We also picked up a slide hammer on the way back to the shop and with some hand-bracing and cheering from Zane and Dan, Mike and I were able to pull the control valve assembly off of the steering rack - things were looking up again!

Cognizant of the time, Zane and Mike headed off to Toyota and Dan and I kept working on the LCA removal, picking up the wrestling match where we'd left off an hour earlier. After finally hammering out one of the sleeves on the passenger-side (but not without destroying it), we realized that there was no way we were getting the other out without cutting - so cut we did, and the LCA was free!

At this point, we called Mike and Zane and suggested that they pick up two sleeves as well as new cam bolts, which they were happy to do - in fact, that was all they could do, as the local dealer only had two in stock. Whew, lucky! (We thought.)

And then we set to work pressing out the bushings using Dan's press and a 5/8-inch threaded rod. Boy, did that puppy bend under the pressure - but with a bit of heat and about 45 minutes (!) we finally got the two bushings pressed out.

Then with 2-minutes more, we had the new bushings in and the LCA ready to reinstall - this time with a bit of anti-seize on the sleeves.

Mike and Zane were just back at this point and we related the drama to them, happy to be through that and (we thought) into smooth waters with the driver-side, where both bolts had seemed to loosen more readily. And they had - as we returned to the driver-side, the bolts came right out - but the sleeves didn't. In fact, they were both completely seized inside the bushings and we quickly realized that even if we were able to get them out, we were going to need to replace the entire assemblies.

And that was a problem, since Mike had already purchased the only two at the local dealer for the passenger-side.

For anyone interested, the assemblies are (4 of each):

Thus began a frantic set of phone calls to less-local dealers in the Puget Sound area. As it turned out, the next closest dealer didn't have any in stock, but the dealer 30-minutes south had one, as did the dealer 30-minutes north. So convenient!

Once again Mike and Zane headed out - this time on a 50-mile loop - while Dan and I got to cutting and bashing of the driver-side LCA. Even at that, it took us over an hour, and we were wrapping up just as the last of the sleeves in the Puget Sound walked in the door. "I feel sorry for anyone who needs a cam bolt sleeve in the Seattle area this weekend." said Mike, as we used my OEM bottle jack to press out the old bushings - unable to use the press, as the 5/8-inch rod didn't fit through the seized sleeves.

The driver-side LCA was installed just as quickly as the passenger-side, the lower ball joint bolted on with a bit of blue loctite and 60 ft-lbs of torque.

And at that point the first job was done. It was only 8:00pm, and the floor under Mike's truck looked like a trail in Moab. He'd apparently forgotten to wash his truck since we'd returned from The De-Tour six months earlier.

A success finally behind us, and sure that our better halves weren't going to be happy we were working so late, we set about installing the new steering rack - so shiny and new. This was a four-person affair since there were a lot of lines and bolts to get aligned and attached in order to secure the rack to the frame. Oh, and of course we initially spent 20-minutes installing the passenger-side bracket upside down (again, the grunting seeming to help most). But eventually, we got it all buttoned on, and Mike screwed in the tie rod ends. We were nearing the finish line.

As Mike set about refilling the power steering fluid, Dan worked on alignment and torquing the alignment cams. Neither process went exactly as planned, Mike overfilling the fluid and Dan ultimately getting the alignment reasonably straight after 45-minutes of fussing, but the steering wheel was still turned 90º or so.

But it was late - after 10:00pm, and we were all tired. Of course, we were also victorious - having accomplished both tasks we'd set out to do, even if they'd been a bit harder than we'd envisioned. In fact, I'm not sure we ever really got "the roadblock" out of the way over the course of the day, rather we were running a road constructed only of obstacles - but we'd made it, and we had an amazing story.

Clean-up, thanks, a melancholy round of good-to-see-you's were all that was left - the Red Head all buttoned back up and ready for an alignment. It had been a great day. And I'm sure we're all ready to do it again.




Oh, and cool discovery during the day. On the steering rack - TOYODA cast into the main assembly.


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