Home : Tech : Axle : Front Axle Upgrade Help Part #3

Front Axle Upgrade Help Part #3

Axle-Side Steering Components:

This is where it may get tricky, depending on what you choose to do. In our minds, logic dictated that if we were going to go through the work of swapping out an axle, we’d spend the extra time and money on components that would be durable and strong. Here were our choices:


 Severe Duty Tie Rod and Drag Link (Stage West 4-Wheel Drive Center, $85 each)

1 1/4″ inch O.D. X .250 wall 4130 Chrome-Moly seamless tubing. This tubing was small enough it wouldn’t interfere with the frame at full compression, but large and strong enough to handle big meats on rocks.

Difficulty rating: 4
Time To Install: 1 hour
Special Tools Required: N/A
Notes, Hints, Tips, Gotchas: Measure 15 times before your order your tie rod / drag link, and make sure that the place you order your tie rods and drag links from factor in the length of the heim joints / rod-ends. We had to cut our drag link down by 4” because we forgot to ask them to factor in the heim joint difference, which meant we also had to go buy a ¾” X 16 pitch tap to run the threads in deeper.

Machined Steering Knuckle & Heavy-Duty Studs (Stage West 4-Wheel Drive Center, $110, plus shipping) 

In order to convert our steering system to a cross-over type as described above, we enlisted the help of Stage West 4-Wheel Drive Center to mill our passenger-side steering knuckle to accept the cross-over steering arm.

Stage West uses a specially created jig to level the knuckle, mill and plane the top of the knuckle and then finally drill and tap the knuckle to accept the studs and steering arm.

Aside from re-assembling the steering knuckle to the axle, We only had to install the heavy-duty threaded studs as seen in the picture.

Difficulty rating:

Time To Install: 3.5 hours
Special Tools Required: Special castleated socket to remove the upper ball joint keeper, torque wrench, big friggin’ rubber mallet, Torx bits, hub socket
Notes, Hints, Tips, Gotchas: Installing the knuckle isn’t for the beginner. This isn’t a technically difficult install if you’re familiar with the inner workings of axles, but it is time-consuming and requires some special tools. Be sure to buy the tools in advance (especially the upper ball joint keeper socket and the hub socket for your particular axle if required.)


High-Steer, Cross-over Steering Arm (Stage West 4-Wheel Drive Center, $150)

The high-steer, cross-over steering arm allowed us to mount the new steering tie-rod, drag link and heim joints up high and out of the way of rocks. It also allowed us to create a steering system that didn’t connect the drag link to the tie rod as seen in some stock applications. This is a very strong and tried & true method for steering conversions.

Difficulty rating: 3
Time To Install: 1.5 hours
Special Tools Required: Torque wrench, 3/4” drill bit, HD drill with large chuck
Notes, Hints, Tips, Gotchas: Make sure you put thread locking compound on the studs, but ONLY where they thread into the steering knuckle.


3/4” Heim Joints with High Deflection Washers (Stage West 4-Wheel Drive Center, $40 each plus $15 per set of high-deflection washers)

We chose to use heim joints for their extra strength and durability given the slung weight and size of our tires. This would also give us greater joint life (as compared to tie-rod ends), tighter tolerances in steering components, and greater strength in the joint when the axle is fully articulated.

Moreover, Stage West supplied us with a full set of high-deflection washers (see upper right picture), which allows the heim joints to articulate further than flat washers would allow. You’ll want to use these on the drag link because it will articulate much further than the tie rod.


OPTION – FJ80 Tie-Rod Ends (All Pro Off Road, $34 each) We had the option early on to use FJ80 heavy-duty tie-rod ends instead of heim joints. There are three upsides to this choice: 1) They are super heavy-duty and are already cut to 23mm threads, which means they’ll likely bolt into any Toyota Application. 2) They’ll slide right into place with our new heavy-duty pitman arm (next page). 3) They’re nearly half the price of heim joints.

Ultimately, we chose to use heim joints for some more strength, and because slowly but surely we’re converting our entire project Land Cruiser to standard thread components.

Difficulty rating: 1
Time To Install: .5 hours
Special Tools Required: 1 1/8” socket, large adjustable wrench, torque wrench. 3/4″ drill bit, heavy-duty drill
Notes, Hints, Tips, Gotchas: We had to drill out the holes on the steering arm, the driver side knuckle and the pitman arm to accept the larger-than-standard heim joint bolts. We had to use a heavy-duty worm-drive drill with a large chuck to drill through the knuckles, given the size of drill bit.

About Rick Webster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *