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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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Discussion Starter #1
As documented in other threads, I have experimented with several means to stabilize the gradual deterioration of the rubber mount bushings on my '02 HL.

The symptoms are a loose disconnected feeling in the steering, lack of straight line stability at freeway speeds, significant kickback in the steering wheel and bump steer, and oscillating steering wheel when braking and as the speed drops to 35 mph or so.

Adjusting toe-in settings a calms the oscillation somewhat. My thought is that the steering rack is oscillating on the mounts during braking (which pushes front wheels into toe out condition). The way the rack mounts are designed, the rack can twist horizontally, which shortens both tie-rods somewhat. With bad mounts it twists a LOT, resulting in excessive toe-out. My hunch is that is also causing the straight line instability.

As I posted elsewhere, the ball joints, lower control arms, struts, strut top mounts, tie rod ends have all been replaced in the last 50k miles-- I figured most of the parts were getting worn anyway. The wheel bearings seem tight. So, that left just the rack itself, which as LOTS of movement rocking the steering wheel back and forth in the driveway. The movement was compared to a lower mileage '07 and also my '08, both of which appear to use the identical bushing setup.

Toyota, nor anyone else until recently, offered any replacement bushings. Toy's solution is to replace the rack. Aftermarket rack re-builders alas don't replace the mount bushings.

The best solution thus far was to fabricate a pressure pad (one per rack end) that attached to the through bolt and placed lateral pressure on the rack boss, thus reducing rack movement.

Last month, I was looking through a Tacoma forum, and discovered that Energy Suspension had recently released a Poly steering bushing kit for new Taco's. I knew the '05 and newer used what appeared to be the same bushings as my HL. I ordered the kit (~$51) and sure enough, it looks and measures to the same external dimensions as my HL bushings. Won't know if the internal dimensions are the same until I remove one.
Energy Suspension 8.10106G Rack And Pinion Bushing Set

[ame]http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Suspension-8-10106G-Pinion-Bushing/dp/B00E6O61KY/ref=sr_1_20?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1406312767&sr=1-20&keywords=tacoma+steering+bushing[/ame]


I intend to tackle the replacement this weekend. Basically, the bushings have to be extracted using a pickle fork and some elbow grease. Hoping to avoid removing the rack to do this.

Will post results and photos.
 

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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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3,555 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
OK, the verdict is that the Poly bushings were an EXACT fit. Took about 4 hrs from wheels off to on to do both driver and passenger sides.

The champion bushing tools were a Harbor Freight impact chisel and a pickle fork. Rack stayed on the car. Tedious, rather than a difficult procedure.

The old bushings weren't in bad shape, at least first blush.

I was only able to take a spin around the block last night, so the verdict on improvement won't come until tomorrow's commute. In that short block trip, the steering was MUCH more direct, but yet cushioned from impact than I remember it being for many years.

Next weekend, I have to replace the driver's side front strut, since it has been oozing oil for 10k miles. Had to wrestle with KYB for replacement, but they conceded. The warranty excludes "wear and tear" but they fail to define what that is--blowing its oil seal?-- or how that plays to a "lifetime warranty".

Will post procedure and photos this week (hopefully).
 

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Cool. Looking forward to the pics.

I'm assuming the rack on "my" Highlander are at least as bad as yours, but there's no way I'm going to kick this sleeping dog. If SWMBO isn't complaining about it, then I'm going to pretend they're still as good as new. :lol:

Good to have this ace up my sleeve though if I ever need it!
 

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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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3,555 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
BUSHING CONSTRUCTION:

I decided that since I can't carve the time to write this up all at once, to instead post installments. The first are photos and thoughts on the OEM bushings.



The '05 ~ '13 Tacoma steering bushings are dimensionally identical to my '02 Highlander steering bushings. An '05 Tacoma owner published photos of his bushing swap, which alerted me to the possibility of using the Energy bushing on my HL,

The bushing on the left was pulled from my '02 HL. '05 Tacoma bushing is on the right.

At first glance it looks as though the OEM bushing had lost most of the rubber between the inner and outer shells. After a few seconds, it was obvious that there was a thin layer (maybe .5mm) of rubber bonded to both shells and then two carefully sized rubber spokes opposite each other.

My HL spokes are narrower and slightly thicker than the Tacoma spokes. Given the same durometer rubber, the HL bushings would have considerably more compliance (softer) in every axis, as compared to the Taco.

Regarding compliance; the bushings are stiffest for radial loads against the spokes (compressing the spoke) and most compliant 90 degrees away from the spokes. They would also be very compliant torsionally, but the rack has negligible freedom of movement, there.

The bushings on my HL were installed with the spokes about 30 degrees rotated from vertical. I would assume that this was intentional, but maybe not. There are rubber nubs on the outer bushing flange, which I presume assure proper orientation during installation.

When I clamped one of my bushings in the vice, I was surprised, but impressed, that after 224,000 miles, in TX heat, all the rubber spokes *appeared* to be intact, supple and bonded to the shells. It's possible that the spokes are detached deeper in the shell--I will do a forensic on that in the future.

Nonetheless, I have video evidence that my rack has WAY more lateral and axial movement than two other reference vehicles. After an informal pencil poking of the OEM spoke and the poly of the Energy bushing, I concluded the OEM rubber was considerably softer. That may be because this bushing kit was designed for the Taco, and has to compensate in durometer for the lack of outer shell. :dunno:

Here's the Energy bushing for comparison:

 

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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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3,555 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
INSTALLATION:

For a detailed procedure at getting the rack mount bolts out and obtaining clear access to the bushings, see:

http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/83-1st-generation-2001-2007/386274-steering-bushing-project.html#post7776321

Also see the same procedure, but on a Tacoma.

http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/2nd-gen-tacomas/289436-05-v6-tacoma-steering-rack-bushing-replacement.html

Once the mount bolt has been removed, the rack can be pried gently up with a pry bar, which provides access to remove the bushings.

Before we get to that, here are the tools that made this job straight forward. The air chisel was especially handy at get the existing bushing shells lifted so the pickle fork could be used:



Here's a photo of the air chisel work. To the far right of the photo is one of the bushing shells with the lip lifted up.



Now the pickle fork is inserted and with some sledge hammer work it yanks it out with little effort.



Lube up the Poly bushing and the metal insert using this stuff. Notice the convenient dispensing slots in the lube tube! :nerd:







And the finished product with everything back together:

 

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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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3,555 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Between the steering bushing replacement two weeks ago and the lower control arm bushings (both sides) and strut replacements this past weekend, this '02 HL drives like a different truck! Even when I had new control arms and struts (90k and 64k mi ago) the steering wander was reduced but still annoying. Lane drift in cross winds was also annoying.

The Energy Poly steering bushings made an AMAZING improvement in wander and crosswind sensitivity.

The Beck Arnley control arm donut bushings were very compromised:

http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/83-1st-generation-2001-2007/357909-front-lower-control-arm-replacement.html

http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/83-1st-generation-2001-2007/608105-front-lower-control-arm-bushes-fatigued.html

The passenger side KYB strut was pretty dead after 90k miles; massive oil leak and no gas pressure. KYB ended up sending me BOTH left and right front struts under warranty. Had to badger them a bit regarding their vaguely worded "lifetime warranty", but in the end they were very generous.
 

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AvConsult
'02 Highlander V6
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3,555 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Don't know, maybe the Nigerian driving it can tell us--seriously, it was shipped to Nigeria, or so told. Sold it last summer.
 

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Sorry to dig up an old thread but I had a question and the pics aren’t showing up.

Will these same poly bushings work on my wife’s 2009? We’re at 150k and plan on keeping the car for a while so it’s time to start tackling all the workout suspension bits to get it right and right again.

I also wanted to say Thank you AVConsult for this thread and all the others you’ve posted detailing these repairs, the info is coming in handy.
 
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