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Toyota FJ Cruiser Axle Swap - Hardcore Hardware

Cutting Attending Bracket
Kevin Blumer | Writer
Posted April 1, 2008
Photographers: Chris Pittman

Trail Performance Delivered In Spades

FJ cruisers are everywhere. Yes, they can be found getting groceries and driving kids to after-school sports, but there's no shortage of 'Cruisers on the trail. From moab to Baja to tellico, FJ cruiser owners haven't held back in the dirt.

With body-on-frame construction, and a gutsy 4L V6, toyota provided FJ cruiser drivers a great platform for a real-world trail rig.

The FJ's suspension is as functional and rugged as the rest of the vehicle. The five-link (four links with a Panhard bar) rear suspension treats the occupants to a smooth coil-sprung ride, and the ifs delivers great handling on twisty high-speed terrain. So far, so good.

It's not all perfect. As competently as the ifs handles high-speed terrain, it is nonetheless shackled with pencil-thin tie rods and breakageprone cv boots and cv joints. Furthermore, there's not enough droop travel to allow the FJ to keep all four feet firmly planted when the rocks get bigger than a microwave oven. We're not saying that the ifs is junk. We're saying it has drawbacks.

We'll call this the 99-percent shot. The dimensions for the kit have been finalized, and the parts have been tack-welded into place. The front driveshaft will be lengthened before this FJ hits the trail again. There's plenty of ground clearance under the lower link mounts on the hybrid toyota/Dana 60 front axle.

Hardcore trail performance calls for a solid front axle. Properly executed, a swapped-in solid front axle gives gobs of articulation, keeping the rubber on the trail when the boulders get big. Noodle-sized ifs tie rods are replaced with heavy-wall tubing. Finally, two stout u-joints take the place of a quartet of CV boots and CV joints. Properly executed, a solid front axle is a simpler, stronger way to go.

The phrase "properly executed" bears repeating because there are several criteria for a successful solid- axle swap. The resulting trail rig should steer properly without "death wobble." The axle must be squared up under the rig so it drives down the road in a straight line. The axle needs to cycle through the range of suspension travel without hitting vital engine parts. It must cycle without binding u-joints or steering components. Do a solid-axle swap the right way and you've got a sought-after trail rig with newfound capability. Do a solid-axle swap the wrong way and you'll be the not-so-proud owner of a rolling disaster.


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