Independent front suspension (IFS) is under the vast majority of new, mass-produced, two-speed transfer case-equipped, four-wheel-drive vehicles sold in the U.S. All ½-ton, midsize and compact pickup trucks currently available have IFS and all SUVs (with the exception of the Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited) are equipped with IFS. Even the GM ¾- and 1-ton trucks are fitted with IFS. Further, IFS has been used on a slew of older-model trucks and SUVs over the years. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter whether you love it or hate it, IFS is everywhere.
With that said, IFS, and its associated steering components, can vary in short- and long-term durability, depending on the manufacturer. IFS and solid axle setups are similar in that some are incredibly trouble-free, some have weak spots right out of the box, and some suffer failures after adding larger tires and/or aggressive off-roading. The basic structure of IFS, the upper and lower A-arms, typically isn’t a problem child unless rammed into an obstacle at speed. If this happens they can bend just like an axlehousing can bend in the same situation.
In an effort to give you ideas on ways to improve your IFS we’ve compiled a few products that will either solve a problem or head off a problem. This is not a story about long-travel race suspension or trail-only mods, but rather about general reliability upgrades for your daily driver, work truck, or part-time trail machine. Some of these products are available for a wide range of vehicles while others are specific to the listed vehicle.
In the end, we hope that the following products help you celebrate your independence.
Give Me Liberty
If you have a ’02-’07 Jeep Liberty, Jeepin’ by Al offers a custom-made Dana 30 housing to replace your aluminum Dana 30A housing. It has more brawn for running bigger tires and allows fitment of 4.56 or 4.88 ratio gears. Sold as an empty housing, you’ll reuse your Liberty’s Dana 30A factory components and you can use the factory CV axleshafts or Jeepin’ By Al cut-down units. You’ll need to purchase a new bearing kit and gearset for a Dana 30. Web price of the housing is $1,495.99 at press time.
More info: 855/533-7437, www.jeepinbyal.com
Tired of breaking the CV axleshafts on your 4x4? RCV Performance Products offers its Ultimate IFS CV Axle Set for a number of vehicles and the company says the axles meet and exceed the strength of a straight-axle swap. Not only are they tough, they also provide an increased range of articulation for vehicles with a lift kit or long-travel suspension. Each axle set includes driver- and passenger-side axles, and each axle is fitted with a Super Duty Chromoly Dome-Mass cage and race with Spherical Sealing Technology (provides much greater resistance to punctures and tears than rubber CV boots) and a Pro4 Super inboard CV joint. Each axle is black oxide-coated, pre-lubed, and includes a tube of RCV synthetic moly grease. Nickel plating is optional for extra corrosion resistance in salty environments. Prices range from $1,995 to $2,495 and include the “No Questions Asked” limited lifetime warranty.
More info: 815/877-7473, www.rcvperformance.com
GM Tie Roddin’
GM trucks have a knack for killing the factory tie rods, whether or not the vehicle is fitted with larger tires. There are a large number of aftermarket tie rod kits on the market that allow you to fix or avoid the problem. One top-drawer option is the beefy Ready Lift Off Road Series 1 steering kit. Available for a number of GM trucks, Ready Lift says that these 100 percent bolt-on tie rods are virtually indestructible. The hard black anodized tie rods are CNC machined from 7075 aluminum and feature Teflon-lined spherical rod ends. Each kit features a stainless machined clevis and heat-treated adapter pin to accommodate using the spherical rod ends. The kits work with stock, leveled, or lifted vehicles, but not on vehicles that have a lift kit that includes upgraded tie rods. They are available on the Ready Lift website for $782.95 to $794.95 depending on vehicle. Ready Lift also offers a tie rod reinforcement kit ($99.95) for the ’99 to ’07 Silverado 1500.
More info: 877/759-9991, www.readylift.com
All-Pro Off-Road notes that the factory sway bar links on the ’05-and-up Toyota Tacoma, ’03-and-up 4Runner, and FJ Cruiser are prone to bending and breaking, which can even puncture your rig’s CV boots. To solve this problem All-Pro offers newly improved heavy-duty sway bar links. The links are made from hefty 0.156-inch-wall DOM tubing and feature top quality Teflon-lined ¾-inch FK spherical rod ends. The links are available on the All-Pro website for $179.
More info: 951/658-7077, www.allprooffroad.com
H1 Tie Rod Assembly
EMF Rod Ends & Steering Components offers a variety of heavy-duty steering products for factory and custom applications including a tie rod assembly for the ’02 through ’06 Hummer H1. Each kit includes two female tie-rod ends, two locking jam nuts, and one solid threaded link. All of the components are made from 4140 HTSR chromoly steel and have a black liquid nitride coating on all body and pin components to ensure long wear and corrosion resistance. The tie-rod ends have right-hand and left-hand threads that allow ease of adjustment; they’re fully rebuildable, adjustable, and greasable; and they have a non-tapered body so there is no weak point susceptible to breakage. Other features include race tolerances that create a “wiper” effect between the race and ball eliminating the need for a boot and preventing grease from being washed out; and the ability to simply tighten a joint if it becomes loose without having to remove it from the vehicle. The tie rod assembly is offered on the EMF website for $352.80 at time of print.
More info: 877/236-3545, www.emfrodends.com
Some vehicles use either a vacuum actuator or a thermal linear actuator (TLA) to engage the right front axle to the intermediate shaft when shifting into four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, these actuators can be troublesome, leading to no four-wheel drive engagement. The 4x4 Posi-Lok system replaces the vacuum actuator or TLA with a cable-operated actuator. After engaging the transfer case, a one-inch pull of the 4x4 Posi-Lok cable engages the axles. The 4x4 Posi-Lok is available for a wide range of vehicles including certain years of the GM S- and K-Series trucks and SUVs, Dodge trucks and SUVs, some Jeeps, and the ’97-’03 Ford F-150. The Posi-Lok for the aforementioned vehicles is priced on the 4x4 Posi-Lok website at $159.05. The kit pictured here is for the Chevy S-Series vehicles.
More info: 517/279-7177, www.4x4posi-lok.com
Thanks for the Support
Cognito Motorsports offers pitman and idler arm support kits for various GM trucks and SUVs. According to Cognito, the steering support kits brace the pitman and idler arm to help hold an accurate toe setting. Cognito notes that a factory design flaw allows the pitman and idler arm to wear prematurely, which creates steering play. This support kit prevents the centerlink from rocking forward and backward in the vehicle to help prevent premature wear of the pitman and idler arm. These kits have an MSRP of $237 to $290 and work with stock height vehicles and lifted vehicles with the steering in the stock location.
More info: 866/426-4648, www.cognitomotorsports.com
Whether your rigs factory CV boots have failed or if you want to simply upgrade to a better boot, Rockford Constant Velocity offers its Duraboot. The company says that the Duraboot is the ultimate joint protection against variable operating temperatures and destructive road abrasion. The Duraboot is made of a Monsanto blend of special thermoplastic materials that resist temperatures from -65 F to +475 F. The company offers more than 220 Duraboot kits and each comes with new steel clamps and two generous packets of grease. Each boot kit has an average price of $25.
More info: 815/962-1411, www.rockfordcv.com
If you have a Toyota FJ Cruiser, ’05-or-newer Tacoma, or ’03-or-newer 4Runner that sees hard use, you may be at risk of bending or breaking the weak upright section of your rig’s factory spindles. All-Pro Off-Road offers these weld-on spindle gussets and they’re only $49 a pair at time of print. All-Pro says that although other manufacturers sell similar gussets, the exclusive All-Pro design is the only one that allows you to retain your factory sway bar for safe handling on the road. The gussets are compatible with backspacing up to 4.75 inches. If you run more backspacing on your rigs wheels, you’ll need to use wheel spacers.
More info: 951/658-7077, www.allprooffroad.com
CV Boot Cold Weather Tip
If you live in a cold-weather climate, one thing you can do that may lengthen the life of your vehicles CV boots is to straighten the front wheels when you park. When your vehicles wheels are turned, one CV boot is stretched and the other is compressed. In extreme cold the boots will stiffen up considerably. Matt Dinelli, owner of Attitude Performance in Arlington Heights, Illinois (www.attitudeperformance.com), has seen CV boots crack and even break clamps when the steering is then straightened in cold weather.
Many mechanics agree that the most important maintenance you can perform on your IFS rig is to inspect the CV boots regularly to ensure that they’re not damaged. Replacing an inexpensive damaged CV boot soon after a tear or puncture occurs is the best way to ensure that dirt and grime don’t enter and damage the expensive CV joint.