Testing the new Rancho Performance Control Arms for 2009 Toyota TacomaPosted in How To: Suspension Brakes on May 9, 2016
Toyota and Rancho are both iconic names in the off-road industry because both produce products that last. Ranging from that late 1970s Toyota truck with leaf springs you saw as a kid (or the other day on the trail) to the modern iteration of the Tacoma, 4Runner, and Tundra with modern suspensions and computer-based traction controls, Rancho has parts for either and all. To that end the 2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma is a competent off-road vehicle that can do duty as a daily driver when not playing in the dirt. With just a little suspension modification and fender trimming, this generation of the Tacoma can fit 33-inch tires, making an all-around highly usable family friendly truck that much more capable off-road.
Our pal Rob Bonney and his wife Sonja have been running a leveling kit clearing 285/75R16 tires for several years. The truck gets used during the week commuting the highways of Phoenix, Arizona. On the weekend it may see use on- and off-road during family trips from Baja to Colorado. The truck is outfitted to carry lots of camping gear and also has a custom Rob Bonney Fabrication winch bumper and body-mounted rocker guards. The Tacoma platform makes for a great family overlanding vehicle, and this one sees everything from taking the kids to school to running the family over Black Bear Pass.
The truck has held up well to the varied abuse, until the 3-inch leveling kit maxed out some of the alignment specs limited by the stamped factory upper control arms and the used and abused shocks started to leak. To address the alignment issue, which is common not only to the 2005-2015 Tacoma but also the 2007-2014 Tundra and 2009-2015 4Runner, Rancho has developed Performance Control Arms for these vehicles. These control arms (PN RS64901 for Tacoma) feature tubular construction, standard factory-style ball joints, polyurethane, and grease fittings. These Rancho control arm kits add caster, vital to alignment to help reduce wandering commonly caused by leveling and lifting these Toyotas.
With the Rancho control arms in hand and a set of Rancho Loaded quickLIFT Complete Strut Assemblies (PN RS999915) and RS 9000XL rear shocks (PN RS999319) we did a one-day driveway Rancho redo on the well-used Tacoma and then hit the dirt to test out the suspension and new control arms 4WOR style.
To start the install, put the truck up on jackstands. Using a body tool or screwdriver, remove the rubber splash guards that span between the body and frame. Jason Debusman from Rob Bonney Fabrication uses a special body tool that keeps the rubber parts in good shape and allows the plastic clips to be reused.
With a large adjustable wrench, Debusman bends part of the inner fender out of the way of the long bolt that retains the upper control arm. Alternatively you could remove the entire fender to get this bolt out. We recommend bending the metal out of the way.
Then remove the nut on the bottom of the ball joint of the factory control arm. If you are just replacing the control arms you can skip ahead. Debusman also removed the leaky old struts, which requires a little more work.
With the sway bar disconnected from the knuckle and frame and the factory upper control arm off the truck, it is relatively easy to remove the strut.
The new upper control arm kit also comes with a strut spacer that allows for about 3/4 inch more lift and provisions to lower the front diff and skidplate. The new Performance Control Arm allows for more lift if you want it.
With the old leaky strut out of the way we installed one of the Rancho Loaded quickLIFT Complete Struts and moved on to the new control arms. The control arms have polyurethane bushings, new steel sleeves and washers, black powdercoat, grease fittings at all pivot points, and standard ball joints. The trick to getting the washers in place on the arm is to feed them while slowly sliding the long pivot bolt through the arm and the frame mount.
The tubular construction of the Rancho parts for our 2009 Tacoma (PN RS64901 for 2005-2015 Tacomas) means they are stronger than the factory stamped steel arms. These arms have much more beef than the factory parts.
These cool gussets add strength to the areas where the arm transitions to the bushing sleeve. They are beefy compared to the factory part.
With all the parts in place and all the hardware tightened to factory specifications Debusman greased the new ball joint and the urethane bushings at the pivot points. These bushings are harder than the factory rubber parts, which helps minimize deflection when the suspension is working hard.
Upgrading the rear suspension is as easy as adding a set of RS 9000XL rear shocks (PN RS999319). Four bolts give you an adjustable ride from Rancho.
On-road the Tacoma feels like a stock truck handling what comes with comfort. In the dirt the Rancho suspension allowed the Tacoma to flat “haul-the-mail” down our local wash. The truck handles bumps and transitions from rock to sand with ease and confidence. The new Rancho Performance Control Arms allow factory levels of downtravel, which can be affected when a leveling kit is installed.
The Suspension uses all of its travel in the fast stuff, but also when the Tacoma got crossed up in the rocks. In the slow stuff the suspension was supple enough to keep tires on the ground longer than we thought it would. That makes the difference between having a spinning tire in the air and getting farther down the trail. Pretty impressive for an IFS truck that drives down the road in comfort.