It’s now been about four and a half years that I owned my 1992 Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser and I never serviced the front steering knuckle and axle shafts (birfields). Shame on me. It was probably because there were no tell-tale signs of something wrong (eg; the front axle clicking when turning, etc.) that I put it off (or procrastination).
Well, it was time to do a brake job on the front axle (my front brake rotors were warped), and since I was going to be half-way into the birfield service, I might as well do the job correct and gain the knowledge of how to swap a front axle in my garage rather than out in the middle of no-where.
Before jumping into the job, I educated myself on the job ahead. First, and I can’t emphasize this enough, if you are going to work on your vehicle, and it doesn’t matter what vehicle you are driving, you need the factory service manual. The Haynes or Chiltons manual doesn’t cut it. Enough on that.
If you drive a Land Cruiser or any other Toyota 4×4 vehicle, ih8mud.com is a valuable resource. You will find the answer to almost any question about your Toyota 4×4. All you have to do is search.
A few threads from ih8mud that I printed out to have in the garage for reference included:
- How to Remove a Birfield…
- 80-Series Birfield Repack
- Front Axle Rebuild – For FAQ
- Separating and reassembling the birfield and inner axle assemblies
- Getting ready for front axle rebuild… finally
That’s just a few of the many on ih8mud.
So after figuring out what I was going to do, I ordered my Toyota parts from Rick Griewe (very knowledgable of older Land Cruiser stuff) at Titus-Will Toyota in Tacoma, Washington (253-475-4151) and surprisingly they had a lot of what I needed in stock. Only a couple of the brake hoses and the rotors had to be ordered. In addition, I ordered some tune up parts and an air filter.
Locally (in Ellensburg, Washington), I purchased a case of John Deere TY6333HD 3% Moly Grease (for the birfields) from the local John Deere dealer (I’ll take back what I don’t use) along with spray brake cleaner and gloves.
Before getting started, I laid out a large plastic painter’s drop cloth on the garage floor to keep any potential spills contained (and to keep my wife happy). Then I supported the front axle with two 6-ton jack stands along with two lighter duty jack stands supporting the frame as a safety measure. Overkill maybe, but better safe than sorry.
Since there are two almost identical sides of the axle, instead of disassembling one side then moving to the second side of the axle, I performed each step of disassembly on both sides, right after each other. That way I had the tools in hand, otherwise I would set them down and have to search for them later.
Disassembly of Front Axle Hub
The first thing I did after removing the tires was to unbolt the flexible brake line from the brake cylinder (caliper). Probably not needed if your brake lines are in good shape. I decided ahead of time to replace all the flexible brake lines and it was a good thing – my brake lines were in very poor condition (cracked). If you have never replaced them on an older vehicle, you should at least inspect them. Next I removed the two bolts that hold on the brake cylinder and set them aside as a unit.
Then I used a screwdriver and hammer to remove the grease cap from the flange.
You’ll then need a snap ring expander to remove the snap ring from the axle shaft.
Remove the six flange mounting bolts and set aside.
This is where there information on ih8mud is valuable (and I didn’t review until after I bent and stripped out a stud). The Factory service manual (FSM) calls for you to use a brass bar and hammer to tap onto the heads of the studs and that will loosen the cone washers. What the FSM doesn’t tell you is that you should keep the nuts on the studs flush with the end of the stud and then strike with the brass bar and hammer. If you don’t, the stud may bend. Don’t ask how I found that out. With a few strikes of the brass bar and hammer, the cone washers loosen up and flange is easily removed with the help of a screwdriver.
The axle hub and disc are held onto the spindle with a lock washer, a lock nut and an adjusting nut. The lock washer sits under the lock nut and has tabs that are bent around the lock nut so it doesn’t loosen up. Mine had one tab bent over the lock nut on each side of the axle.
Once the lock washer tab is bent away with a screwdriver, it’s time to remove the lock nut. Idealy, you would use a 54mm (or 2-1/8″) socket to remove the lock nut. Apparently, whomever previously serviced the front axle on my Land Cruiser didn’t have the proper tools and used a chisel to remove and install the lock nut. This made it tight to get the proper socket onto the nut. Luckily (or unluckily) the driver’s side was finger tight and the passenger side lock nut was not as damaged.
Once the lock nut has been removed, used a screwdriver to remove the lock washer. Again, using the 54mm socket, remove the hub adjusting nut. Once the adjusting nut has been removed, you can remove the hub and disc as a unit. be careful when removing because the outer wheel bearing can pop right out. No, it didn’t happen to me.
Disassembly of Steering Knuckle and Axle Shaft
Next, remove the eight bolts that hold on the dust seal, dust cover and gasket.
Then using a brass bar and hammer, tap the knuckle spindle off the steering knuckle. Be sure to have a pan to catch the birf soup (grease/oil mixture) that will run out. I used some cheap turkey roasting pans from the local dollar store.
Time to remove the axle shaft. There is a flat machined surface on top of the birfield joint. Rotate the axle until this machined surface is pointing up. The axle shaft can then be pulled out.
Not everybody does this step, however I disconnected the tie rods from the steering knuckles using a tie-rod fork and hammer. There are two on the passenger side and one on the drivers side.
On the the opposite surface of the steering knuckle (toward center of vehicle), there is a retainer that holds on a felt seal, a rubber seal and a metal ring. Remove the bolts that hold on the retaining ring and slide to the middle of the axle housing. Note the order and position of the seals for reassembly.
On the top and bottom of the knuckle are bearing caps. On top, the cap had two bolts and the bottom cap has four bolts and is integrated with the steering arms. Loosen all the bolts while still on the vehicle and then remove the top bearing cap, keeping the shim with the cap. With a little jimmying, the entire knuckle can then be removed. The bottom four studs have cone washers. Be sure that all the bolts, cone washers, shims and bearings go in their original location for reassembly.
Next was the removal of the inner axle seal within the axle housing. The seal pullers that I had on hand didn’t work so I ended up using a punch/chisel and hammer to get it out.
That is how to disassemble the FJ80 front steering knuckle and remove the axle shaft. Newer FZJ80s are similar but are different, especially those with ABS.
Since on my trip into town, I forgot to bring my fuel can, I had to make another trip in to get a few gallons of diesel to soak the birfields overnight in a five gallon bucket.
While in town, and the brewery is only a few minutes away from the gas station, I decided to treat myself to a growler of Irish Death from the Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington. Two pints to finish the day.
Next comes the cleaning and inspecting phase.