It may not be everyone’s favorite thing, but the time comes when a 4×4 has to come in from the trail to undergo maintenance. That time recently came for Neil Tjin, as his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser was taking a break from riding around the California wilderness to get a check-up. He brought his SUV to San Clemente, California, where Energy Suspension would give it a once-over before returning it back to Neil.
Energy Suspension’s facility, equipped with state-of-the-art tools and of course, all kinds of polyurethane bushings, was more than ready for the Land Cruiser. This was their final fit check, a procedure they perform for vehicles running prototype parts.
With the rig up on a four-post lift and all necessary bushings and tools laid out, we got to work going around the vehicle. Bill Harrill from Energy’s New Product Development team would be performing all labor on the vehicle, making sure it was ready for Neil’s next adventure.
While it’s always a joy to see old-school Toyotas receive new parts, having Neil Tjin’s Land Cruiser at Energy Suspension was of mutual benefit to the company, too. By working on his Land Cruiser, Energy Suspension was learning what worked and what needed tweaking.
“We wanted to bring the vehicle in to see what parts we make for it and install them,” explained Harrill. “As part of our final fit check, we’re making sure the parts fit and using it as a test bed to see how it does.”
Harrill wanted to check out various parts of the SUV and see which of Energy’s parts would fit the bill. “I’ll be working on the rear control arms, track bars, and bump stops,” he said. “I also want to check on the sway bars. We previously installed our body mounts all the way around, so those are good to go.”
Along the way, Harrill hoped to see areas that were worn out and in need of new bushings. “All of the bushings on this vehicle are stock or stock replacements,” he said. “So it’s likely that over the course of so much off-roading, they’ve gotten worn out. Cracks and tears in the rubber will be a dead giveaway.”
Getting Our Hands Dirty
Underneath the Land Cruiser, it was a surprise to find it was relatively clean and mud-free. Whatever it is that Tjin does to this FJ80, he treats it with respect. Harrill was happy about it, to be sure.
We started on the front of the SUV’s undercarriage. With the wheels removed, Harrill had a much easier time accessing suspension components. He pointed out the track bar and went about removing it from the vehicle. “The bushings on a track bar won’t show much wear and tear, but we might as well take care of it while it’s here,” he said.
Using an air wrench, Harrill removed the track bar and showed a process that would be repeated several times that day. It started by using a hydraulic press and sandwiching the track bar between collars – one just small enough to fit the size of the bushing, and one just big enough to keep the part from moving around while being pressed.
“The hydraulic press is a great tool for removing bushings,” said Harrill. “By using collars that put even pressure on the whole side of the bushing, the press then applies constant, driving pressure, and the bushing eventually gives up and falls out.”
Pop! Goes The Bushing
Harrill worked the lever and held the track bar steady. A pop rang out as the small collar smacked into its groove and had total mesh with the bushing. With a few more pumps, the bushing dropped out of the socket. Harrill repeated it for the opposite end of the track bar, and then took it over to a workbench.
At the workbench, Harrill lined out the new Energy polyurethane bushings. He also had on hand a tub of grease. “This is our Formula 5 grease that helps keep the bushings lubricated,” he said. “Since we’re going from soft rubber to hard plastic, the grease will let it flex and rotate inside the socket. Also, it’ll keep the bushing from squeaking.”
Harrill sprayed his hands with WD-40 to rid them of grease. Next, he used a hand press to squeeze the new bushings in. With that done, Harrill reinstalled the track bar and switched to the front sway bar. Here, we found bushings that had seen the end of the road and kept going. It was a good thing Energy caught them now instead of waiting until they gave out on the trail.
Ready To Rock
As the day wore on, Harrill went over as many suspension components as possible on the Land Cruiser. Sway bars, control arms, bump stops, and more all got removed and replaced with brand new polyurethane. If something were to fail on Neil’s FJ80 in the near future, it sure wouldn’t be a bushing!
Wherever Neil’s Land Cruiser heads to next, it will be riding in confidence thanks to the steps Energy Suspension took to upgrade the vehicle. “Energy Suspension killed it with their new bushings kit for my FJ80,” said Neil. “Their craftsmanship and attention to detail are second to none.”