Project Frontend:
Part 3: Idler Arm Replacement

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Replacing the Idler arm on a Gen I Montero

tn_blue_front.jpg (7206 bytes)
Project "Front-End"

The long-awaited conclusion of Project Frontend focuses on getting rid of the play in the steering system.

Often times if you have wear in the idler arm (on the passenger's side) you will also find some play in the pitman arm (driver's side) as well. Check both sides before you pick up your parts.



Step One: Is my idler Arm a Candidate For Replacement?

Old Idler
The old idler arm is very idle indeed!

To determine if your idler arm has given up its rightful place, raise the vehicle till the front wheels are just off the ground using a hilift jack (or a floor jack under the lower arm), have an assistant shake the wheel from side to side. Watch the steering linkage during this movement: any play in the idler arm should be readily apparent. This test can also be done without an assistant, by simply grasping the tire, and shaking it on a horizontal plane. During this inspection, check the condition of the washer which connects the idler arm to the draglink. The factory piece uses a flimsy plastic washer, which often wears out before the arm does.


Step Two: Removing the "Dead Wood"

Begin by taking the necessary steps to raise the front of the vehicle, and removing the passenger's side front wheel. (Ensure the vehicle is safely secured before working on it!) Remove the cotter pin and castellated nut from the draglink side of the idler arm, then remove the four nuts that attach the arm to the frame. This will require a wrench on the head of the retaining bolts from under the hood. Finally, make a few strategic taps on the arm with a hammer, and the shaft should slide right out.

Step Three: Reassembly

Fit the shaft of the new idler arm into place, and then fasten it to the frame, using the same nut bolt combination you removed in step two. Finally, install the castellated nut on the end of the shaft, and insert a new cotter pin.

Frame Mount Castle Nut
One of the frame mounting nuts is visible. The new arm is bolted in place.

Conclusion

Anytime you "mess" with front end components, a wheel alignment is recommended, to preserve your truck's tracking, and to reduce tire wear. Since installing the new idler arm, my 89 Raider's onroad handling has improved dramatically. In a future installment, we will install a steering stabilizer, to see how much, if any, it improves offroad handling.

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