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front drive axle replacement 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser (LC 100)

As is the case with many automotive repair stories, this one begins with a simple trip to Home Depot to buy lumber for an unrelated task. I needed two sheets of 4×8 so my wife’s 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series was called into service. It’s overdue for an oil change so I figured I would drive it to the store, wash it on the way home then change the oil, but little did I know that I would be spending the next 8 hours figuring out how to replace the driver side axle. About 1/2 way to the store I was pulling away from a traffic signal when I was greeted what I can only describe as breaking glass, but metal. My time around drift cars would have me associate this sound with catastrophic drive-line failure, which I quickly confirmed when the accelerator pedal no longer produced forward motion. Thinking on my feet I locked up with center differential and continued my journey. In the back of my mind I remembered my wife complaining that the car had made “a loud grinding noise” and that I should take a look at it. Once I got to Home Depot I climbed under the front of the truck and was greeted by the culprit, axle failure.

Upon closer inspection, the front axle was no longer engaging the drive plate on the driver side of the truck.

I figured that I would share what I learned fixing the broken axle because replacing it was not nearly as expensive or time consuming as I thought it might be.

I got a fresh Axle from a local Autozone that had one in stock and it cost me just over $100. It’s not OEM, but the OEM ones were 6x the cost. I figure if I break this one in less than 200k miles I will get OEM next. I also needed replacement dust boots for the upper and lower ball joints and a gasket that I got from Manhattan Beach Toyota for $44.

The groove in the axle that retains this c-clip failed.
The broken axle

Axle Removal

  1. Jack up the truck and place on jack stands.
  2. Remove the wheel and tire
  3. Unbolt the brake line retaining bracket and ABS sensor and brackets from the spindle.
  4. Unbolt the brake caliper and use a hanger or large ziptie to hold the brake caliper and ABS sensor out of the way. (Don’t want to allow the caliper to hang on the brake line)
  5. Remove the axle drive plate (hub flange). (here is a video of that process)
  6. At this point I removed the brake rotor to make it easier to handle the weight of the spindle. This involved bending the lock washer tabs on the spindle nut out of the way and removing the two spindle nuts. You will need a special spindle nut socket for this step. (54MM Hex Locknut Socket)
  7. Remove the steering arm. There are two bolts, they are attached with red thread locking compound so you will need a long wrench.
  8. Separate the upper and lower ball joints and remove the spindle (video of separating ball joints)
  9. Remove the spindle and pull out the axle.
  10. Pushing the new axle into place takes a bit of force, but can be done without using a hammer. You want to be careful to avoid damaging the rubber boots.
  11. Reverse the above steps and use the torque specs below to get everything back in order.

Useful Torque Specs:

  • Upper Ball Joint – 81 ft/lbs
  • Lower Ball Joint – 117 ft/lbs
  • Steering Arm – 108 ft/lbs with threadlocker
  • Brake Caliper – 91 ft/lbs

Spindle Nut Installation:

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start at the beginning

Back when I was a much younger version of myself I encountered a man named Alex. He built a locost powered by a turbocharged AE86 engine. I ran into him at El Toro airfield at a Drift Day event and he gave me a few rides. I don’t know what became of the car or the man, but the memory remains immortalized on YouTube. Enjoy!