FJ Cruiser, 4Runner and Lexus GX Rear Links

One of the most common questions we get when it comes to links is “I have an x.y inch lift – What kind of links do you recommend for my FJ, 4Runner, or GX 460 / 470?”  As much as I’d love to respond “RESZ Fab links, duh…” it’s not quite that easy.  With so many different links on the market, I’d hate to sell something to someone that isn’t going to fully benefit from their purchase, so I will typically ask a few basic questions and then recommend what I believe will work best for their needs.

I’ll touch base on some of those questions below.  Including explanations between adjustable and non-adjustable links and the difference between the various ends/joints that manufacturers use to build their links.

Do I need new links for my 4Runner, FJ Cruiser or GX 470 / 460?

Good question – let’s figure it out!

  1. Do you do any off-roading with your Toyota truck/SUV?

    If so, I would recommend at the very least a heavy duty aftermarket lower link.  Most factory links are fairly small in diameter and made from thin material which increases the chance of bending the link if it hits a rock.  Below is a comparison of a stock FJ Cruiser link cut in half vs RESZ Fab heavy duty lower link and a very blurry photo of a stock link that smacked a rock going up a mildly rutted hill.  There was a rock perfectly positioned near the rut towards the middle of this hill, so when the rear wheel dropped into it the lower link smacked the rock and bent.  These things can jump out and get you when you least expect it.

             

  2. Do you have a lifted FJC, T4R, or GX?

    Having a lift doesn’t necessarily mean you NEED to get new links, but picking up a set of aftermarket links will help position everything back to where it’s supposed to be with the factory link geometry.  The two biggest issues you’ll encounter with the stock links after a lift is pinion angle (which is adjusted with the upper links) and lateral (right to left) axle position (which is adjusted with the panhard bar).   When the pinion angle changes from OE spec you increase the amount of stress on the bearings which can ultimately lead to premature wear.   If you don’t address the lateral alignment of the rear axle after a lift you may notice some slight pulling to the left as the rear end will now be shifted to the right slightly.

  3. Do you have a Long Travel setup in the rear?

    There are several companies out there that offer LT lift kits for the FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, and Lexus GX models, but not a lot of links that were designed to specifically work with these setups.  OEM links won’t last long before the rubber tears and causes excessive play in the links (especially if they have 100k+ miles on them).  Sure there’s a ton of links on the market, but not many that are offset in a way that won’t cause binding on the axle housing or won’t make contact with the gas tank.  This is where our links shine!  The uppers are offset at both ends allowing the rear-end to fully drop without hitting the gas tank.  Our lower links use a slightly smaller diameter tube than most other companies but larger wall thickness to prevent bending and are also offset on the axle end to allow full drop without binding on the axle housing.

  4. Do you have extra play in the rear axle and/or hearing noises you shouldn’t be hearing?

    This would probably be a good time to check the bushings on your OEM links.    After 100k+ miles the rubber becomes dry-rotted and tends to crack and possibly tear away from the bushing housing and/or inner metal sleeve.  If you look closely at the photo below you can see where the rubber is torn and separated from the inner sleeve.  Typically you can rock the truck back and forth (forwards and backwards) a bit while it’s parked on flat ground and see if a link has excessive movement.  If it does there’s a good chance a bushing is toast.  At this point proceed using your best judgement based on what you’ve read above.

TLDR (too long didn’t read):  If you do any off-roading or have a basic lift it’s recommended to replace the links.  If you have a Long Travel setup, it’s strongly advised.  If you have over 100k miles, it’s suggested you check the links and proceed from there.

 

Should I get adjustable or non-adjustable links?

Non-adjustable – end of discussion.   Okay okay, I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible while explaining the advantages and disadvantages of both types of links.  Below you’ll see a photo of a NON-ADJUSTABLE link with Duroflex Joint on the LEFT and an ADJUSTABLE threaded Johnny Joint on the right.  Since fixing the alignment after a lift is one of most common reasons to replace your OEM rear links, it seems like a no-brainer to go with the adjustable setup.

 

Adjustable Links

Adjustable links are great for those who are really invested in fine tuning their rear axle alignment or have moved link mounts from the factory location and want some extra adjustment to get everything dialed in.  While they seem like a perfect OEM replacement, they require a lot of maintenance and could potentially fail if not cared for properly.  They’re like the Siberian Husky of the link world.  Give them lots of attention and they’ll be your best friend.  Neglect them and they’ll drive you insane!

As you can see from the photos above, adjustable links come with a male threaded end and jam nut to lock them in place on the main link body.  This will allow you to increase or decrease the overall length of the link which positions the axle front to back.

One of the most common mistakes made with these links is not REGULARLY checking the jam nut.  Over time they can loosen up and cause play in the link which will eventually damage the threads and cause the link to separate.

Mistake #2 is not PROPERLY checking the jam nut.   To do this you must first loosen the nut then retighten.    There are times when the jam nut will loosen slightly and then seize in place making you think everything is good and tight.  Over time, the same thing will happen as above – the threads will become worn and the end will separate from the link.

Another problem with adjustable links is how they’re built.  Many manufacturers will just thread the inside of the tubing and call it a day.  The problem with that is there is no resistance to corrosion.  It’s bare mild steel that will start to rust at the first sign of moisture.  Add road salt to the mix and the threads will be destroyed in a matter of a couple of years.  If you’ve decided adjustable links are for you, try to find a manufacturer that’s using a chromoly threaded insert or the whole link is made out of a more corrosion resistant material like chromoly.  Otherwise you may be investing in another set of links sooner than you wish.

I should note the climate you live in plays a huge role in longevity and overall maintenance on adjustable links.  Those who have to deal with snow and road salt should highly consider a non-adjustable link for the sake of their own sanity.

Last but not least, grease, grease, and more grease!  Since most adjustable links seem to come with Johnny Joints these days or a similar flex-joint, you’re going to want to grease these things regularly or they’ll SQUEAK and drive you crazy!  The more they squeak the more friction they create the quicker they wear down.  Then the squeaking disappears and you get clunks.  Time for new links!

 

Non-adjustable Links

You may not get the fine tuning capabilities of a fully welded link, but you do gain peace of mind and reliability!  Unlike the adjustable links, these have no threads or jam nuts.  They’re fully welded on both ends which eliminates the risk of the link pulling apart, cuts back on maintenance, and will save you money over time.

How do I get my alignment back into spec without the adjustability?   Find a manufacturer such as RESZ Fabrication (*shameless plug*) that makes a heavy duty set of links that are already extended and takes the guess-work out of it.   On a typical 2.5 inch lift you’re only looking at a difference of about 1/8 of an inch.

Another perk to having fully welded links is the ability to have double offsets on the upper links which will allow more suspension travel before the link makes contact with the gas tank.

Depending on the bushing or joint used on the links, you still may have to apply grease regularly to prevent noise and premature wear.

 

OEM rubber bushings, polyurethane bushings, Johnny Joints, Duroflex Joints, heim joints, etc…

With so many different link possibilities which bushing or joint should you go with?  This is going to be another one of those moments where I try to be as unbiased as possible and just provide a mix of facts and opinions to help you decide which would work best for your application.

  1. Rubber bushings

    Most factory OEM links and suspension components use rubber bushings.
    Pros – They’re flexy (allows for more twist/side-to-side movement in the ends vs polyurethane bushings).  Best for absorbing vibration.
    Cons – These bushings are adhered to the inner metal sleeve that the bolt goes through and outer ring that is pressed into the link.  If you have a lift with extended/long travel these will limit your down travel and eventually tear from stretching so much.
    Final thoughts:  Great for on-road use and mild off-roading.  Not recommended with LT setups.

  2. Polyurethane bushing

    Commonly used on at least one end of many aftermarket links.
    Pros – Absorbs vibration(but not as much as rubber bushings or Duroflex Joints).  Cheap.  Easily replaceable.
    Cons – Doesn’t allow for as much movement as rubber bushings and other joints.  Requires grease regularly to prevent noise and wear.
    Final thoughts:   Budget friendly bushing.  Great for on and off-road use.  Can use with LT setups, but would benefit more from the joints listed below.

  3. Currie Johnny Joints

    Come with threaded shaft(adjustable links) or weldable barrel(non-adjustable). All are made from a ball center with polyurethane bushing surround.
    Pros – Plenty of unrestricted movement.  Absorbs vibration(not as much as the above bushings).  Tightens up the suspension.
    Cons – High maintenance(routinely need to be greased).  Squeak.  Expensive. Loosening jam nuts and/or seized/damaged threads(on adjustable threaded JJ’s).
    Final thoughts:  Great all around joint if you can keep up with the maintenance.  Not recommended for rigs that see road salt.  Perfect for those that like the whoops and still daily drive it.

  4. Metalcloak Duroflex Joints

    Kind of a cross between a Johnny Joint and OEM bushing.  Unrestrictive flex joint made from a rubber and kevlar compound.
    Pros – Absorbs vibrations (more than poly bushings and Johnny Joints).  Plenty of unrestricted movement (slightly more than Johnny Joints).  Next to NO MAINTENANCE.  They don’t even have a grease fitting because there isn’t a need to grease them regularly.  Maybe pull them apart every few years and apply a fresh coat of grease, but that’s it!
    Cons – They’re a bit pricey.  Softer setup than Johnny Joints.
    Final thoughts:   The Duroflex Joints are my personal favorite.  Perfect for those that daily drive their rigs in ALL climates.  Great with LT setups.   Install them and forget them!

  5. Heim Joints

    For the sake of this discussion, we’re going to talk about the heat treated chromoly teflon lined rod ends.  Most of these will give you about 22 – 32 degrees of misalignment.  Great off-road.  Not recommended for daily driven rigs.
    Pros – Will take a serious beating.  Smooth movement.  Adjustability.  Smaller.  Easily attainable and replaceable.
    Cons – Does not absorb much vibration.  Noisy.  Can get expensive depending on the manufacturer and materials used.
    Final thoughts:  Highest performing joint, but wouldn’t recommend for a daily driver.  Perfect for a trail rig.

 

RESZ Fab’s link recommendations

Non-adjustable links with Duroflex Joints. Since most FJC, 4Runner, and GX owners use their rigs as a daily driver as opposed to a dedicated trail rig, we can pretty much eliminate the need for heim joints.  Most people also don’t want to deal with extra maintenance so that eliminates adjustable links and/or Johnny Joints.  Although Johnny Joints can be great in warmer/drier climates, they still require a fair bit of maintenance.

Polyurethane bushings and OEM rubber bushings are a good runner up and also a little more budget friendly.

If you still have questions in regards to links or other suspension questions, feel free to ask!  Write us a comment below or send as an email sales@reszfab.com

What’s the biggest tire I can fit on an FJ Cruiser?

There really isn’t a simple answer to this question.  It could be 33s, 35s, or something as big as 49s (yes, there’s an FJ out there rolling on 49s as we speak).  Tire size greatly depends on what you’re doing with the FJ, supporting mods, and budget.  Obviously the bigger the tire the more expensive it’s going to be.  33s and 35s are the most common in the FJ world but more and more people seem to be pressing their luck with 37s lately – including myself!  Beyond those sizes a solid axle swap is recommended to fit all that meat under an FJ.

What do I have to do to fit 33s (285/70/17 ) on my FJ?

I’d say 33s (our case 285/70/17s) are probably the most common tire upgrade among FJC owners since you really don’t have to do much to make them work.  In fact, you could install these on a bone stock rig with very minimal rubbing, if any, depending on the specific tire, wheel, and front-end alignment.

I should note that a true 33 inch off-road tire will measure around 33″ in diameter and 12.5″ wide.  Attempting to run these tires on stock wheels and stock suspension won’t work without wheel spacers due to the offset and backspacing of the factory FJ wheels.  They’ll end up making contact with the upper control arm (“UCA”) and likely won’t allow you to mount the wheel to the hub.  If you go with the wheel spacer route I would recommend 1.25″ Spidertrax spacers.  I’ve been personally running these spacers for about 8 years now without a problem.  They’ve seen 33s, 35s, and now 37s.  Now that you’ve spaced the wheels out more you run into issues with rubbing on the mud flaps and body mounts.  Mud flaps are an easy fix – take them off!  The body mount isn’t quite as easy.  I’ll touch base on that next.

Some of the most common supporting mods for fitting 285/70/17s are typically a 2-3 inch lift and/or a body mount chop (“BMC”) as mentioned above.  What’s a body mount chop you ask..  If you look behind your front mud flaps you’ll see a rounded piece of metal protruding into the the wheel wells from just below the firewall.  These are your “body mounts”.  In order to keep them from rubbing on the tires you will need to “chop” or cut them back a bit.  We’ll get more into details on the BMC at a later date.

37s next to 33s

37″ Cooper STT Pros next to 285/70/17 Goodyear Duratrac’s

What do I have to do to fit 35s (315/70/17) on my FJ?

35s will need a decent amount of work to properly fit your FJ without rubbing.  In addition to what was mentioned above for the 33s  you’re going to need aftermarket UCAs, a more aggressive BMC, a cutting tool for plastic, a BFH (Big Fuggin’ Hammer), extend rear bump stops, body lift, alignment, and possibly a regear.  Yes, I said “possibly a regear”.  While it is recommended, I can’t say it’s absolutely needed.

Let’s start by explaining what needs to be done to fit 35s without rubbing before I get into the gearing part of it.

  1. Aggressive BMC – you’ll have to cut the body mount back as far as you can to prevent rubbing at full lock.
  2. Cut and/or remove plastic – there’s going to be plastic on the firewall side of the wheel well that needs to be trimmed and likely some parts of the OEM fender flares.  If you still have a stock bumper, you’ll probably have to do some trimming of the lower part of the bumper and front plastic part of the wheel well.
  3. Start hammering – pinch welds in the wheel wells (front and back) and some of the raised spots on the firewall in the front wheel wells that stick out a bit.  A good alternative to beating up the firewall is a body lift.  A 1 inch body lift should be just enough to get the firewall out of the way at full tuck and full steering lock
  4. Extended bump stops – there are several companies out there that make bump stop spacers so the rear wheel doesn’t rub the inside of the wheel well when fully tucked.
  5. Aftermarket Upper Control Arms – the idea here is to increase the caster a couple of degrees which will move the tire away from the firewall and body mount. Some of them have 2-3 degrees built into them while others will allow you to adjust the caster and camber.
  6. Alignment – after installing the aftermarket UCAs you’re going to need an alignment.
  7. Gearing – as stated above, I definitely recommend regearing if you have the funds and means to do so but it isn’t always needed.  You’ll get better mileage, retain factory power, and still be able to use cruise control.  If you live in the mountains or an area with a lot of hills you’re definitely going to want to regear.  Otherwise your transmission will constantly be searching for gears and the power loss will drive you insane.
35" STT Pros on the trail

35″ Cooper STT Pro’s on 16″ Method NV’s

For FJs with 35s that are being daily driven I typically recommend a 4.56 : 1 gear ratio.  If it’s more of a weekend warrior, I’d suggest 4.88s.   If you have an 8″ rear diff you can go up to a 5.29 : 1 gear ratio.  Click here for gearing options.

Tire size note –  315/70/17s are very close in size to a typical 35″ x 12.5″ off-road tire.  Depending on the manufacturer they will measure out to be about 34.5″ x 12.4″

An FJ Cruiser on 37s and IFS you say!?

Yes, you read that correctly!  Some guys (including myself) are running 37s.  While it’s not something I’d typically recommend doing it’s certainly possible.

I’m not going to go too far into depth with this but everything you did to fit 35s you’ll have to do again to fit 37s – and then some.  Instead of a Body Mount CHOP you’re likely going to need a body mount RELOCATION.  You’ll also have to do some cutting and welding in the wheel wells to make everything fit without rubbing when fully tucked.  I’m not sure regearing is an option at this point.  I couldn’t even imagine trying to turn these monsters on the stock 3.73 gears.  I’d go with 4.56 : 1 at the very minimum but would highly recommend 4.88s or even 5.29s.  I regeared to 4.88 when I had my 35s but kind of wish I had 5.29s now.

If you’re not into cutting, hammering, welding, and regearing I wouldn’t recommend 37s.

40 inch tires and beyond!

Going over 37s is ill-advised unless you have a lot of time and money on your hands.  While there are still a couple of guys out there that insist on running 40s on IFS, most will do a solid axle swap (“SAS”) and rip out all the IFS – which is basically where I’m at this point.  We’ll be running 42″ Pitbull Rockers on a Dana Super 60 up front and Sterling 10.5 in the rear.  Stay tuned for some build posts of that project during the winter months!

FJ SAS with 42s

42″ Pitbull Rockers and Dana 60 front axle – SAS

Last but not least I should mention that your style of wheeling should be taken into consideration as well when it comes to tires.  If you’re a pedal to the metal kind of guy that likes to bounce their rig over obstacles with speed I’d stick with a smaller tire.  The larger the tire, the more rotational mass, the more you’re going to break…

Hopefully I covered enough to help you choose the biggest tire for your FJ, but if I didn’t, drop us a comment below or send us an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.