‘Rides like velvet’
That’s the message I got from Dan ‘Hank’ Bergin after he installed a set of 4″ parabolic springs from Haystee Automotive on his FJ62 series Land Cruiser. Then, after a few weeks of driving it 60 miles a day to and from work I get this: ‘It really rides damn near as good as the 80’
Apparently, he likes them….and was impressed enough to provide a nice article as well!
Subject is a 1990 FJ62 that has seen 18 years of Midwestern winters and two years of trail pounding by yours truly. I am the installer. I’ve done a lift kit or two over the years. I will be doing the work on a hoist provided by Big Larry of L&J Auto Body of Appleton, WI. Larry is a long time friend and four wheel drive enthusiast and will be lending a hand through out the process.
Thursday night I picked up the kit from Woody’s Garage (Some of you may have heard of him, he has a little website called IH8MUD.COM) and went to L&J to get started. I took some measurements of my truck on level ground. The truck was laden with normal trail gear since this past weekend was spent on the road and trail. I measured 11″ from the front rims to the bottom of the fenders in front. The driver’s rear was 10″ from the rim to the ¼ panel and the passenger rear was 10.5″. I had a light case of the typical Cruiser lean.
After some pictures I started to remove parts that would be discarded. First the shock absorbers then the nuts on the leaf spring pins. Don’t forget the small bolt into the spring mount on the forward side of the rear springs. All these nuts came off surprisingly well for an 18 year old truck. (Before proceeding I should say that it would seem that about 50% of the other install write ups I have read mention pulling the rear driveshaft. To assist with compression removing the grease zerk at the slip and the shaft will slide easier.)
At this point I grabbed some supports for the rear axle so I could begin full removal. After supporting the rear end I removed the bracket that holds the metal line to flex line transition for the rear brakes. This will prevent over stretching the brake line. A new longer brake line will be installed soon. This is not an option with this 100mm+ lift. I also disconnected the rear axle breather tube. The breather tube will be extended also and the non axle end will need to be relocated also due to the area I typically recreate in.
Next I cut the u bolts out with a torch. They can also be cut with a cut off wheel or plasma cutter or if you have extra time you can fight with them manually. Since this is a crusty Midwestern truck the gas axe was employed. Take necessary provisions of course and use eye protection when using tools for this task. Once the ubolts are cut, the shackles and pins can be removed and you can lower the old springs to the floor. Toyota has insulators on the rear of the FJ62 between the ubolt plates and the spring and more in between the spring and the leaf spring perch. All of this stuff needs to be removed. The new springs must be fit tight to the rear perches. The hole for the centering pin in the rear perches is much larger than the head on the spring center pin. We used a piece of tubing that slid over the head of the spring center pin tightly and slid in to the hole in the perch tightly. The clamping force of the ubolts holds the springs in place in theory but any shifting of the spring in its mounts can lead to poor alignment and tracking or worse a broken center pin.
Next we opened the bushings, lubed them and installed them in the new springs. At the back shackle mount on the frame we cleaned up the bushing tube. If you have a good amount of rust build up use a wire brush or some method to make sure the bushings slide in smooth and restriction free. Attention to detail here will insure long bushing life and proper movement of the shackle. We hung the rear springs from the fixed mount forward on the cruiser with the new greasable pins loosely and then swung the springs up and fastened them to the anti inversion shackles supplied with the kit. The anti inversion stop (3rd bolt in the shackles) faces forward on the truck. New greasable pins are supplied for these also. Take a minute to examine the new shackles and their assembly. There are 10 hard ways to put them together and one very easy method that will save frustration later. The pins thread in to the side of the shackle and must be tight there before the spring slides on and the shackle pin is slid in to the frame side mount. Do not run the spring and shackle pins tight at this point. Snug is fine. They will be tightened later. After both springs are hung the rear end can be lowered into place. Be sure to get the center pins in their holes. At this point the ubolts can be installed and snugged up.
Moving on to the front, many of the same procedures apply. Remove the front shocks. A cut off wheel works well if the nut on top just turns the shaft. Use caution if a torch is used to remove the top stud. Remove the driveshaft if you wish, remove the brake line bracket at the axle side so the line doesn’t get over stretched. Support the axle, loosen the springs and remove the ubolts. Again, clean up the frame side shackle mount and install the new bushings. Put the new bushings in the leaf springs. Hang the leaf springs at the rear and lift them forward to attach to the shackles. Once they are in, lower the axle to the springs aligning the center pins again. Install the ubolts and tighten. Do not tighten the spring pins yet, just snug is fine.
Moving on to the little things now is a good time to put your shocks in the truck. In my climate some antiseize is a good idea on the bolts. Use care when positioning the front upper bushings and plates in the shock mount. Remember to retighten these later after a few miles, they tend to seat after some road time and the nuts can be loose. If you are installing extended brake lines, which I found to be a “must do” with this lift, now is the time to do so. I would also suggest extending the breathers for both axles and securing them out of the way as well as high and dry.
Update: I now have a couple thousand miles on my Heystee lift. The truck has settled ½” everywhere but the left rear which has settled nearly two inches. I have had a very busy summer and fall so I have not been able to address this yet. Paul Heystee is aware of this issue and has asked me for some measurements to determine the cause of the issue. The ball is in my court to unload my wheeling gear and get those to him ASAP.
In all the miles I have owned this Cruiser I have mostly wanted an 80 series. I no longer do. I feel I have achieved the ride and handling that I have been looking for. I now have Bilstein 5125 shocks at all four corners. They are 11.94″ travel 255/70 shocks. The front needs to have a new upper mount for these to work ideally. These shocks have a top eyelet and not stud like the factory shocks. Ford F350 shock towers work well to fix this issue. With these shocks and the Heystee suspension system I have installed I really believe my cruiser is handling as well as a truck on 35’s is going to handle. My wife and kids ride in it willingly. I drive my truck to and from the trails and certainly I am not bashful anywhere. Interstate travel is much safer with the cruiser now than it was at stock height. I have completely removed both sway bar assemblies and they will not be going back on.
Sidebar #1) Just for reference I am running 35×12.5×17 BFG Mud Terrain tires on 17×9 black Soft 8 Rims from Cragar (awesome deal at Summitracing.com) my back spacing is 3.5″. I also added 1.5″ spacers from Slee Offroad to get my tires to stop hitting my rear inner wheel wells and my front leaf springs. I run 40psi on the highway and 12 on the trail. I had 35×12.5r15 BFG’s on 2.5″ back spaced 15×10 steel rims. Running maximum pressure on the highway was OK at best but the additional sidewall gave a floating feeling at speed that was not comfortable. I put my 33×9.5r15 BFG A/T’s on factory rims on there and that was also not comfortable with the current height.
Sidebar #2) Handling is not ideal at this height. I need more caster. This fall we will cut and turn the front end. There is no way around it other than to lower the truck. I have become quite happy with the current height and ride so I am not willing to go lower. I have bump steer due partly to the increased drag link angle and partly due to insufficient caster. I will do another up date after that was done. My goal is lofty, street car handling with a lifted truck. I’ll let you know how close we get.
Sidebar #3) Extended front brake lines. Napa 38009 works great. If you don’t like Napa have your friendly neighborhood parts store cross the number. Thanks to Kurt at Cruiser Outfitters to tipping me off on this number. Also, lots of good information exists right here: http://www.ih8mud.com/techtrivia.php
Sidebar #4) I had a huge rear vibration due to driveshaft angle right after the lift. I replaced my universal joints. DO NOT use anything but OEM Toyota or GMB joints (I got mine from Carquest) I then put in four degree wedges in the back and I still have a slight drive away shudder but not anything to be concerned with. Be sure to change both rear joints (I did all four) check for slop in the slip shafts and clean out the slips of all those years of grease and grime.
Sidebar #5) The springs showed up in a bright royal blue color, the shackles are anodized, the hardware is anodized and everything that would ideally have a grease fitting does. This is truly top notch. I have thousands of miles and at least 8 weekends of hard trail riding on these springs and the blue still cleans up nicely. They are not rusting at all. I have greased everything twice since the install. I only get weird noises when I have the wagon pushing its limits.
Busted stock spring….yep, it was time to replace…