4x4Wire TrailTalk

97 4runner Front Differential Bearings?

Posted By: brink

97 4runner Front Differential Bearings? - 06/25/17 02:47 PM

Hello to all,
It has been a very long time since I have posted here. Over the years I have learned to handle most repairs to my 4runner on my own. My 97 4runner has 183,000 miles on it. Never been off road. I'm in NJ and take it to Northern VT each summer. I use it to commute to work each week and rarely go over 65mph. A few times last week I had to sustain speeds of 70mph and noticed vibration in the steering. The tires are one year old and were balanced when purchased. I became concerned about my upcoming trip to Vermont.
I checked the front end components(ball joints, wheel bearing play, struts, CV joints, drive shaft joints) and all seems ok except for the steering rack bushings which I saw movement and am replacing today with Summit racing type which I'm hoping will help with reducing the vibration.

Yesterday I removed the back half of the skid plate for access to the front of the rack bolt, and I poked around checking the CV's. I then noticed up and down movement on both inner axles where they enter into the differential. It seems the CV joints themselves are ok. . There are no oil leaks. CV boots are fine. Just have this 1/8" + slop at the differential. From what I researched this may be the differential bearings which is extremely expensive to replace

I must also mention that when I got new tires last year, the tire shop could not do a wheel alignment because the pass side lower control arm cam bolts were rusted. They wanted $1500 to replace it so I waited and drove it for 7000 miles which wore the pass side tire down on the inner edge a little.
I recently returned for a wheel alignment (after spraying Kroil on the cam bolts for months) and the shop was able to align it and they rotated the front tires to the rear. So the front tires are even tread, but the pass side rear has the tire with uneven wear.

My questions:
Is this axle movement at the differential normal for the mileage on the 4runner? Can this be the the cause of high speed vibration? Or is the rear uneven tire causing front vibration? Am I being to picky? Should I stay under 65 mph and forget about it? This 4runner has been the best vehicle I have ever owned. I hope it can go to 250000 miles.
Thanks for any help with this!
Posted By: brink

Re: 97 4runner Front Differential Bearings? - 06/25/17 11:21 PM

I replaced the steering rack bushings and did a test drive on a county road. Got up to 70mph for a brief few seconds and did not noticed the steering vibration. Hopefully those bushings did the trick.
Still would d like to hear from someone about the front axle play at the differential.
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