Photos of knuckles: Experts?

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Gotta get outta here...
Sep 20, 2003
OK, so I went and test drove an 80 finally today, my first (all the other ones I looked at were 100s but you guys are persistent and convincing so I may just get an 80 for myself and let my better half get the 100... )
[BW, don't read any further, I know I looked at too many of these :)]

So, it has 86K on it. Good records. All regular serious maintenance done at Dealer. No indication nor record of front end work done. Tried some full wheel turns on both asphalt and dirt and no noticeable clicking that I noticed.

Don't have quite a good idea of what to look for, so here are some photos. Anybody cares to comment on whether there is too much goop on there? Owner tells me she asked her Mechanic if there was a problem. He said knuckle seals may be worn a bit but says axle seals should be fine for another 100K (???). It was fairly wet and quite a bit of grease to see. Gray wet looking grease. Can't tell if it has oil in it or not. It may be that they just squirted some back in there when she asked their opinion. Would not be surprised cuz there is a bunch of fresh same looking gray grease that seems to have squirted out of the driveshaft and sprayed around recently too...

Waddaya think?

(edit: it's a 97)

thanks much

What I see is consistant with a vehicle that is not BAD but is in need of a knuckle job. So, that being said, it's not hurt but it's time to reach for the billfold.

Dan, care to elaborate a bit on your reasoning so us newbies learn some more subleties of the trade?
I see some excess grease coming out but no major spraying of liquid stuff. Is that right?
You need to do a frontendectomy. :) Replace seals, gaskets, clean, check bearings, F-ing birfs and repack with molybdenum disulfide grease(Knuckle and F-ing birf) Wheel bearings get good lithium grease.

They are a good time!

Good luck!

The thing to check is the gear oil and the breather hose. Contaminated oil tends to foam and come out the breather. Undo the diff filler plug and stick your finger in it. Nice looking oil I agree with Dan, its time for a knuckle job. Bad looking oil, seals are bad and knuckle job is long overdue. It's easy to take a rag and cleanup the outside. This may have been done a few months back. The last picture IMHO shows grease mixed with oil.

I don't understand what appears to be some white grease on the steering limits. That looks to have been done recently possibly to eliminate some noise but would only come into play in fully locked steering.

You have to ask yourself why this women was aware of the problem and took it to a mechanic. Either another buyer pointed it out or she had some noise problems. Don’t believe what the mechanic says the seals if not done previously are not going to last another 100k. They may have pumped the birfield cavity full of grease to make the problem disappear and decided to sell instead of spending the ~$1200 to repair properly. Can you tell the filler plugs have been removed recently?

All that said you state it has 86K but don’t state the year. Even for a 97 that isn’t very high mileage. The recommended service on the front axle is 60k. Expect that you are going to repair that and negotiate the price accordingly. The thing I would look for and be more concerned with would be possible overheating related issues or other engine work. Does it look like the head has been removed or sealant smeared around or a fresh looking gasket. Axles can be fixed relatively cheap motor rebuilds get expensive.
it's a 97.
The white on the limiters looked like squished plastic more than grease when I looked.
Did not see any significant signs of leaks around gasket. But then not sure I could see it very well. Did have red coolant in.
Didn't think about checking the breathers.
Couldn't take the plug off on the street.
Apparently both I and another guy asked about the front end and maybe the other guy had looked and also thought it looked too wet. Which is probably why she asked her mechanic.
At this point, I still have to decide whether to go ahead and even take it to a mechanic for a more serious inspection or not. If it's just a regular frond end maintenance job needed I might go for it, if the Birfs need replacing I imagine that's $$ so I would not go for it.
Either way, its' good to find out from you guys what a "bad" knuckle looks like.

Do you have a name other than lots o' 9's? :D

I will make an effort to define what I see:

When examining the backside of the "balls" that are surround by the knuckles one should find a light deposit of grease on the "balls" and minimal grease build-up on the wiper seals attached to the knuckles. A close inspection of the above photos will show that there is a significant "collection" of grease that has been "scrubbed off" by the wiper seals and enough grease left behind to obscure the metal surface of the balls.
This indicaters to me that the knuckles have been over-filled with grease or that the inner seals have begun to allow gear oil into the knuckles, resulting in excess lubricants being allowed out of the knuckle cavities.
Since this vehicle has in excess of 60,000 miles on the clock and no record of any axle service, it is safe to assume that it is, indeed, due for an "axle job".

What is most important to note is the ammount of "glossy" or "wet" grease that is present on the wiper seals. "Normal" ammounts of grease scrubbed off by the wiper seals do not normally look "wet".

His name is Eric. How could you possibly forget?
I'm guessing that front breather is also clogged. There is a good amount of diff fluid that has come down that hose and onto the axle tube.

None of these are a reason to avoid that truck. This is just normal on a truck with that mileage and doing the axle service and extending the diff breathers will very likely get the truck to 150k with no further axle maintenance. It's not a big deal.

If it has lockers then buy it.

thanks Dan:
yup, the PS one looked particularly wet with a thick layer of new looking grease.
I would bet they just refilled the thing recently when she asked about it and it just squirted out right away. Didn't look like the grease was very "liquidy" though, just wet fresh looking grease.
Knuckle seals bad at the very least then I imagine. I could handle that and you guys sure made the job look interesting. But I could not afford new Birfs... :(
[BW, told ya not to read... Didn't want you to worry about me :D . Was wondering why that tube was wet. You guys are gooood! ]

don't know where the refill/check plug is on the knuckles, but what's with these lower nuts that look like they were played with recently?

Don't give the birfs another thought - you won't need to replace them at that mileage and with that owner. You also cannot even hear noise. I think CDan would agree with that as well. All you'd need is the normal front axle seal service and if the truck checks out in other areas and has lockers I would not pass it up. Use the price (call a Toyota dealer) of about $650 per side as a bargaining tool - maybe ask for $500 off and see what happens. Then, pay $350 for the seal kit and do it yourself sending me the remaining $150.

At 86k the probabilities of needing new birfields would be low. In negotiating I wouldn’t admit to it and paint some gloom and doom if it turns out so. In any case if you do the service yourself you’re looking at $300 or less to get the parts and supplies may be a little more if you need to enhance your collection of tools. Take it to the dealer and your looking at $1200 for service, with another $1000 or more to replace the birfields at the same time. In that context I would be looking for the seller to drop the price another $1000 to $1500 over the theoretical excellent shape vehicle.

Don’t forget other costs after purchasing. I think someone estimated $600 to replace coolant, change transmission, transfer case and diffs lubes along with the birfield service. You will spend that on any used vehicle unless service records and persuade you otherwise.
BW, I didn't want to tell you, but since you asked :D guess what the 2 tone color combo is on that truck :D? Don't want to tread on anybody's turf...
(If you're wondering, I should say that besides the front end bizness, it's very overpriced, and the A/C only goes down to 54F as well.... :D) But then that color combo... Oh Momma, classsssy!
A two tone '97?
The front axle service parts price for smart shoppers comes out to just under 190 bucks, including new OEM trunion bearings but not including wheel bearings or lubricants.

OK, seriously, I'm reading a consensus so far that
1) knuckle seals and perhaps axle seals are shot
2) Birfs are likely OK
3) this is to be expected for a 90K truck.
Good to know, and sure glad that I can now visualize better what to expect under there.
(ed: yeah Dan! I wonder if one can ship really big bags of dog food :)?)
(ed: Doug, I'm tempted to say that it's a 2 tone black on black '97 to get somebody excited again :D, but sadly, it's not...)

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