Uniballs & Ball Joints: Delta Joint Retrofit on Icon Tubular UCA
Delta Joint Retrofit on Icon Tubular Upper Control Arms – Squeaking Icon Upper Control Arm Joints
There is a common debate on Uniball Joints or Ball Joints for Upper Control Arms (UCAs).
Depending on your build goals will depend on which one works best for you. When looking at UCAs, you have a couple of options for joints; Uniballs and/or Ball Joints.
Uniballs & Ball Joints
- Uniballs: Spherical bearings capable of a wide range of precise movements. Uniballs are strong and can withstand harsh abuse which makes them widely dependent upon in extreme off-road environments. Uniballs are also susceptible to outside elements (salt, sand, moisture) which can cause the need for consistent replacements/rebuilds and our noise (squeaking).
- Ball Joints: Think ball and socket. A plastic or urethane boot keeps the elements out and greases inside the ball/socket area. This can extend the life cycle of the ball joint when used as intended, however, if misused or pushed to the extreme, Ball Joints can fail.
So what is a Delta Joint?
I would say it’s something like a hybrid joint. The Delta Joint has a metal-on-metal internal core, unlike traditional Ball Joints with a plastic or urethane boot that surrounds the ball.
The carburized taper pin on the Delta Joint is essentially the ball and bolt, which is one solid piece as opposed to a Uniball where the bolt goes through a spherical bearing.
What Icons Says:
The Delta Joint provides performance characteristics of a Uniball with the durability of a traditional ball joint. The sealed design prevents road salts, and other debris from entering the Delta Joint while a Zinc plated housing provides exceptional corrosion resistance. Metal on metal internals yeild long product life while the greasable design allows for priodic maintenance and ensures noise-free opperation.
Problem with Icon Uniball Joints
If Icon UCA Uniball joints are not well maintained throughout their lifecycle, they may have a tendency to squeak.
When we installed our stage 2 Icon suspension for the 4Runner (2 years ago & 30K miles), we greased our UCA bushings and have not had problems there, at all.
But, we are just now having slight squeaks with our joints while going over mild bumps and at random spots when turning. It’s not so loud that it’s something to really complain about, but I can notice it.
My upper control arms didn’t have a dust cap over the joint so the open-air dust and debris have ultimately caused the Uniball joints to squeak, which is what Icon told me.
Introducing the Delta Joint Retrofit
Icon recommends you buy the Delta Joint Retrofit.. “a heavy-duty high angle Retrofit Ball Joint”.
So why doesn’t this Delta Joint come on all UCAs as clearly there is a known squeaking problem with traditional open housing Uniball joints? One could argue that Uniball joints are actually stronger or have a better, more precise range of motion over the Delta Joints.
Icon says the Delta Joint pull out strength “exceeds that of a traditional Uniball” at +20,000lbs. Strength problems on the Delta Joint shouldn’t be high on your worry list.
The Delta Joint comes with two fittings for grease, a common needle fitting that comes pre-threaded and a zerk. The joints come pre-greased but you’ll want to use some type of lithium grease when the time comes.
For alignment, you should be able to reach that happy medium 2° to 4° of caster, no problem.
And, from the looks of it, the Delta Joints fit other UCAs like Total Chaos.
What to buy: Uniball or Delta Joint for UCAs?
For everyday driving on the East Coast with mild wheeling, you probably want to go with these Delta Joints as they are less likely to be affected by salty, sandy, or heavy moisture conditions. With minimal maintenance, the Delta Joints offer compatible performance to a Uniball joint.
For hardcore rock crawling long travel suspensions that get put through lots of stress, maybe look at the Uniballs.
Delta Joint Retrofit
- Delta Joint Retrofit: Check Price
- Delta Joint Tubular UCA Kit: Check Price
- Zinc-Plated Housing (Exceptional corrosion resistance & Increase longevity)
- Sealed Design (Protects from road salts, and other debris)
- Higher Angle (Optimal performance for lifted applications)
- Built-in Zerk (Greasable design with two adapters included
- Pre-Greased with quality waterproof moly grease
What else you might need?
- Lincoln Lubrication 5803 Grease Needle Nozzle: Check Price
- Grease Gun: Check Price
- Delta Joint Grease: Check Price
- Icon UCA Caps: Check Price
- Delta Joint Install Kit (with shim): Check Price
- Large C-clamps: Check Price
Installing or replacing existing joints
If you are upgrading or replacing an existing joint, the install kit makes that process much easier. Using the correct tools reduces the chance of damage to the Delta Joint and makes pressing the joint into the control arms easier. One kit has the press adapter tube and the other just add the shim. You need the shim if you are retrofitting your UCAs.
Getting the Uniball joints out requires removing the upper control arms (if you want more control). You can use a press with an 8″ or larger jaw (same with a vice) or an 8″ or larger opening on a C-clamp.
Delta Joint Retrofit Install on Tubular UCAs on 4Runner
We installed our Delta Joints on an Icon Tubular UCA. The process is fairly simple given you to have the right tools. I took my truck down to Stellar Built in Sacramento, CA. They specialize in Toyota builds, including suspension work, electrical, custom fabrication, aftermarket installs, and much more.
Stellar Built has a press so getting the Uniball joints out and the new Delta Joints in, was pretty simple. They did have the install kit mentioned above and it did help for the install for sure. I would highly recommend grabbing it if you plan on doing the installation yourself.
I wanted to walk you guys through the install we did at the Stellar Built Shop.
Step 1. Remove Upper Control Arms
Start by completely removing your upper control arms. By removing the UCAs, you will have more control over pushing the old joints out and the new joints in. Leaving the UCAs in while pressing joints will be a PITA (Pain In The Ass).
Step 2. Remove Lower Uniball Clips/ Snap Rings
Once the UCAs are out, proceed to remove the lower clip on the Uniball Joints.
Step 3. Remove Uniball from Upper Control Arms (UCA)
You have options here. You can use a press (pictured above) or vice, or a C-clamp. Whatever you use, just make sure the width of the device is over 8″ (if you are using the Icon removal tool).
If you are getting creative in your garage, that’s OK. It’s honestly not that hard, just awkward getting the right placement of the UCA. The provided Icon tool does help.
Step 4. Cleaning Upper Control Arms (UCA)
Clean the UCA thoroughly before installing the new joints.
Step 5. Press in Delta Joints with Delta Joint Tool Kit
Anyone with garage/shop experience should be able to get the old Uniballs out.
But getting the Delta Joints in is a bit more challenging. The fitment is precise and the install tools really do help but it could be done without them, all you’ll need is patience.
We had a good 15 minutes of finding the right angle of the press to get the joints in just right.
Step 6. Re-install the New Clip/ Snap Ring on Delta Joints
Simply reinstall the snap rings to secure the Delta Joints in place.
Zerk Delta Joints with Lithium Grease
Even though the Delta Joints come pre-greased, it’s always nice to see that grease come out on the other side. For peace of mind, we installed the zerk fitting on the Delta Joints and hit them with some grease. Then we added the caps over the Delta Joints and reinstalled the UCAs.
Icon Delta Joint Retrofit – Final
It’s been a couple of weeks since the install so it’s hard to tell if they are “that much better” than the Uniballs. What I did notice upon initial test drive was the noise (squeak) had stopped and the ride felt notably smoother.
I knew the noise would stop but I was unaware that the new Delta Joints would change the ride quality as well. After 40K miles of debris enters the Uniball Joint, you can expect slight vibrations at the wheel with an overall shaky feel. With the new Delta Joints installed, this was no longer felt.
Eventually, Uniballs will need to be replaced or rebuilt with a repair kit. The repair kits are around $150 and the Delta Joint Retrofit kit is around $250. Depending on where you live and your build goals will depend on which one you go with.
So far I would say the Delta Joints we’re a good choice but I have yet to get an alignment. I am hoping to get +4° of caster so that my front wheels will push further away from the inner pinch welds, although I wouldn’t unhappy with +2°, it just might require some more cutting once I jump to 35″ tires.
So far, so good. I will update the post once I get alignment.
Questions or Comments? Leave them below!