Feature Friday: 6 Upper Control Arm Setups For 5th Gen 4Runner

5th Gen 4Runner With Dobinsons Suspension & Icon Upper Control Arms

Aftermarket Upper Control Arms – Owner Submitted Suspension Setups

This Week’s Topic: Upper Control Arms

We’re back with a brand new Feature Friday! Last week, we checked out recovery boards and mounts for the 4Runner. This week, we are back and highlighting aftermarket upper control arms.

When it comes to modifying and upgrading your 4Runner, one crucial suspension component is Upper Control Arms (UCA). If you’re a passionate off-roader or simply want to enhance your vehicle’s capabilities, understanding what UCAs are and how they can positively impact your 4Runner is essential.

UCAs are a vital suspension component. They are crucial to maintaining proper wheel alignment and controlling suspension movement. Aftermarket UCAs also allow for greater wheel travel and improved performance in addition to added strength and adjustability.

When it comes to UCAs, you have two popular options: Ball Joints and Uniballs.

Ball Joints

Ball Joint UCAs have a conventional design allowing smooth movement and a comfortable ride. They are great for everyday driving and provide reliable performance with relatively little maintenance. For example, Toyota uses sealed ball joints from the factory.

Uniballs

On the other hand, Uniball UCAs are built for high-performance off-road. They are favored by those looking for greater suspension travel and ripping it through the dunes. This high performance does come at a cost, however, in the form of frequent maintenance and cleaning.

Regardless of the specific type, upgrading to high-quality UCAs can positively impact your 4Runner’s ride quality. They offer increased suspension travel, improve wheel alignment adjustability, and minimize stress on other suspension components. Let’s look at some owner submitted 4Runner builds with aftermarket UCAs.

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Note: The builds listed below are in no particular order

1. Myke Bella (@illmatic_trd) – SPC

5th Gen 4Runner With SPC Upper Control Arms

Upper Control Arms 

  • Specialty Products Company (SPC)

Tell Us About Your Setup

I only upgraded my upper control arms because of the lift and bigger tires that I had to accommodate. Once I added a 3″ lift to the front and rear of my 4Runner, I knew that I needed to upgrade the stock UCAs to ensure that everything performed correctly.

I chose to go with SPC upper control arms because they are adjustable with up to 4 degrees of caster. These are much more robust than the stock ones and many other options on the market. I knew that I could feel confident on the trails with these UCAs.

The adjustability of these UCAs allows for more clearance during alignment to fit 35” Yokohama Geolandar MTs, which is critical for off-roading. Overall, I’m very happy with these and wouldn’t have chosen any other option.

2. Wes Daniel (@project_panda4r5) – Icon Vehicle Dynamics

5th Gen 4Runner with Dobinsons Suspension & Icon Upper Control Arms

Upper Control Arms 

  • Icon Vehicle Dynamics

Tell Us About Your Setup

I chose Icon because, at the time, I felt they were one of the most trusted brands for 4Runner suspension. Previously, I purchased their Stage 2 lift that includes the UCAs. Since then, I have switched to the Dobinsons MRR but kept the Icon UCAs.

The Delta-Joint and zerk fittings in all the right places had me sold. It’s nice that I can push the old grease out and replace it without taking anything apart.

Icon UCAs made an impact on off-roading. If you’re lifting your rig more than 2.5-3”, upgrading the UCAs helps you get the most articulation out of your suspension. I’ve run them for 6 years and only had to replace the Delta Joints after 5 years; Icon was nice enough to warranty those. When I pulled them out, the upper bushings were clean as a whistle and remained noise-free!

3. Aly Graff (@ladyredrunner_) – SPC

Barcalona Red 5th Gen 4Runner with SPC Upper Control Arms

Upper Control Arms 

  • Specialty Products Company

Tell Us About Your Setup

I picked the SPC Upper Control Arms because they have the best reputation on the market and I wanted to upgrade when I lifted my 4Runner to make the ride smoother!

I love the SPCs because they are easy to maintain, and their customer service is TOP-TIER.

My off-roading performance with the SPCs has been awesome. It has kept my 4Runner’s handling sound and allows me to flex more while keeping contact with the terrain. When aligned right, they can also decrease the amount of rubbing when you add bigger tires, and who doesn’t like bigger tires?!

4. Sharon Chang (@bear4runner) – Elevate Suspension

5th Gen 4Runner with Elevate Suspension Chromoly Uniball UCA

Upper Control Arms 

  • Elevate Suspension

Tell Us About Your Setup

I initially got my Elevate UCAs along with my Fox DSC 2.0 suspension kit. I wanted something a little stronger to pair with my upgraded suspension for an overall smoother ride both on or off-road.

When I purchased these, they were called “Element Suspension”. They have since rebranded as Elevate Suspension. They are a fairly small company, which I prefer because I love to support small businesses. I believe they have ample time to put love into their work.

Overall, these UCAs have given me a smoother ride and less worry on the road. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve installed them and I have zero complaints. I’d say they definitely corrected the alignment and has ample clearance for my suspension lift.

5. Dan Bufford (@50stateoverland) – SPC

5th Gen MGM 4Runner with Specialty Products Company Upper Control Arms

Upper Control Arms 

  • Specialty Products Company

Tell Us About Your Setup

At a certain lift height and tire size combination, you are going to need adjustable upper control arms to get your truck to align and ride properly. I chose the SPC UCA because it is one of the few that allow for greater camber and caster adjustment. We first tried another UCA, but we needed to dial in a couple more degrees of caster, so we swapped to the SPC. Now, everything is great.

Running the SPC UCAs has allowed me to get my lift and tire setup sorted, which has allowed me to get further offroad and enjoy the hobby so much more. All the bushings and ball joints are easily greaseable with built-in zerk fittings, so maintaining them has been easy.

Final Thoughts

FOX DSC Shocks With Element/Elevate UCA On 5th Gen 4Runner

That wraps up this week’s Feature Friday!

UCAs are an essential suspension component that greatly enhance performance and capability. Whether you opt for Ball Joint for their reliability and low maintenance or Uniball for their high performance, upgrading to high-quality UCAs should be a must for all 4Runner owners!

Next week we will be back with a brand new Feature Friday, where we will be highlighting 4Runners that have regeared and how it has impacted their performance both on and off-road!

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peter ensrud
peter ensrud
11 months ago

Just installed my fox 2.5 DSC suspension today with Element now Elevate UCA. Need to take to get aligned. Will see how it fares. Was recommended by Battle Born Offroad when I made the purchase. Guy there who has helped me via Facebook 4runner group, Jordan, has always answered questions and been helpful. Was skeptical about this, not “knowing” the brand, frankly had never heard of it. But he spoke highly of them and said the “no grease. Solid. Low maintenance. New and off the radar but good for the price.” Sure he could just be saying that and trying to get rid of inventory. Hope that wasnt the case.

1 year ago

2 out of 2 set of SPC failed prematurely… They used to be good but recently they have been a total bust. Definitely go with something else!

Grey True
Grey True
10 months ago
Reply to  Carlo Donzelli

I’ve had 2 SPC fail in 30000 miles.

Emmett
Emmett
1 year ago

JBA was completely omitted? Its hard to take this article serious.

Scott
Scott
1 year ago

This feature leaves a ton to be desired in terms of options, product knowledge and why to choose from the many different brands and types of UCA’s. It really shows that this site lacks actual professionals who know products inside and out and just pays people to write down some things they find on the internet. 

First, there are a ton of brands that make UCA’s and I won’t list them all however, out of the three listed here, two are more frequently bought brands (Icon and SPC) and the other is a newbie who I have personally seen many issues with and personally showed them the specifics. Out of the first two, I have also seen a ton of issues with the SPC ball joints wearing prematurely. As for the Icon arms shown here, I’ll go more into detail below with this specific arm as it relates to others with the same design. 

There are more than just two types of UCA’s. 

There are:
Tubular, cast, boxed and aluminum billet

Some of the inner pivot joints (this is where the arm connects to the shock tower on the frame) are a pressed in bushing much like an OEM arm, some have poly bushings on a steel sleeve and there are Heimed joints. 

For the outer pivot joints you have ball joints, Delta Joints (an Icon exclusive) and uniballs. 

Now here is where so much detail was left out in the feature and I will keep it simple to understand. 

A rubber or poly inner pivot is there to absorb more road and small vibration where the Heimed has more of a true feel of what the vehicle is doing, more of a one connected to the road sort of thing. 

A heimed is like a uniball that is floating in a thin plastic-like sleeve. A poly bushing inner pivot is squashed between two washers and torqued together with a moving poly bushing area rotating against a non-moving flat steel washer. Between that is typically grease. 

Pros and cons of each: (and this only involves joint type as I won’t take into account each style, tubular, cast, boxed and billet as each of those are very strong and isn’t where you should focus). The type of joint is where you need to focus:

Oem type/like inner pivot bushing: (SPC/Elevate/Dobinsons/Ironman)
Pros: more comfort for a daily driver as the bushing absorbs the vibrations of the road/trail. Can be pressed out and replaced. Great longevity. No maintenance. 

Cons: more movement allowing less of a solid feel in the steering/suspension (more play). Compression/extension of suspension has added friction due to reduced flexibility of bushings as they are torqued down in a specific position. This excludes the Elevate as they claim the bushing floats freely however I have found and shown them it does some but they have an issue with the bushing design as the sleeve that is molded to the bushing gets tightened against the washers they provide (at the recommended torque spec) and then causes a squeaking.

Poly inner pivot:
Pros: rebuildable and again provides some comfort for daily driving as it too can absorb some of the vibrations etc. 

Cons: 
Read this! This is where any arm can be a major nuisance and why I don’t recommend this type. You have a poly rubber/plastic piece compressed against a flat steel washer with some lube between it from install/rebuild. After time that lube (no matter what kind) wears/squeezes out causing a dry poly bushing to rub against a dry flat washer. This becomes a majorly noisy squeak over even the smallest bumps. Yes you can get in there and pump in lube but you need a lube gun to do so and even then, you run the risk of bloating the bushings which then makes it worse because the lube is trying to squeeze between two sources crammed together with a tight tolerance. Your best bet is to pull it apart and hand lube (grab those gloves and rub lube all over all the bushings and washers). A ton of maintenance!!!

Heimed:
Pros: The easiest to maintain hands down! No special tools needed to lube them. Literally just hose them off periodically and spray Tri-Flow on them. Smooth articulation as there is little to no friction so you don’t have suspension bind like the others. Long lasting with proper cleaning and lining as stated prior. Easy to replace as they just twist out of the arm like a bolt. Can you give you a more controlled feel of your vehicle on and off road. Can also adjust them for more alignment adjustments where the others you cannot do this. More caster!!!!

Cons: More expensive. Could possibly be a bit more feeling of the road etc in the vehicle for daily driving. (Most will never know the difference). 

Outer pivots: I won’t go into as much detail here as this should be less of your focus on buying as there is minimal difference here. 

Ball joint: These are typically a Moog (OEM) style replaceable joint but do not offer as much articulation as a uniball. Some are greasable some are not. The SPC’s ball joints do have a higher issue with wearing out sooner than standard Moog style joints. An Icon Delta Joint isn’t much different than a standard ball joint really. It’s a fancy name with a slight design change over the standard ball joint. It does provide a bit more articulation and is serviceable. 

Uniball: These do give you more articulation but do need maintenance like a heimed joint. Wash them off periodically and spray them with Tri-Flow. It took me two years to wear out a Dirt King uniball after very horrible maintenance (this was by design). Most use an FK brand uniball. We did have numerous issues with the uniball tolerances on the Elevate arms. On the same vehicle, the left arm uniball would either be tight or loose and the right would be opposite. They were never consistent. Many times the the bolt through the uniball came loose from the factory. 

There are many brands of arms and here are some:
Icon, SPC, Total Chaos, Camburg, Dobinsons, Ironman, Dirt King, Freedom, JBA, Baja Kits and Elevate. 

I have run and installed them all and I have always gone back to one, Dirt King. Granted I run their boxed, heimed, uniball arms, as someone with actual experience with all of them, no matter what brand you go with, I highly recommend heimed, uniball arms. This is long so I might’ve skipped some specifics but it’s the just of things that need to be covered. Hope this helps you decide what’s best for you. 

mike
mike
4 months ago
Reply to  Scott

Hi Scott, which tri-flow product would you recommend?

Mike
Mike
1 year ago

what about Dirt King, Camburg, Total Chaos?

Izzy
Izzy
1 year ago

The title is misleading. Three very similar SPC setups? There are other popular options that would have been nice to see included.

Jimmy J
Jimmy J
1 year ago

3 spc’s….are these the most popular?

Brenan Greene
Admin
Scout
1 year ago
Reply to  Jimmy J

They’re pretty popular for sure. Affordable, universal, they just work.

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