Ultimate Uppers: ICON’s Uniball Control Arm Review
In 1986, Toyota unveiled the company’s first four-wheel-drive truck with an independent front suspension. Much to the ire of many off-road enthusiasts, the IFS setup wasn’t nearly as durable or easy to modify as the previous generation solid-axle trucks.
As the Toyota mini-truck slowly evolved into the first generation Tacoma (1995.5 to 2004), and then to the larger and more powerful second generation Tacoma (2005 to 2015), advancements in the truck’s suspension continued to be made. While aftermarket support for the Toyota pickup remains strong, certain suspension upgrades to the Tacoma’s front end fall closer to the need category, than a simple want. A great example of this are the stock upper control arms on the second generation Tacoma.
While in stock form, the Tacoma’s upper control arms work perfectly fine. It’s when you add a suspension lift that the weak points become more obvious. With many Tacoma enthusiast opting for 2- to 3-inch performance suspension systems, the new found lift height, along with the extended travel of the shock, often proves to be too much for the stock upper ball joint. With the joint’s operating angle essentially maxed out, it begins to wear rapidly, ultimately leading to total failure.
The extreme angle of the stock upper control arm can also lead to drivability issues as well as suspension interference by way of the upper arm contacting the front coils. Thankfully, ICON Vehicle Dynamics came up with a very simple and robust solution. Here, we outfit our 2008 Toyota Tacoma with a new set of ICON uniball upper control arms. The last set of upper control arms our Tacoma will ever need.
ICON offers two versions of its uniball upper control arms. There is a billet-aluminum version that is adjustable at the frame end and the 1026 DOM seamless tubing set you see here. Given the amount of lift our 2008 Toyota is running and our intended use with the truck, the tubular series arms were the perfect fit. They are also considerably less expensive than the billet uppers.
The 1-inch PTFE-lined uniball is what makes the ICON control arm such a dynamic upgrade over the stock control arm. Unlike the Tacoma’s stock upper ball joint, the uniball provides a smooth, bind-free range of motion throughout the suspension’s cycle. It’s also completely rebuildable, so if you do wear one out over the course of your adventures, you can order a replacement uniball direct from ICON.
To add increased strength, and much-needed rigidity over the stock upper, ICON uses a dual-stage poly bushing kit. Theses serviceable-bushings help tighten up the front suspension over the stock rubber joints considerably. While there are grease fittings in the control arm, be sure to grease the bushings liberally before installing them into the arms.
Our Tacoma was on the rack at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, when we installed our ICON uppers. We happened to have our shock assemblies out of the truck when we installed the control arms, but this is not required. Once you break free the ball-joint nut from the steering knuckle, you’ll remove the single upper bolt that attaches the upper arm to the frame. To install the ICON upper, simply add the provided washers to the outside of the bushings and hang the arm using the stock bolt.
ICON uses a 17-4 high-grade stainless steel uniball adapter pin to secure the upper control arm to the steering knuckle. We found the tapered two-piece hardware to fit perfectly in the stock steering knuckle, so no modifications or drilling were needed. ICON’s uniball control arms are literally a bolt-on affair.
With the control arm in, you can attach the brake line to the upper control arm and reinstall your tires and wheels. Once the vehicle is on its weight again, you can torque the control-arm hardware to the provided specs.
Given the type of off-road terrain we encounter in the southeast, we opted to get ICON’s billet cover caps. The 6061 CNC-machine caps attach using a 3M neoprene adhesive ring and offer some added protection for the uniball against the elements.
The control arms were originally deigned to work with ICON’s 2.5-inch extended travel coilovers. We’re running right at 2.5 inches of lift, and happily found our suspension is now limited by the shock’s travel, not the upper control arm. We were also able to get our front end professional aligned with no issues.
Tire & Wheel Fitment
ICON states that you can run your stock tires and wheels, and recommends using a 17-inch or larger wheel with a max backspacing of five inches for those looking to go aftermarket. We’re running a 285/75R17 Nitto Trail Grappler on a FN Wheel’s 17x8 Konig Countersteer Type X. The matte bronze FN Wheels has 4.1 inches of backspacing, which we found to be ideal with our setup.
In The Dirt
Our previous upper control arms were absolutely shot. Moving from those worn-out ball-joint-style uppers to the ICONs has made a world of difference with how our Tacoma handles. It no longer has the obnoxious clunks and wander feel on the road. Everything from our steering to our suspension felt tighter and more precise. If you’re unhappy with the way your Tacoma handles and/or your upper control arms are holding you back, we highly recommend checking out ICON’s uniball upper control arm options.
FN Wheels, 855/943-3500
ICON Vehicle Dynamics, 951/689-4266
Low Range 4x4, 910/392-3204