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Discussion Starter #1
Hoping someone can help diagnose this as it's driving me nuts. My vehicle is a 96 Hilux Surf, but its steering and suspension are basically identical to a 3rd gen 4runner / 1st gen taco, so I thought I'd ask here.

Background:
  • Steering is nice and tight when driving on regular roads.
  • Very little play in the steering.
Problem:
- As soon as I get offroad, and especially when I put the truck H4 or H4L (it has a multimode transfer case), I start getting a lot of knocking / rattling in the steering column, so much that have to sometimes hold the steering tight wheel with both hands just to keep control.

What I've done so far:
  • new outer tie rods
  • tilt ball shim mod - helped with steering play, but didn't do much for the rattle
  • new steering rack and sway bar bushings - no apparent difference
  • upgraded to the new style steering rack guide - not sure if it made any difference
Things to try?
  • zip tie in the rag joint mod that's done on 2nd/3rd gen Tacos - as far as I can tell, the design of my rag joint is significantly different and I haven't found anyone who has done this mod on a 3rd gen 4runner;
  • slip joint tack weld / rolled pin mod - my truck is a 96 and has a different style slip joint, which doesn't seem to need this mod. Plus, there is no play in the slip joint, at least not that I could feel by hand when I took it off
I had an intermediate steering shaft lying around from a donor truck and I examined it for similar sound. It does seem to make a similar clunk (video here), seemingly from the top u-joint hitting the component below. Not sure if it's supposed to be that way, or something is worn out.

Any ideas?
 

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95.5 Tacoma
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I'm not much help on the steering column, but I can tell you that bad suspension angles will amplify steering issues off-road and in 4WD. If your truck is lifted, did you give up any caster angle? Ideally a caster angle of +2° or better is recommended. Toe adjustments will also cause loose steering.

That said, my 95 Tacoma has a clunk in the steering column off-road, but is basically quiet on road. My suspension and steering angles are all within spec, so the drivablility is really good.
 

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I have the same issue, thought it was tie rods but replacement did not help. Steering wheel play is within spec.
I was watching a car repair show and the tech mentioned that a rattle in the steering on rough roads is caused by wear in the steering shaft. Not sure exactly what part of it but I would revisit that part.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here is an article-

Thanks, this is what I was leaning towards as well. The problem seems to be the rag joint in that shaft. Once i fix another issue, i'll try doubling up the wave washer in that joint to see if it helps.
 
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