The Front End Rebuild From Hell: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Terra Tractor currently disassembled

I’m in the process of rebuilding the front end on the Terra Tractor, our 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero. OK, that’s actually not 100% true. I’m technically in the process of writing a ranty blog post about the front end rebuild from hell while drinking a whiskey cocktail. Anyway …

After getting 98% of all the parts I needed, I was attaching the lower ball joint to the knuckle. As I was using a floor jack and aligning things, the new lower ball joint’s boot got pinched annnnnnd sliced. Did I mention I’m drinking at the moment?

Chasing Parts

1991 Mitsubishi Pajero XP aka the Terra Tractor

When dealing with a JDM vehicle, you can expect a wild goose chase when it comes to many parts—even if they’re available domestically. For example, the Terra Tractor is a ’91 Mitsubishi Pajero, which means it was the first year of the second-generation Pajero/Montero bodystyle outside of North America. See, a 1991 Montero in the U.S. was still a first generation vehicle, but in places like the Australia, Japan, and the UK, it was a second generation. To further muddy the waters, the early second-gen models used some parts from the first gen, such as the single-piston brake calipers … but only on short wheelbase versions. Oh, and the axles. Let me tell you about the axles. I lived in a purgatory of cross referencing for days trying to figure out which axles to order. The 25 spline inner left-side axle was used on first-gen Pajero/Montero, but it’s shorter than second-generation model. Ask me how I know. (HINT: I know because I ordered them and they were wrong.) Eventually—and by “eventually” I mean days of research later—I determined the axles from a V-6 model with an automatic transmission (read: 7.25″ diff not the 8.0″ diff) should fit. I also learned there were two different diff sizes. Oh by the way, I say “should fit” because I don’t have them all the way in yet, but they have the right spline count and the right length per my measuring tape. Hey, has math ever lied to anyone?

Then there’s the steering knuckle seals. These are straight-up Montero parts, but as I’ve said to many other people, it’s not like second-gen Montero parts are exactly lining the shelves at the auto parts stores. Advance Auto said they had two in stock. I drive there only to find the seals are different than what I pulled out. I buy them anyway. Of course, they’re wrong. Yet again, it’s into the cross-referencing rabbit hole I go. Turns out, Advance Auto’s cross-reference is incorrect. Eventually I find the part number I need (710146, if you were wondering, which you probably weren’t.) NAPA can’t get them. O’Reilly, Autozone, and Advance Auto didn’t have them in stock. The local places could get one out of the warehouse. Advance said they can get them (I allegedly pick them up tomorrow).

The moderately sad thing is that I really only set out to do the upper and lower ball joints because I heard this clicking sound when we’d turn the steering wheel. But since I was down there, I figured I’d do tie rod ends, too. But after the CV boot ripped during the process, I figured I’d do axles.

Mitsubishi Pajero wheel bearing

And since I have the knuckles and hubs off, let’s do wheel bearings and axle seals, including the needle bearings in the stub shafts. Well, might as well do brakes, too since they’re off. And if we’re doing brakes, let’s really do brakes. Calipers, pads, rotors, lines, and of course, new fluid. Why the hell not. Then again, while we’re at it, why don’t we just rebuild the whole goddamn vehicle.

So I set here typing this ranty screed about parts sipping on my Manhattan cocktail, which is almost gone … OK, now it’s gone. A quick look did not reveal any replacement boots for the Moog lower ball joints I purchased. Of course it didn’t. Hopefully I don’t have to buy all new ball joints just for the freaking boot, which I probably will.

Hey, at least this cocktail is good. Was good. Maybe it’s time for another.


  1. Andy, I would have the whole bottle of whiskey. You need good nerves to do all the rusty work.Good luck to get the right parts.

  2. I freaking LOVE this one, Andy. PREACH!

    I’ll pour Jameson’s tonight in your honor.

    You go ahead and rebuild the whole damn truck, Andy. You rebuild the whole funking thing from bumper to bumper. If it’s worth doing, after all…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *