This is probably one of the easier suspension/drive-line fixes I've ever completed. The frustrating thing is that I tore up the upper ball joint boots separating the bj from the knuckle with the bj separator fork. Thankfully rockauto.com has the moog control arm w/ the replaceable bj for about relatively short money. I'll replace the control arms next weekend one they arrive.
So, the tip I'll give for the actuator replacement is that you ought to seriously think about having the control arms on hand to replace as well b/c you'll probably tear up the bj boot w/ this replacement.
Do any of you have a technique to get the bj and knuckle separated w/o tearing up the bj boot?
The final verdict is that the OE actuators were both junk. Seems like the internal spring must have been broken and/or the whole inside was just gummed up. The new units compressed nicely and held with the vacuum cap in place. Then when I took the caps off they would extend correctly. Found an unfinished subdivision to check my work out in. Everything works nicely again and hopefully I'll gain a couple MPGs now.
I have a trick for upper ball joints on these trucks. Take a small like 2 lb sledge and tap heavily on the top end of the spindle where the ball joint goes through, its cast iron so your not going to hurt it, dont hit the upper control arm though. Usually within a couple hard knocks the thing pops out. Thats how i did mine, had them apart several times for the IWE and struts and did it like that every time.