Today we are going to look at what is involved in replacing a tie rod end on a vehicle that is fitted with rack and pinion steering. This particular car is an EL Falcon, however most rack and pinion steering vehicles are much the same.
A worn tie rod end will typically give you play in the steering, possibly a knock coming from the affected side and even a shudder or shake through the steering wheel. Before we do anything we need to figure out exactly where the worn parts are and to do this we need to jack the car up so that the front wheels are clear of the ground (and put chassis stands underneath the car of course!).
Next up, grab the wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions and ‘rock’ the wheel in and out and either look or feel for any movement. On a typical rack and pinion steering setup it is possible to have movement in either the tie rod end, the rack end or on the passengers side of the rack, the rack bush. We will cover replacing rack end’s and the rack bush in future articles.
Here is a (very) quick video showing the movement from a worn tie rod end –
Without deliberately trying to state the obvious the next step is to remove the wheel :-). After that the next step is to loosen the 24mm tie rod end locking nut. This only has to be loosened slightly as it is used as a reference point for the fitting of the new tie rod end.
The next step is to loosen the 19mm tie rod end to steering knuckle nut. I don’t completely remove the nut so I can tell when the tapered shaft drops out of the steering knuckle. You can remove it completely if you want, doesn’t really matter either way.
Now for the fun part! Because the shaft that sits in the steering knuckle is tapered we need to shock it loose by hitting the part of the steering knuckle where the taper is. Aim for this bit –
It may take some hitting and using a solid ‘block’ type hammer usually gets the job done easier than your normal ball peen hammer. Once the steering arm drops down you’re in business. **Try not to hit the brake rotor!**
The next step is to remove the tie rod end from the steering rack end. To keep the wheel alignment close to where it was (ALWAYS get a wheel alignment after doing this work anyway) we need to count the number of full turns it takes to get the tie rod end off. If you do this and don’t disturb the large locking nut on the steering arm too much you have the best chance of getting the wheel alignment pretty darn close. With this EL it took 18 turns to remove the tie rod end.
Before you attempt to fit the new unit it is advisable to check the thread size where the steering arm screws into and the overall length of the new unit compared to the old one. Obviously if the thread is wrong you have the wrong part and if the lengths are different the wheel alignment is going to be way out. Not that spare parts suppliers often get things wrong 🙂
Assuming all is good we can now fit the new part, winding it on the same number of turns as the old one and up to the locking nut. Then fit the shaft into the steering knuckle and start the nut. If the shaft turns while tightening the nut you may have to hold the steering arm up so that the taper stops it from turning.
Fully tighten the nut and push the new split pin in and bend it over (if fitted, some, like the one we fitted, come with a nyloc locking nut).
Then it’s time to tighten up the locking nut. This time use two spanners, one to hold the tie rod end from turning and the other to tighten the nut. Not using the two spanners puts excessive pressure on the new tie rod end which is not good.
All done! Naturally it is a good idea to go over everything and make sure it’s all tight. Fit the wheel and you’re ready for a wheel alignment.