Tie Rod Replacement
The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.
- Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
My purpose this weekend was to give the Big White Bus a new rudder. Yes, my goal was nothing short of installing new tie rod ends. As you have seen in my other adventures the tie rods on the Rover were getting bad. On one trip home from work my car pool buddy said, "...I wish you would decide which curb, you are going to hit." To say the Rover drifted in her lane is an understatement.
First I ordered the tie rod ends. I had not discovered our friends at Motorcars, Ltd. yet and ordered my tie rods from, Auto Parts OEM. I was at the time pleased with the price as it was quite a bit lower than the list. I ordered 2 left hand thread and 2 right hand thread. I have learned from Ken at Motorcars that he often tells the buyer to buy 3 right hand thread and 2 left hand thread and to send back the one you don't need. I needed 3 right hand and 1 left hand thread. And when I got to the last tie rod I found this out. So I had to wait an extra day to finish the job. I also did not specify that I had non-zert Lemforders and Ken sent me a zert type from another manufacturer. So they don't all match. No worries though as they all work the same and I can grease the one Ken sent along with the other zerts when I do the routine maintenance. Which is better? I don't know. I will report as soon as I have some data to report. Motorcars, Ltd. prices were even cheaper than the Auto Parts OEM prices.
Let's talk about tools first. You will need some type of tie rod end puller. The pickle fork I bought for removing the tie rods is not, I repeat is NOT the way to go. It is much too brutal and difficult to use. Purchase a proper tie rod removing tool. I went to several stores and they did not have one that was large enough to fit around the parts that hold the tie rod. So I bought a Pitman Arm Puller. The mouth was wide enough and it worked great. You will need a good pair of plyers for the cotter keys. You will need a big wrench to turn the tie rod ends. I used a pipe wrench. If you look at the tool picture you will see that I have a broken one in the picture. Yes I broke a pipe wrench on this job. More about that later. You should buy a shock absorber removal tool also. It made removing the steering stablizer very easy. A propane torch was used on the last one due to nothing else working to break it loose. Corrosion had built up to such a degree that it was very difficult to remove the ends.
The job began with a quick trip to the car wash and the gathering of tools. I have a leaky power steering hose and it has leaked so much fluid that I could not grab anything under there with out getting very oily. So I pressure washed the under carrige. My work area had to be cleared to allow for the use of the vise on the work bench. This very embarassing picture of my work bench will demonstrate adaquately that my work area is cluttered. Work bench. I will be working on that soon as I have to move the work area to the other side of the garage so we can buy a freezer for beef and be able to access it with no problems via the passageway to the house. So with the work area ready I pulled the truck up, jacked it up and put the jack stands under it. I removed the front tires to make access easier to the tie rod ends.
The first one I pulled was the one to the steering box. You have to get the wheels turned all the way to the right to get the tool in place. See this picture. With the tool in place you basically turn the screw until you hear the very satisfying PING sound. It sounds like something just broke but it is in fact the tie rod being loosed from its grip. Scared me the first time I heard it. I now went to the passenger side and loosed the tie rod there. See this picture. You can see the boot is torn. It is to hold out the elements while holding in the grease. Torn boot equals replace soon as failure is imminent.
Once removed the tie rod with the ends still attached is placed in the vise. See this picture. A good quality vise is a must. My vise is just below a good quality one but I made it work. It is now damaged from stress and will possibly need to be replaced in the future. The trick to removing a tie rod end is to be able to turn the tie rod end and as it rotates to count the turns so you can put the new one back with as close as possible. So count the revolutions. You first remove the bracket that secures the tie rod. There is a 7/16th bolt holding it in place. In order to keep track I used a file to mark the tie rod so I could keep track of the place to re-center the tie rod end. Marked in this picture with labled bracket.
I was now ready to put the pipe wrench on it and get busy. I could not turn the wrench. So I fashioned a "cheater bar" to give myself more leverage. This worked after a bit of effort securing the vise to hold. I then cleaned up some of the rust and inserted the new tie rod end being careful to count the turns properly. The first one was 32 turns. Each truck will be different, I am sure. So count yours and remember them. New tie rod end in place with protective blue cap.
I repeated this with the other tie rod end. Now the front side tie rod had new ends and I put it back on the truck. It had a 19mm nut and a cotter pin to replace the old. Never reuse cotter pins. I secured them and got started on the rear tie rod.
This tie rod was more difficult than the first to remove the ends. I had to first remove the steering Stablizer shock. This is where the shock tool came in handy. When I replaced the shock when I first bought the truck I did not have the tool and had to creatively use a set of vise grips and wrenches to remove it. The nut on mine was a 17mm.
The tie rod ends on this tie rod were badly corroded. As were the others but this tie rod was especially bad. On my first attempt to remove them I broke a pipe wrench. I was very concerned about bending my tie rod. I'm not sure if it was even possible to bend but I was putting some serious torque on it to break a wrench and the tie rod was flexing. So I cut a brace to hold the tie rod and better direct the torque. Brace. I got my slightly bigger pipe wrench out and attached my make shift cheater and went to work. The sound this made when it finally broke free was medieval. I finally got them both off. This is when I learned about the numbers of right hand thread and left hand thread I needed. So I called it quits for the night and waited for my part from Motorcars to arrive the next day. I completed the project the next night with no more problems.
I jumped in and gave it a test drive. The steering wheel was slightly askew and I noticed a slight push from the right. I expected to have to get an alignment anyway so off I went. During the install I noticed the right rear tire had a screw in it so I decided to go to the local Hibdon's Tire Plus tire shop. I went to high school with the Hibdon boys and even served in the Marines with one of them. I would not consider them to be friends, we just grew up in the same town and attended the same school. The elder Hibdon's house is on the hill next to my friends property also. Basically it's where we go for tires. I know that the Hibdon's sold their ownership years ago but it is an old habit and I like the way they treat me there. They fixed the flat with no problems and told me they "don't do Land Rovers" when it came to alignments. So I asked for a recommendation only to hear, "Dealership". I was not in the mood for a $300 wheel alignment and lecture about how my frame was bent, blah, blah, blah. So I called my friend JagGuy who knows "people". He recommended a shop in Edmond, Oklahoma called Kennedy Tire and Auto. He is a neighbor of JagGuy and "a stand up, good guy". In other words, a "good bloke", an honest guy. So I called up his shop and they said bring her on up.
They did the job in about two hours with one other car in the queue ahead of mine. It was $54.95(US) and I was on my way. On the trip home I no longer drifted from one side of the lane to the next. Victory was mine.
The difficulty of this project is a 4 on the Difficulty Scale. I would say this is a 5 on the scale if you don't have a good collection of tools. The difficulty of removing the tie rod end was foremost in this determination. To say it was siezed on there would be an understatement. JagGuy suggested I put anti-sieze on the tie rod end threads to make it easier to do next time. He suggested this 3 hours after I finished getting it aligned. I am not quite there on the auto mechanic thought process. I should have realized to put anti-sieze on there but it did not occur to me even though I have a nice new tube of it sitting on my work bench ...somewhere. I saved the best two of the tie rod ends and the new left thread I could not return. If I happen to break one on a trail in the future I won't be stranded waiting for a part and neither will you if I remembered to pack them.
Thanks for reading and happy Rovering.