Saturday, May 12, 2012

2003 Ford Taurus Tie Rod Fix

Again, this is part of the steering we're fooling with. As with any part of a car or truck, you owe it to yourself to consult a competent mechanic or at least a service manual for the proper repair procedure. Poor repair practices can endanger you and others resulting in death, injury, and property damage. Use jack stands and wheel chocks when working under any vehicle. Do not work under or put any part you under a vehicle supported only by a jack unless you plan on bench pressing a ton or two. From experience, I nearly lost all the fingers on my right hand this way while working on a car. Even though this is a fairly simple job, do this and any other repairs at your own risk.

Our victim today is a car of my friends' that has been a bit of a pain, but all things considered it still runs and drives. Can't beat that now can we? The trouble is they took it into a car dealership to get a wheel alignment after replacing the front struts when a spring broke. The spring also managed to demolish the stabilizer link and could have shish kababed the tire. Ford Tauruses of this vintage (not to mention 1990's Escorts) are prone to break springs and it's not uncommon to have the rears break out after replacing the fronts. This happened on our 1996 Escort; I changed all the springs at least twice. Changing the springs on this car was a pain and this is why I suggested quick struts for the Taurus, but I digress.

Back to the story, since the struts were done the alignment will change and hence the need for one. The mechanic said to replace BOTH of the inner tie rod ends because they were failing. Nothing against mechanics, because the logic is that if one tie rod is going to go bad, the other one is sure to follow. This is not necessarily the case. When I raised the front of the car and had my buddy remove the tires, I found the problem. Someone had replaced the tie rod on the passenger side. This was obvious because the original clamps were missing from the rack boot. A small zip tie held the boot to the rackbut the one holding it to the tie rod wasn't to be found. The result was that water got in and ruined the rod.

I forgot to mention that you NEED a special tool to remove the tie rods from the rack. When you buy the new part, pay attention to the nut end. If it's rounded toward the rod, you will HAVE obtain a Saginaw adapter as the regular tool is basically a very long deep well socket. It will NOT fit nor turn the nut on a Saginaw style tie rod end. This tool grabs the nut behind the rounded part and allows you to turn it. The Taurus doesn't have this style, but many vehicles do. You've been warned.

To get the tie rod out, you need to raise the car, put jack stands under the sub frame and chock the rear wheels. Might as well remove both the wheels and check out the boots. If there are any breaks, then you need to replace them as well. Loosen the jam nut on the inner rod about a half turn; you may need penetrating oil to break up the rust. Take the cotter pin and castle nut off from the ball stud on the outer rod end. There are several methods to take the rod end out of the steering knuckle. I refuse to use a puller because these can bend the ball stud on late model cars. A pickle fork will take it off, but will damage the boot. This isn't a good idea if you want to save the part. The best method is to strike the knuckle surrounding the ball stud with a small sledge or ball pien hammer. Since these knuckles are aluminum, you need to be careful and hit it deliberately. A couple sharp taps should get it out. If not, it's likely corroded together and you'll have to use a pickle fork to break it loose. Replace the outer tie rod if the boot to it tears. Better to change this than a steering knuckle.

To remove the rod without changing the alignment (too much) count the number of turns to remove the end and WRITE IT DOWN. Wrap the threads with one layer of electrical tape and remove the boot. Go ahead and slip the tool over the inner tie rod and remove the works with a 1/2 inch breaker bar. That new rod has or should have a vial of thread locker in the package. Spread this inside the threads of the nut going into the rack. Do NOT use this stuff on the end threading into the outer rod. This is where the technician will make the adjustments and they need to turn freely. Put the new rod on tight and reinstall the boot. The end that clamps to the rod needs to line up with the groove on the rod and the vent pipe needs to be inside the of the end that secures to the rack. I use the worm type hose clamps in the same spots over the original ones and have never had an issue. Just be sure the clamps go under the vent tube. Lubricate the threads going to the outer tie rod, thread on the jam nut and outer the same number of turns it took to take it off. Tighten the jam nut against the outer after you install the ball stud, castle nut and cotter pin. If you replaced the outer, install the grease fitting and lube it with a grease gun. Reinstall the wheels, lower the car, remove the chocks and check your work. The car will need to go to an alignment shop to avoid chewing up the tires A.S.A.P. Marantha!

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