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Thread: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

  1. #1
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    unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Hi all!

    i just finished a big job of rebuilding 2 lower arm on my 1988 4wd. Brand new cam bolt, bushings, add metal plate to re-enforce lower arm etc...

    Next step was to align the wheels. I don't know why, but the left Wheel is ok, i means the outer tie-rod can be screw into the inner tie-rod for alignment adjustment and there is still threads visible on the inner tie-rod. For the right Wheel... the outer tie-rod is completely screw Inside the inner tie-rod (no more threads are visible) to bring back the Wheel towards the car, but the Wheel is still aligned 1deg outside. There is no more thread to screw the outer tie-rod... probably also the inner tie-rod have reached the bottom of the outer tie-rod.

    what i see:

    I checked lenght of inner and outer tie-rod installed on the van, they are all equals (no mismatch parts and there is no left and right inner/outer tie-rod for the van)
    no play on any of these 4 parts. No play at all on the steering. Lower and upper ball joint mostly new. All rubbers, bushings are recent.

    The last owner (25 year of ownership) told me that there was no repair on rack and pinion in the past.

    I try to figure out how is it possible that the right outer and inner tie-rod are too long to bring back right Wheel on a correct alignment. Any ideas?

    Maybe the shaft that connect with the rack and pinion has not been moved to the correct location? (2 or 3 teeth on the right??)

    No suspension parts looks deformed...

    I'm out of idea...that's why i'm here to getting help from you :-)

    Possibles solutions:

    Easiest but not the best: cutting the end of the inner tie-rod about 1 inch, remake threads and screw outer tie-rod to align correctly the right Wheel.

    Or if it's possible, remove steering wheel, screw the inner/outer tie-rod of each Wheel equally, then replace the steering wheel...

    Is there simple verifications/diagnostics i can do to find where the problem is located?

    Thanks a lot!

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    I would suspect it's had rack work done in the past and whoever did the work, failed to centre the rack first, then covered up the mistake at the tie-rods.

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    "Modifying" parts should only ever be done as a last resort, it's always better to find out whats wrong and fix it correctly, saves major headaches down the road.

    Centre the rack, equalize the tie-rods, then set the alignment, if the steering wheel is off-centre when you're done, remove and reposition on the splines at the desired location.

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Burntboot View Post
    "Modifying" parts should only ever be done as a last resort, it's always better to find out whats wrong and fix it correctly, saves major headaches down the road.

    Centre the rack, equalize the tie-rods, then set the alignment, if the steering wheel is off-centre when you're done, remove and reposition on the splines at the desired location.
    yeah i know modifying is not my best option, it just hiding the true problem. yesterday i have checked how long the shaft of the R&P is outside when i turn the steering Wheel completely on each side. The results are 80mm when steering Wheel completely on the right and 72mm completely on the left. I looked the adjusting screw on the lower ball joint and they are mostly equal. i don't know if this difference (8mm) means something. Is it enough to explain my problem?

    So when you means "centre the rack" i have to retrieve 4mm (8mm /2) on the right side and give it to the left side?

    The problem is the mechanic need to fix the steering Wheel in the center to proceed for the alignment., i means if the steering Wheel is not on the center position, he cannot do alignment. He put a tool on the steering Wheel when he do the alignment. So if i centre the rack, then equalize the tie-rod, i will not be able to do alignment except if i remove the steering Wheel and replace it on the center position when the alignment is done.

    I need a SST tool to remove the steering Wheel, a kind of puller. Where can i find that tool?

    thanks a lot!

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Burntboot View Post
    I would suspect it's had rack work done in the past and whoever did the work, failed to centre the rack first, then covered up the mistake at the tie-rods.
    The last owner told me nothing was done in the past on the R&P but it's possible some part was disconnected (for example steering shaft) to perform another job near.

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    The only thing we can be totally sure about (mostly) is that it didn't come from the factory that way.
    Then again, how it happened is moot, all that really matters is it gets fixed.
    The fact that the outer tie rod assemblies have different lengths verifies the rack is off centre.

    So, centre the rack, then equalize the tie-rod assemblies for length, then align the steering wheel on the splines (if required)
    Then go back to have the alignment finished up.
    They do hold the steering wheel stationary so that nothing moves while they're making adjustments.

    To be fair to alignment techs, it isn't going to be their first assumption that a rack is off centre.
    They set the wheel straight, then make adjustments to make the truck agree with the steering wheel.
    Works fine most of the time, only becomes a problem in a situation like this.
    (the best alignment techs will always ensure the rack is centred first, before making any adjustments, but those guys are on the endangered species list)
    BB
    And yes, 8mm is enough!

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Just finished adjustin steering wheel tonight. I had to redistribute 3.5mm on the left side (7mm difference with right tie-rod). here is a picture of the steering wheel after distributing 3.5mm on the left.

    so to proceed i measued a distance from a place on the frame to the center of the outer tie-rod. This tie-rod have good alignment from last week and i see 5 thread for an equivalent of 7mm in length. i measured 183mm. i turned the steering wheel until i measure 186.5mm (183+3.5mm). Then i removed the steering wheel and replaced it in the center. After that i screw the left tie-rod until i reach again a length of 183mm.

    I was not able to screw to 183mm but 184mm, tie-rod is too hard to screw. maybe i'll try to remake threads to reach the 183mm.

    Fortunately i found a tool to remove the steering wheel. The srcews fits perfectly where the SST tools is supposed to screw. This tool is not for steering wheel but it did the job perfectly!!

    I'm waiting a brand new outer tie-rod to complete the job and after that going to the alignment again...
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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    good job on the puller, I usually just do old school (pull on one side and give the other side a whack with my fist) key with that method is to leave the retaining nut on a few turns otherwise one can end up with a broken nose, your method looks a wee bit safer

    Your method of centring should be sufficient.
    Generally speaking the rack as a range of movement, going from full lock to full lock, counting the turns then spinning back half way should get you pretty darn close
    and could well be a good way to verify if your method has gotten you close enough.
    while you there you can also check to see (feel) where the inner tie rods are in relation to the rack tube ends.
    Haven't got my manual handy but suspect they have a detailed procedure for getting to the same place.

    In a perfect world, all your positioning's should be approx mid-way of any range.
    What I mean is if the spec is 2* +/- 1*, you want to aim to be at 2* (not 3 or 1) as a starting point.
    Theoretically if everything is mid-point, it should be damn close to being correct and any adjustment should be easily attained within the adjusting range
    On the tie rod that "is difficult" are the threads bottomed out or just mung build-up on threads causing binding? a wire brush can do wonders for the latter.

    Most alignment techs are happy with "within spec" (given the above example, LS @ 1*, RS at 3*) but I find pushing the ranges usually causes drivability issues ands its a lot easier to avoid/correct those issues when one starts at the midpoint instead of the extreme.
    Cheers
    BB

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Burntboot View Post
    and could well be a good way to verify if your method has gotten you close enough.
    while you there you can also check to see (feel) where the inner tie rods are in relation to the rack tube ends.
    Haven't got my manual handy but suspect they have a detailed procedure for getting to the same place.

    In a perfect world, all your positioning's should be approx mid-way of any range.
    What I mean is if the spec is 2* +/- 1*, you want to aim to be at 2* (not 3 or 1) as a starting point.
    Theoretically if everything is mid-point, it should be damn close to being correct and any adjustment should be easily attained within the adjusting range
    On the tie rod that "is difficult" are the threads bottomed out or just mung build-up on threads causing binding? a wire brush can do wonders for the latter.BB
    I measured the inner tie-rod with the rack tube ends on both side and there were difference in measures, but not as expected!!! the left inner tie rod had a longer measure than the right inner tie-rod, and if i center to equal distance from each other, i add more difference on the right tie-rod... make no sense. So i decided to forget align equally inner tie-rod from the rack tube ends and do adjustment only by equalizing both outer tie-rod by screwing.

    By giving 3.5mm on the right i will be into the zone where threads are good (i'm waitng brand new tie-rod for right wheel). The problem before this adjustment was there was no more thread to screw! My problem now is i'm not able to screw the left tie-rod to 183mm (184mm instead). it could be damaged threads at the end that cause this.

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    It's hard for me to visualize what your saying but if I am reading it correctly, your saying the LS inner is long and the LS outer has run out of adjustment, I would expect that shortening the LS inner and lengthening the outer should move you into range?
    It is very tempting to skip a step or 2 for ease, but I have found those compromises often lead to further frustration down the road.
    Then again, sometimes you just gotta do what you can and hope.

    As an aside, I assume you have eased the clamp bolts on the tie rod tubes, makes turning things much easier.
    I only mention it as I have seen more than a few people miss that little step, then spend their time cursing and bleeding.

    BB

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Burntboot View Post
    It's hard for me to visualize what your saying but if I am reading it correctly, your saying the LS inner is long and the LS outer has run out of adjustment, I would expect that shortening the LS inner and lengthening the outer should move you into range?
    It is very tempting to skip a step or 2 for ease, but I have found those compromises often lead to further frustration down the road.
    Then again, sometimes you just gotta do what you can and hope.

    As an aside, I assume you have eased the clamp bolts on the tie rod tubes, makes turning things much easier.
    I only mention it as I have seen more than a few people miss that little step, then spend their time cursing and bleeding.

    BB
    I'll try to explain with pictures :-)

    I measured distance between inner tie-rod with the rack tube ends, for each side (see pictures). the value for the left side (48mm if my memory is good) is different from right side (43mm) with the steering Wheel in the center position (before i removed it and adjusted it). If i try to have equal value for both side, i have to give 2.5mm to the right to have 45.5mm for both side. By giving 2.5mm, i push the right Wheel outside and my goal is to bring back right Wheel Inside. So add the 3.5mm short (before adjustment i did) + 2.5mm by centering R&P, well i'm in real trouble for a good alignment!

    For all this, i presume that the inner ties-rod are centered with the rack tube by default. Someone can confirm?.

    By the way, inner and outer ties-rod have the same length.

    To avoid confusion, on the first picture is the 2.5mm i gave from left tie rod by screwing it. It should be 3.5mm but i was unable to srew it to 183m (original value measured before any work done). It's not the 2.5mm measured from rack tube ends.

    i have the manual shop but i did not found specs for R&P for centering.
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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Aren't pictures wonderful.
    For some reason I was picturing GM style tie rods (inners and outers both have adjustment)

    That inner TR rough looking, not sure if the damage is interfering with your adjustment or not.
    But does seem as though something isn't quite right.

    I am not sure if the inner tie rods centre with the tube when the rack is centred, I have always dropped tie-rods and spun end to end then back half way.
    (dropping the outers allows full range of movement, i.e. not limited by the steering stops on the spindle)

    I find when I get to a place where things don't make sense, I go back to the beginning and work my way thru the entire system, I assume nothing and recheck everything. Its time consuming in the extreme, but sometimes its the only way to get to the root of the problem.
    The upside is that when your done, you will know every inch of that system intimately and it will save you time in the future.

    Out of curiosity, have you checked all the rack mounts? as well as the brackets (they have been known to crack)

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Yesterday when i removed left tie-rod (the one i changed in 2014), i measured the lentgh available Inside and i realized that it's short about 4mm comparing with the right tie-rod. So that's what explains why it was hard to screw the left tie-rod to bring it back at 183mm (reference measure with good alignment on the left side). Also, i received yesterday my inner tie-rod, that is short comparing the old one about 3mm. So add 3mm on each tie-rod + 4mm new tie-rod, i gain 10mm that i can add to the 3.5mm i centered in the beginning of the operation... Maybe hard to follow my story!! it means i have 13.5mm to adjust correctly left and right tie-rod, it's enough to have very good alignment.

    I will post later the final story and some pictures of old and new parts with different length.

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Final step before alignment, adjusting torsion bar (chassis ground clearance)

    There is something i don't understand in the manual shop (see picture attached). The manual talk about ground clearance "front" (256mm) and "rear" (284mm)... front bolt and rear bolt of the lower arm?

    Name:  IMG_20171016_222927473.jpg
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    I think the front ground clearance is the one i can see in the picture, but the rear? Can someone help me?

    If it's on lower arm, how can you get different values (front and rear... lower arm bolts..)for a relative short distance?

    I screw the torsion bar and tried to reach values showed on the manual... wow the van look jacked from the front or a very bad rear suspension... If i'm able to get the correct specs for the front suspension, how can i adjust the rear suspension? Is there a similar way to adjust rear suspension?

    thanks

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Filter - I believe the fr and rear specs refer to fr and rear of vehicle. My manual showed how to measure the rear from the centre of the lower link arm bolt to ground.
    Mine was well above the rear min spec so just ignored it. The only way to lift the rear is at the springs, either with new ones or with spacers.
    (This only applies to coil sprung models)

    As to the front, I found it pretty difficult to measure from the centre of a bolt, total pita.
    After I got it all dialled in I found I had exactly 8in under the fr crossmember, SO much easier to measure that way!

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    Re: unequal tie-rod length, alignment problem

    Make sure you take a short drive to settle the front end before deciding that the rear is too low.

    When I first got my van the first thing I noticed were the rear spring cushions were destroyed and that was one of the first repairs I did.
    I suspect that is why my rear end sits above min spec.

    With the front dialled in the van sits well with the rear slightly higher than front.

  17. 10-17-2017, 10:05 PM


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