What Keeps Everything Together: Dos and Don'ts in Buying Tie Rod Bushings
A car's bushing acts as the joints of the automobiles skeleton. Without them, your car would be a single piece of metal that lacks movement and agility. And that just contradicts the whole purpose of a car. So for its numerous parts to twist, turn, and function correctly, your car is fitted with all kinds of bushings. One of the most important types is the tie rod bushing. It is basically what keeps the steering system functioning and the wheels turning. That's why choosing the right tie rod bushing should be done with care and attention.
- Know which type of bushing material to buy. Rubber or synthetic rubber is the most popular choice among manufacturers. Aside from its durability, it also minimizes friction and mitigates vibration in the steering system. This kind of bushing works well with most cars and driving lifestyles. However, rubber could be too soft for high-performance cars. So if you're more of a race car driver and you need better traction on your car's steering system, you should opt for urethane or poly bushings. They are stronger and harder than standard rubber, which is perfect for high-performance applications.
- Decide whether you need to replace all of your tire rod bushings or just one. This will depend on the condition of all the bushings and on your budget. If you're looking for a quick fix and you simply need to replace an already busted bushing, then you can just buy one bushing and locking plate. If the damage has extended to the rest of your tie rod bushings or you want to have a few spares in your garage, go for those that are sold in kits.
- Always make sure that the tie rod bushings you purchase come with both the rubber parts and the lock plates. A common misconception for tie rod bushing is that it's simply a rubber seal that protects the rod. But unlike other bushings in your system, the tie rod bushing needs to have a certain level of manageability to allow the rod to move around. That is where these lock plates come in. The chrome surface allows the bushing to rotate with the movement of the rod. If you install the bushing without the plate, your tie rod-and the rest of the steering system-can get stuck.
- Don't buy tire rod bushings that are made of substandard material. Although the relatively lower price is a tempting factor, never forego price for quality. If you really want to save up on your costs, you can always opt for direct-fit aftermarket parts from trusted brands. They are less expensive than OE replacement parts but are still made from durable rubber.
- Don't just base your decision on the price of the tie rod bushings. Branded bushings tend to be more expensive because they offer superior quality and an unwritten guarantee that the part will work for the long run. But if you really don't want to pay extra for the name, you can still go for lesser-known brands or even aftermarket manufacturers. Just be sure that you've taken the time to research on these brands. You can even check online forums or customer reviews to help you make your decision.
How to Replace a Busted Tie Rod Bushing
Prevention is definitely better than cure. But how can you say the same if you've got a bad tie rod bushing? Don't let this faulty bushing damage the rest of your car's steering assembly. Once you notice that your tie rod has been moving around too much, replace your car's tie rod bushing with the use of a few simple tools and this step-by-step DIY guide.
Difficulty level: Moderate to difficult
Tools you'll need:
- Jack and jack stands
- Lug nut wrench
- Ratchet and socket
- Tie rod separator
- New tie rod bushings
Step 1: Park your car on a flat surface or in your garage. Make sure that you set its brake before starting the installation to avoid accidents.
Step 2: Loosen each tire's lug nuts to prepare the wheels for removal.
Step 3: Using a jack stand, lift your vehicle just enough to remove the tires. Be sure to support the vehicle with jack stands.
Step 4: Now that your car is off the ground, completely remove the tire's lug nuts and pull the tire off the hub.
Step 5: Once you've removed the wheels, it's now time to take out your tire rod and gain access to its bushing. Start with removing the cotter pin from the nut with the use of pliers. Using a ratchet and socket, work your way to the nut. Rotate it counter clockwise to completely remove the nut.
Step 6: The tie rod bushing is found in the connection of the tie rod and steering knuckle. Using a tie rod separator, remove the bushing from the knuckle. You should place the separator between the two parts. Lightly tap the separator into the bushing to separate it from the steering knuckles.
Step 7: Take out the bushing from the tie rod itself. This is done by loosening the tie-rod clamp with a socket and wrench. Remove the tie rod bushing by rotating it clockwise on one end and counter clockwise on the other. Turn the bushing in the appropriate direction and pull it out of the tie rod.
Step 8: Insert the new tie rod bushing into the rod. Be sure that you thread it in the right direction so that it can be aligned properly. Secure and tighten the bushing into the rod and make sure it has the same distance as the old bushing.
Step 9: Refasten the tie-rod clamp and make sure that every part sits well in its place. Place your tire back to its hub and move on to the next wheels.
Step 10: Repeat steps 4 to 9 in reverse order to install the tie rod bushings on the other wheels.
Step 11: Once you've installed all the bushings, lower your vehicle and take it to the nearest mechanic to have your tires properly aligned.