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Rusty's Steering Upgrade - TJ Tie Rod and Drag Link

Author: Black2001TJ

First, the write up, then the review! I will explain what I feel may be best after we did my install the way we did it, however, this will probably deviate from how we did some things to save embarrassment. It's actually a simple install, but removing the stock setup is a freaking PITA!! This setup takes you to a full tie rod that is much stronger than stock as well as an upgraded drag link that is much stronger than stock and is recommended for 35" tires and above and in my case, after a little mishap with a guard rail! I recommend them for 33's and up as well after feeling the ride. I think the setup cost $225 + $15 shipping compared to the stock setup at the dealership for about $300.

Tools Needed (from memory, sorry if I lie):

The kit includes:

OEM steeringFirst of all, measure your distance between your tires to see how you are toed before doing this upgrade. You don't have to do this, but it's nice knowledge. Many people have different ways, the most accurate is probably the nail way, but with my MT/R's, I just went ahead and measured using molding on the tire. Have someone place one end of the tape measure onto one tire at the same point that you measure from on the other front tire, and gather the distance for both the front of the front tires and the rear of the rear tires. Now, subtract your front measurement from your rear to figure out if you are toed in or out and by how much. I found out that I was actually toed out 1/32" and the recommendation is 1/32" toed in, according to Rusty.

Now, find the cotter pins on both the tie rod (2, 1 at each knuckle) and drag link (1 at the pitman arm) and remove them by un-bending the thin ends and then going to the other side of the nut and pulling them out forcefully. You can cut these, the Rusty's setup gives you new ones to use.

removing the cotter pinsOnce those are removed, remove the nuts on the tie rod (2 total, 1 at each knuckle) and the drag link (1 at the pitman arm).. At this point, you can jack up the front axle and put it on jack stands and take off both front tires to make things easier... Now, remove the tie rod by placing the tie rod puller on the end and cranking it until they pop out, if you don't have one, you can hit the knuckle with your BFH, or use a pickle fork wedged in there to remove it.

Now comes the only hard part and time consuming part - removing the stock drag link from the pitman arm. I want to hear your suggestions for this, we tried everything but heat to remove it. The best way we found was by putting your pickle fork in there to separate them and just beating the living daylights outta it for a while and it finally just popped right out!

remove OEM draglink pickle fork
playing with the alignmentNow it's time to line up the new setup, first we went ahead and made the new tie rod as long as the old setup.

Take the new setup and line it up and finger tighten the tie rod ends and drag link at the pitman arm. First thing first, measure your toe now from the front and back of the front tires and get yourself as close to perfect, but within 1/32" toed in. Once you have this, tighten the nuts on the tie rod ends and drag link at both ends to 35 ft. lbs. torque and tighten the jam nuts on the tie rod only.

Have someone watch the steering wheel and turn your drag link by hand and have them yell bloody hell when it's centered. Then you'll want to torque the drag link nuts to 35 ft. lbs. as well as tighten the jam nuts also.

lining up the system
driver side tie rodpassenger side tie rod new drag link
mounted steering stabilizerYou will need to locate the stabilizer bracket and attach it to the drag link approximately where the old setup had it, I found it to be 21" from one end of the steering stabilizer to the middle of the end on the drag link. I ran into a snag here, the OME stabilizer bolt didn't fit well on the Rusty's piece, so I used a 3/4" bolt (about 3 inches long), some washers, and a nut to get that on there. I will be buying/investigating a better way to set that up, but it's cool for now.

Now, take a test drive, come back and measure up again to fix any wandering, etc. and to fix your steering wheel. I recommend getting a professional alignment afterwards, but my setup right now runs great, so I'm probably going to save the dough.

Now for the review. It’s been 2 days since the install, and I've loved the setup from the moment I pulled out of PAJeeper's garage. It rides incredibly compared to the older setup - you can definitely feel the beefiness and control! I absolutely love it. The new setup is much thicker, more solid, and runs the length of the tires compared to stock. I'll try to add more after a month has passed.

Final product!

Disclaimer: You can use these instructions however you choose, but I am not liable for anything you do. Please feel free to link to them from other sites, but you must get my permission first before copying them off of this site to elsewhere.

Thanks and Enjoy!

P.S. Thanks so much to the PA/NJ crew for the help, nothing like some last minute wrenching with some good folks. Thanks to PAJeeper for the use of his garage yet again and thanks to JaySea for the photos that I used!

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