How to adjust the tie rod end

Written by chris stevenson
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How to adjust the tie rod end
Tie rod ends that are not adjusted properly can wear tire tread. (tires on water image by JoLin from

Most vehicle owners do not know anything about adjusting components associated with front-end alignment. It can be tricky, and the amateur can make things worse by not knowing which part adjusts which measurement. Faulty adjustments can lead to severe pulling and tire wear. The tie rod end adjustment changes the measurement in the toe-in angle. This adjustment allows the front tires to "square up" or point straight down the road for precise tracking. Sometimes only one tire is pointed in or out and can be brought back into specification. In other cases, both tires must be trued. A simple adjustment on the tie rod end can remedy this out-of-alignment problem.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Floor jack
  • Jack stands
  • Wire cutters
  • Wrenches (box or end)
  • Spray cleaner (carburettor)
  • Penetrating oil (WD-40)
  • Channel locks
  • Pipe wrench (optional)
  • Chalk (white)
  • Pickle fork
  • Short-handled sledge hammer
  • Rags
  • Wire brush
  • Cotter pin (new replacement for tie rod end)
  • Lubricating oil

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  1. 1

    Use a floor jack to raise the front part of the vehicle. Place jack stands under the frame near each wheel. Make sure the jack stands do not interfere with the movement of the steering linkage. Move the steering wheel to make sure the front end parts do not bind or hang up.

  2. 2

    Crawl under the vehicle's front end and examine the tie rod that must be adjusted. Clean it thoroughly with degreaser or carburettor spray. Notice the sleeve on the shaft that holds the tie rod end (about 6 inches in length). With many models, the sleeve has a slit or groove in it that will allow the application of penetrating oil. Remove all debris and dried mud from the sleeve and groove with a wire brush. Soak it several times with penetrating oil and let it sit.

  3. 3

    Use the wire cutters to snip the cottar pin loose from the top of the tie rod. Pull it through and discard the pin. If you have trouble accessing the tie rod, move the steering linkage either way. Remove the retaining nut with the appropriate size wrench. Clean the nut interior threads and lubricate them.

  4. 4

    Take the pickle fork and slip it between the tie rod shaft mount and tie rod mount. Strike the end of the pickle fork several times until the tie rod breaks free. Let the tie rod hang or lace it up temporarily with a piece of string. Soak the adjusting sleeve again with penetrating oil and wipe down. For insurance, mark the shaft threads at the end of the sleeve so you know where it was set, in case you are replacing the entire tie rod end.

  5. 5

    Use the channel locks to grip the sleeve. Attempt to turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to see if it will break loose and turn. If stubborn, soak it again with penetrating oil and let sit. For extra leverage, take a pipe wrench and place it on the sleeve. Give it a turn. If it turns in both directions it has broken free and the adjustment can be made. By turning the sleeve on the threaded tie rod end shaft, the length of the rod can be shortened or extended. Turn in the direction you need to to meet specifications. Reassemble in the opposite order of removal.

Tips and warnings

  • Take the vehicle to a certified repair facility for a complete alignment.
  • Do not move the steering linkage with hard shoves while under the vehicle. The jack stands can be shifted.

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