This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
It's very important to keep the front suspension of your 911 tight and firm. The moving parts of the system have a tendency to wear out after many years of use and become loose. A steering wheel that can be turned a few degrees in each direction with no impact on the direction of the wheels can indicate that one or more suspension components are worn beyond their useful life.
One of the most common parts to replace are the tie rod ends. These universal joints are located on the end of each tie rod and control the angular position of each front wheel when the car is steered. If the tie rod end is worn, then precise steering is an impossibility, and the car will also have wobbly front wheels and a possible alignment problem. Sometimes vibrations in the steering wheel can be caused by worn out tie-rods too.
Replacement of the tie rod end is relatively simple: if you have the proper tools. Each tie rod is attached to the spindle arm with a beveled fit. This means that the tie rod is securely pressed into the spindle arm, and cannot be removed without a special tool. The best tool for removal is an angled pitchfork tool that is designed specifically for this task. Do not attempt to hit the top of the rod end with a large hammer, as this will only serve to bend your entire spindle arm.
Pull out the small cotter pin from the castellated nut and remove the nut with a socket wrench. Place the pitchfork tool in-between the spindle arm and the rod end and then hit the tool repeatedly with a large hammer. The wedge in the pitchfork tool will drive the rod end out of the arm. You may have to hit the pitchfork tool quite a few times before the rod end will pop out of its location.
Before you remove the rod end from the tie rod, make sure that you measure and mark the location of the rod end with respect to the tie rod. The length of the entire tie rod must remain exactly the same; otherwise the toe-in adjustment on your front-end alignment will become significantly skewed. A good practice is to mark the tie rod end on the threads where it was screwed into the tie rod and then screw the new one into the exact same location.
Once the rod end is separated from the arm, you should be able to simply unscrew it from the tie rod. It is important to note that the standard tie rods have two adjustment points, one near the rod end and one near the rack. Make sure that you hold the tie rod steady with a wrench while you unscrew the rod end, or you may accidentally change the length of the rod.
The new rod end is attached by tightening the new castellated nut down on the top threads. Make sure that you align the hole for the cotter pin with the tops of the nut. Insert the cotter pin and bend the ends to make sure that it won't fall out. It's a wise idea to have your front-end alignment checked, because the replacement of the tie rod ends can change the toe adjustment.
While you're replacing your rod ends, it's also a good time to install the Turbo Tie Rod kit (see Pelican Technical Article: Installing the Turbo Tie Rod Kit). This kit makes the entire steering mechanism a lot stiffer, reduces 'bump steer,' and it also includes two brand new tie rod ends.
Removal of the tie rod end is very difficult without the proper tool. This pitchfork tool applies pressure to the rod end and separates it from the control arm. A substantial amount of hammering on the tool is usually required, as the rod ends have a tapered fit that is designed to fit snuggly in the control arm.
Installation of the new rod end is the easiest part of the process. The rod end is simply placed into the control arm and the top nut is tightened. Don't forget to insert the safety cotter pin (not shown) into the nut to prevent it from backing out.