Monday, June 15, 2009

Tie Rod Ends...

OK, so I had a great time at the previous track day (the test and tune event put on by AR Auto Services)... But... you knew there was a but, didn't you...

I did my normal post-track day inspection and noticed there was some grease oozing from the tops of the tie rod ends; right where the rubber boots meet up with the steering knuckle. The rod ends are tight as a drum (no movement when pushing on the tire), but I figured that oozing grease would not be a good thing for the next track day. Therefore, I decided to replace the tie rod ends; should be a nice, simple job, eh? Well, almost.

I did a bit of research at NASIOC (North America Subaru Impreza Owners Club) to see if anyone has had trouble with tie rod ends. Nothing. Tie rod ends just aren't that interesting, I guess. I can't find much about them anywhere -- I even Googled them. So based on this, I assumed that they really didn't matter that much -- that is, anything would do the job is good enough.

So in response, I went down to my local Napa and purchased two sets of tie rod ends for about $85 (more than I wanted). I was not overly impressed with the Napa tie rod ends -- the nut at the top is a nyloc nut instead of castled (with cotter pin), so there's always going to be the fear that it might work itself loose. Also, the rubber boot is just held on by friction (stretched over the base of the rod end) instead of with metal wire clips like on the OEM parts. Oh well, I guess I'll just need to keep an eye on them...

The installation went really smoothly as I already had a tie rod separator tool (screw type) which did a great job. The new tie rods when on super easy. I didn't even have to adjust the toe afterwards -- I measured it up, and by some magic I'll never understand the toe was actually perfect (within a 32nd of an inch with steering wheel centred and everything).

Of course this was not going to be the end of it. :-) I did my normal quick run around the neighbourhood to test out the steering and get a feel for the alignment and brought it back in for a quick inspection. That's when I noticed that the boots on the tie rod were rubbing against the brake rotor.

Well, that's not good is it? I can just imagine what would happen -- a few miles of that, and I'd get this very neat hole in the side of the rubber boot and I'd get grease oozing out all over my rotors. With my luck this would happen when I'm going 120 MPH into Turn 10 at PIR and I'd end up stuffing it into the tire wall.

So I leave the car for a week (good excuse to take the motorcycle to work) and dug into them this past weekend. I figured that since the original parts were fine except for the oozing grease, I would just clean them up and put them back on. It's amazing how much faster it is to replace these things after having done it once. I think I replaced both sides and aligned the car (no magic this time) in about 45 minutes. Quick trip back to Napa and it's like the whole thing never happened.

Moral of the story? Even if you don't see anything bad written up at NASIOC about a replacement part, you might just want to get OEM... :-)