How to Adjust Tie Rods

by Russell Wood

Proper wheel alignment is critical to your vehicle. Poor alignment can cause premature tire wear, sloppy handling and even problems controlling the vehicle. By learning how to adjust the tie rod ends, you'll learn how to adjust the toe, or the way the leading edges of your tires lean in toward the engine or out away from the vehicle. In this example, the vehicle is a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, but the procedure will be the same for many other vehicles.

Step 1

Lie on the ground and have your assistant help you measure the distance between the vehicle's two front wheels, measuring from the leading edges of the tires. The leading edge is the tread side that points toward the front of the vehicle. The easiest way to do this is to have the same reference point on each tire, so pick a vertical groove and both of you use that for reference.

Step 2

Measure the distance between the wheels from the trailing edges of the tires. The trailing edge is the tread side that points toward the rear of the car. The difference between these two measurements is the amount your toe is off. It is possible that one side is off more than the other, but adjusting them both at the same time should fix the problem.

Step 3

Locate the tie rod ends under the vehicle. They're mounted to the steering knuckle, and are generally 6 inches long with a ball joint at one end. An adjustment sleeve joins the tie rod to the steering linkage.

Step 4

On one side of the vehicle, loosen the nuts on the adjusting sleeve with the 3/8-inch ratchet and socket. Then turn the adjusting sleeve with your hands or a pair of channel-lock pliers. By turning the adjusting sleeves toward the back of the vehicle, it pulls the leading edge of the tire toward the engine. By turning it toward the front bumper, it pushes the leading edge away from the vehicle. Repeat this step on the other side of the vehicle.

Step 5

Re-measure the distance between both the leading and trailing edges of the tires with the help of your assistant and the tape measure. If the measurement is within 1/8 inch, then you're within the acceptable range. If not, repeat the process.

Step 6

Tighten down the nuts on the adjustment sleeves using the 3/8-inch ratchet.

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