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1997 Explorer Tie Rod End Replacement


Elite Explorer
February 6, 2016
Reaction score
City, State
No. Alabama USA
Year, Model & Trim Level
1997 Blue Ex 4.0 SOHC
KAGG 3611 (CB)
My 1997 "Flo" has been needing the tie rods replaced since this summer. After replacing the UCAs and LBJs and eliminated the popping sound, it wasn't long before the truck had a new popping sound. The tie rods are in as bad of shape as the as the ball joints were and now that I am able to "pry" my wife's hands off of the steering wheel for a few hours today I will be able to change them before the rain moves in. I was finding plenty of "toe in specs" in degrees but I will be using a measuring tape (in inches) to adjust the toe. From what I can find online 1/8" is about right.
Tool list:
jack stand/s
1/2" breaker bar
3/4" socket
needle nose pliers
socket for tie rod nut ?
22mm combo wrench for TRE locknut
21mm combo wrench for castellated nut
measuring tape
helper to hold other end of tape
grease gun
edited tool list:
8mm for grease fitting
Crescent (adjustable) wrench

Maybe I can still get ahead of the rain !
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One of the biggest parts to the TRE work is making them let go. Avoid using a pickle fork, often you'll want to save the boot etc. Get a heavy baby sledge, 3+ pounds, and be sure there's plenty of room to swing at the front of the spindle TRE part. If you hit it hard enough at the side of the spindle TRE part, the TRE will let go. Have the TRE nut only loosened a few turns before hitting the spindle. Hit it squarely, not on the edge of the spindle, which will deform that and could affect the seating of the TRE later.

The Crescent wrench is great for holding the TRE still while doing the locking nut.

If the steering is not too loose(wear in the TRE's(all four of them)), then you can kind of easily adjust toe by the steering wheel centering. Inner TRE's are usually not identical lengths, those are not so simple as to spin off and on the new one by the same number of rotations. The outers work great to do that, say 18 rotations out with the old, put the new one on the same number.

I had my alignment done last week, due to replacing both TRE's myself and still having tire wear. They missed one loose inner TRE. So I had a new one handy, and put one on that day. The steering wheel was centered when I drove home, but way off with my new TRE. I spent about 15 minutes adjusting the TRE length by test driving, and readjusting. It took five times, but I got it centered again. I rotated the one I changed, about 3-4 turns total, I had forgot to compare the new and old TRE's first. Based on which way the steering wheel was moved on the first drive, I knew that the TRE was too long. So I shortened it a little at a time, holding the outer TRE still, and with a metric wrench on the inner TRE, ran that into the outer, farther.

I your steering is too loose(wear), then you'll have to just measure the toe as best you can. It needs to have some toe in, being out will wear tires faster than being in a hair. To straighten the steering wheel after the toe is set, you have to loosen each TRE and both add/remove from their lengths. Hopefully your wheel is close to start with.

Well the rain moved in before I could get to the other side. If I had started 15 minutes earlier I could have done the RH passenger side too. Thanks CDW6212R for mentioning a Crescent wrench. Sometimes it is difficult to visualize every tool required to perform the task. My biggest challenge that I have when working on vehicles at home is that I have very few tools and no cover out here in the rural area that I live in. The funny this is I have a fairly well equipped Shop just a few miles away where I repair and restore antique 1965-70 Mustangs but being able to get in the building there to perform maintenance on my personal "fleet" is near impossible. I am always toting some kind of tools back and forth, But working on something at home in the driveway with limited tools and only one vehicle in front of ones self is liberating in a way. It reminds me of when I was 17 at home working on just one car at a time.
I had the tie rod removed in just a few minutes. "Flo" just like all of the other Exes that I own is not rusty and crusty. Road salt is rarely used around here (it might snow 2 to 3 hours a year here) so there is not any salt corrosion. The lock nut came right a loose and I didn't have to put the tie rod tapered shaft nut back on to tap on it. I tapped twice, I think on the "dog nipple" (can I say that??) end near the threads next to the taper and it came right a loose too. My TRW replacement Tie Rod End was the same dimensions as the original one, I assume because it didn't have a grease fitting, so I was able to turn 18, almost 19 turns before it fell off of the shaft. I left the lock nut in place and by the time I threaded the new one on I had turned 18+ turns before it touched the nut.
I am waiting on a 5 minute rain break to turn the left one in about a 1/3 to 1/2 turn to get my steering wheel back where it was before I change the RH one.
2 questions for the boy and girls out there (I know the answers)
1) Why is a crescent wrench called a Crescent wrench (the moon is not a clue)and
2) Why is a castellated nut sometimes refered to as a castle nut (clue:think Chess)

I'm waiting on a break in the rain
Added...Tip:Check your grease gun before you begin your repair task!
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In the United States and Canada, the adjustable spanner (adjustable wrench) is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "crescent wrench" due to the widespread Crescent brand of adjustable wrenches; the former Crescent Tool Company was the assignee of the 1915 U.S.

It is a interesting how long the adjustable spanner wrench has been around

A small Pittman arm puller is perfect for loosening the TRE from the knuckle. Just make sure to leave the castle nut loosely in place because when it pops loose it has a good bit of force.

Earlier I adjusted the LH outer TRE before I changed the other side. I turned it 1/2 turn and landed right on the spot that I needed to be. There are approximately 16 threads per inch (I know that it's metric threads) so a half a turn was about 1/32" additional toe in. I do my own adjustments. I don't trust the front alignment places around here. All of the good guys have retired and the Tech Schools don't train anyone anymore. I like the R & P on the front. It sure makes it easy to change the outer TRE. It took longer to remove the T/Wheel than it did to change the part. The inners are in good shape and this vehicle only has commuting miles on it. I feel fortunate that I was able to purchase TRW brand outers for $5.39 each plus shipping compared to $55.89 each for Motorcraft. Yes I'm proud to say I'm a Cheapazz, sometimes... As long as it doesn't endanger anyone ! :eek:

Very good, I hope those tires last for years. BTW, Rock Auto has some very good bargains most of the time. I like that because it gets me to look hardest at the top choices. I usually choose between the Ford and a couple of best brands. In TRE's the brand selection is large and many unknown. I went with the Proforged this time from reviews and the description. They were about $15 each, less for outers, more for inners.

The Ford TRE was $35ish, I had to buy one same day and got it at the dealer. I swapped that out soon with the Proforged part(it has a grease fitting and I need that a lot for work use). I'll put the barely used Ford TRE in my Mercury later, it's my spare truck.
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I'm saving my old ones for my daily "beater"

I should be able to get 50000 miles out of my tires. Even though it's from the 1960's I trust my old bear alignment rack. It's not computerized but it worked in the 60's. I took the alignment level gauge to the guy who use to do all of my frame pulling and checked the calibration on it. He retired in 2012 and I bought some of his pulling equipment. It's vintage stuff too. My alignment rack is similar to one of the in this pic. I couldn't put my own picture in here for some reason so I found a link to a picture of a similar one.

It's probably not solid advice for a forum but on my 2000 a while back, I did a string alignment, measuring the string off the rear axle on each side, got it straight on each side with the rear wheel, one jackstand on each side at the back, one on each at the front, then run a string down each side from stand to stand, measured the string off the rear axle for straightness and set it straight, and then set the front wheels 1/8" toe in.

Been a while now, that only sets the toe but my caster and camber are fine, and it drives perfect, tire wear is great too. Steering wheel is perfect too, dead straight. I did some offhand inspections of the tire wear and both wheels are wearing straight and true, couldn't ask for better IMO. Definitely a better sounding system than the "same turns" system IMO.

*Edit* Before I get asked why I did this, the only good alignment shop I trust here is 45 minutes away, everybody else does a shabby job, and this truck in question has 280K miles, a mismatched front suspension and a well worn rack. I didn't see the overall point in driving 45 minutes to my preferred shop to only in 20-25K miles need to do a lot of front suspension work. Carry on.

I was just doing it the "turns" way to ad a "hair" of toe in from it's past alignment with the old TREs. I could tell by the position of the steering wheel and the very "slight" pull that it was off a bit. When I changed the RH TRE I landed right on the spot without having to do the "mini" adjust. Later this week when I can get on the rack and have an experienced assistant hold the new tape measurer, I will do the center of tire to center of tire rear and the center of tire to center of tire front method (just like using a toe stick) to see the actual amount of toe in fractional inches.
I'll try you method next time when I am on concrete. I was working from home on the gravel. Thanks!

Man I badly need a garage at home. Me and the Wife are sitting on $400 for gravel (25 yard triaxle dump truck load) to put in place before setting up forms for a small garage. If Mother F Nature would cooperate. It has rained all but 3 weekends since late October. That is even cutting in to my working on the Trucks in the grass and gravel time at home...on the weekends.
Thanks again!