Ensuring Stability: Upgrading Your Bronco's Tie Rod Ends for Lifted Suspensions and Bigger Tires
Every part of your Ford Bronco plays a critical role, especially when you're traversing rough terrains or pushing the limits of performance. One such component often overlooked but absolutely vital for your Bronco are the tie rod ends. They are even more essential if your Bronco sports a lifted suspension or larger tires.
Understanding Tie Rod Ends
Tie rod ends, in layman's terms, serve as the bridge between your vehicle's steering system and its wheels. They play a crucial role in connecting the steering gear to the steering knuckle, which ultimately allows you to control the direction of your wheels. But what's more fascinating is how these relatively small components contribute to the entire steering mechanism and the vehicle's overall performance.
Each tie rod end has two main components: a ball and socket mechanism and an attached rod. The ball and socket mechanism, much like our shoulder joint, allows for multidirectional movement. This design facilitates the transformation of rotational motion from the steering gear into the linear movement needed to turn the wheels.
When you turn your steering wheel, the steering gear rotates the tie rods, which then push or pull the wheels, making them turn. Tie rod ends also absorb some of the impact from bumps and potholes, helping to protect the steering system and ensuring smoother rides.
However, tie rod ends also have a second, equally important job. They are adjustable and are used to set a vehicle's alignment. Specifically, they play a crucial role in adjusting the toe – the degree to which your tires turn inwards or outwards. Proper toe alignment is essential for even tire wear and stable, straight-line driving.
Given their function and place within the vehicle's steering and suspension system, tie rod ends are under constant stress. They bear the brunt of the forces exerted when a vehicle turns, accelerates, or decelerates. Therefore, they need to be robust, reliable, and responsive. However, under tougher conditions, such as those imposed by lifted suspensions and larger tires, stock tie rod ends may fall short, necessitating a switch to sturdier aftermarket options.
The Original Ford Bronco OEM Tie Rod Ends
Your Bronco OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tie rod ends are built to match the stock specifications of the Bronco, designed to provide a balance between durability and performance for everyday driving scenarios. They work well under normal conditions, but if you've decided to give your Bronco a bit of a lift or upgrade to larger tires, you may find these OEM tie rod ends might not meet your demanding needs.
The Impact of Lifted Suspensions and Larger Tires
Upgrading your Bronco with a lifted suspension and larger tires can make a world of difference. These modifications not only impart a more aggressive look to your Bronco, but they also significantly enhance its off-road capabilities. However, as with any modification, they also come with certain implications, particularly on the tie rod ends.
Larger tires, due to their increased diameter and width, create more resistance to the steering system compared to standard-sized tires. This resistance stems from the fact that there is more tire surface in contact with the ground, creating greater friction. Additionally, larger tires are typically heavier, requiring more force to turn and control, putting added stress on the tie rod ends.
A lifted suspension, on the other hand, alters the geometry of the vehicle's steering and suspension systems. By raising the vehicle's body, the angles between the steering and suspension components are changed. This means that the tie rod ends, which were originally designed for a lower vehicle, are now operating at steeper angles. This unusual angle can put additional stress on the tie rod ends, causing them to wear out faster than they normally would.
Moreover, lifted suspensions and larger tires tend to encourage more aggressive driving, particularly in off-road conditions. These challenging environments, with their uneven surfaces and harsh terrains, place even more strain on the tie rod ends. The constant impacts and rough vibrations can lead to premature wear, and in worst-case scenarios, failure of the tie rod ends.
All these factors necessitate the need for robust, durable tie rod ends that can withstand the increased demands placed on them by lifted suspensions and larger tires. Fortunately, the aftermarket world is rich with options specifically designed to take on these challenges.
Upgraded Tie Rod Ends for Lifted Suspensions and Larger Tires
The aftermarket industry offers a plethora of stronger and more durable tie rod ends built to withstand the added stress from lifted suspensions and larger tires. Let's explore some of these options:
Heavy Duty Tie Rod Kit, FTS22350, from FabTech: This tie rod kit from FabTech is designed specifically for the demands of a lifted Bronco. It features a significant strength increase over the stock tie rod ends, making it perfect for those with larger, heavier tires.
Heavy Duty Tie Rod End Sleeve Kit, JKS9700, from JKS Manufacturing: JKS Manufacturing's kit includes heavy-duty tie rod end sleeves designed to fit over your Bronco's existing tie rod ends. These sleeves are machined from high-strength steel, adding rigidity and resistance against bending or breaking, particularly when navigating rough terrains. This is a great option for Broncos with lifted suspensions, as it provides additional strength without requiring the replacement of the entire tie rod end.
XD Tie Rod Kit, 45212, from Icon Vehicle Dynamics: The 45212 kit from Icon Vehicle Dynamics is a step-up from your standard tie rod kit. It features a unique, patent-pending design with a double-adjustment sleeve that allows for on-vehicle adjustment, reducing the need for removal during alignments. The XD Tie Rod Kit also includes heat-treated chromoly rod ends that are much stronger than OEM, making it ideal for handling the extra load from larger tires and lifted suspensions.
Tie Rod Heim Kit, FTS22349, from Fabtech: Taking tie rod upgrades to another level, Fabtech offers the FTS22349 Tie Rod Heim Kit. Unlike traditional tie rod ends, this kit uses spherical rod end bearings, or "Heim joints," known for their durability and performance in extreme conditions.
These Heim joints offer a higher load capacity and more flexibility under stress, making them an excellent choice for off-road enthusiasts and those with significantly lifted Broncos.
When it comes to choosing tie rod ends for your Bronco, remember that the best option depends on how you use your vehicle. These upgraded tie rod end options are built to handle the pressures of lifted suspensions and larger tires, providing the extra strength and durability you need to ensure safe, smooth rides.
Your Bronco's tie rod ends might not be the first thing you think of when upgrading your vehicle, but they're a critical component that ensures a smooth, safe ride. If your Bronco has a lifted suspension or larger tires, considering an upgrade to heavy-duty aftermarket tie rod ends is a wise move. Remember, your vehicle's performance and your safety depend on the quality of every single component. So, whether you're cruising down the highway or navigating a rocky trail, trust only the best for your Bronco.