Sunday, 19 October 2014

Replacing track ends. the pit falls.

the track rod ends on these vehicles are handed
nearside and offside.
Track rod end or track control arm ball joints no matter what you call it, it's at the end of the steering rack arms. For such a small ball joint it takes a lot of abuse from us the driver hitting curbs, bumping up them to park and pot holes. It is surprising that they do not fail more often. It is all these little knocks and bump over time that lead to them failing before they should. In most cases they are not noticed until they fail the MOT or the worst case scenario give up the ghost while we are driving down the road. I have been witness to number of these over the years.

There are some tell tail signs to alert us to their wearing out. Most of them do not happen until they are quite loose in the ball joint knuckle. Adverse wear on a tyre is one indicator. This looks like a tracking problem; what sets it apart from tracking is that the tyre looks more worn one side than the other. Another is an occasional slight wobble on the steering when gently braking. Unless you are very tuned in with your vehicle you will not notice it.

Once the bad news is in that your transport failed the MOT it is not that difficult a job to do. But I know there are a couple of 'buts' to take into account, even so, they do not add that much drama to the job.

Once the wheel nuts are loosened jack the vehicle up and place an axle stand under to support it just in case the jack fails. It does happen. Take the wheel off and turn the steering so the steering arm is fully extended this will allow fuller access to the ball joint. The first thing to do is loosen the tack rod end locking nut on the steering arm. These can be difficult to loosen, it is a good idea to soak it in freeing oil. You will have to use a C spanner on this nut so be careful as these spanners have a nasty habit of slipping off. 

Shocking ball joint loose

Now-a-days most ball joints are held in place with a Ni-lock nut the thread above the nut is most likely badly rusted. This is where an impact wrench is handy as this bit of kit will have the nut undone in no time. Again soak in freeing oil. What happens is the nylon of the nut locks solid on the rusty thread which then brakes the taper hold allowing the hole thing to spin in place. Now the fun begins. If this happens you will need the jack to push the ball joint back into place. This will mean that you almost lift the van off the axle stand to recreate the hold it had. This is one of the only ways of doing it. Now you need a blow torch or nut heater so the nylon can be melted and the nut expanded. While it is red hot it is possible to put a socket on it to complete the nuts removal. You will need to work quickly as the heat dissipates from the nylon allowing it to reform locking the nut again. Alternatively you can if you have one use a nut splitter.

If the nut comes off as it should the ball joint now needs to be separated from the hub arm. There are a couple of ways of doing this, use a ball joint separation tool or jar it lose with a heavy hammer, this method is not for the faint heated.  It is my favoured  way but then I have had a lot of practice honing it down to a fine art. If you decide to go this route I suggest binding the handle where it meets the head of the hammer with plastic tape the type electricians use. You will need to wrap it around quite a few times. The reasoning behind this is if you miss, which you will, the hub arm will strike the hammers handle, the tape stops bits being taken out of the handle lessening the chances of the head being broken off. You will need to hit the arm with some force to get it to loosen and in most cases several hits will be required to get it to shift.
Please note: do not use the method described above unless you are confident to do so. Getting it wrong may damage the van and yourself. You have been warned.

wheel nut rotation of teightening
Once off, it is a good idea to count the number of turns it takes to remove the the track rod end from the steering rack.

With the new track rod end in hand thread it on to the arm the number of turns it took to take it off. By doing this it should return the tracking to what it was before you removed the old one. Lessening  the need to get the tracking adjusted straight away.

Put the ball joint thread through the hub arm and tighten the nut to(37). Re tighten the steering rack nut to the back of the ball joint, it is a good idea to put a bit of copper grease on the thread to make it easier to undo next time. Put the wheel on, thread the bolts on and nip tight, drop the jack and tighten the wheel nut up to (140) in a diagonal rotation. This makes sure that each bolt is evenly tightened.

Please note that the numbers in the brackets (00) are torque wrench settings in Newton meters.

Great escape!

part-of-spring
The other day I had to nip out to get some materials. A bit of an under statement as it involved a journey of a hundred miles each way. As we were going up the by pass at the beginning of the trip there was a metallic clanging sound  of something hitting the under side of the truck which slowed progress as I considered whether or not to stop and check. Needless to say I didn't  as the van felt and ran OK.
Ninety odd miles later . We stopped at a well known supermarket for a break. To be met by a shoshing noise. A quick look round the truck did not show anything untoward but the shh persisted; then I noticed that the rear near side tyre looked soft. In that short time it was half flat, the air was coming out that fast. I can't believe it - another puncture! and its 
spring-in-tyre
the new one! I will not repeat what was said but I think you can guess!  
I ran round to the cab pulled out the jacking kit and got it in place just before it went completely  flat. Ten minutes later the Tyre was changed.
Before we returned home I wanted the puncture repaired, so tracked down a tyre shop and took it in. "No prob' mate have that done for you in a jiffy". Then things went sideways I saw him call over a colleague and then me. It took us all by surprise. I was told that I had been extremely lucky that it had not blown apart when it happened. The pictures speak for them selves!