Michael Hayes from Superior Engineering talks about heavy duty steering links for Aussie tracks!
When tackling those harder tracks or just getting away out bush for a play, sooner or later you will come across an obstacle that may hit your steering components. The type of steering part that you have installed could be all that determines whether or not your rig remains driveable after the impact. The factory items are designed around a price and are suited more towards limited off-road use certainly not the terrain or outdoor lifestyles we love to enjoy in Australia.
There are many reasons to consider fitting heavier duty or even just upgraded OE style parts, the most common of these is to regain factory geometry after a lift has been installed. In this situation aftermarket drag links and tie rods that are designed either for that lift height or those that have added adjustability on the joints are required.
When changing a tie rod or drag link it is also important to consider the type and configuration of the steering damper. Some suppliers can offer these in either a welded mount or as an adjustable bracket style, which can aid in setting up the steering if a return-to-centre damper is used.
If reliability when off-road is what matters most, then a heavy duty upgraded tie rod and drag link is a definite must! The increase in strength and resistance to bending is essential once larger tyres are fitted. Remember bigger tyre diameter = more leverage and the often hollow factory steering links just can't take the extra load. Impact resistance is another huge factor when deciding what brand or style to choose. Sometimes, size is limited and interference with suspension arms and links can occur and actually lock the steering under full flex. In LandCruisers and Patrols, tie rods of approximately 35-36mm diameter allow sufficient clearance for full safe articulation.
The material of the tie rods and drag links should also be considered, upgrading to solid, high-grade chromoly steel (or equivalent) will ensure a long safe service life. The grades and properties of chromoly available also vary greatly - anything from cheaply milled Chinese 4140 all the way to custom heat treated / through-hardened European milled 4340M. The type of bar used greatly determines the impact strength and resistance to bending or failing as well as corrosion resistance. Another important aspect to consider is the strength of the bar once machined and threaded. The material type also greatly affects abrasion resistance, low-quality bars can crack or become fracture sensitive once damaged. Material such as through-hardened 4340M is extremely hard to scratch or grind and is ideal protection when scraping and bashing through rocks. A well designed steering rod will also provide better support for ball joint or threaded area on the bar, as well as resisting bending. Once bent, the rod/link will have less working angle and can actually snap ball joints if the suspension is cycled to full travel or maximum steering angle under load.
If you are doing a diff swap or conversion, alternative or custom tie rods are available and these will either utilise an OE style joint or a rod-end. The material can also be tailored to suit the application and some of the different types commonly used are heat treated 4130 chromoly tubing or high-tensile aluminium (commonly 6061 or 7075). This style of steering link is more suited to a race vehicle and is not advised for on-road use as they required constant maintenance and inspection.
When shopping for heavy duty suspension components always remember - a vehicle only runs as smoothly as its key components. That's why Superior Engineering offers a huge range of heavy duty aftermarket products from leading manufacturers, engineered for superior performance, designed to fit precisely and proven to operate with OEM systems.
As with any suspension components you may need, contact your local 4WD suspension specialist for information on the best parts for your 4WD.
Contact Superior EngineeringPhone: (07) 5433 1411
1/116 Lipscombe Road
Deception Bay Queensland 4508
ASK THE EXPERTS: 4X4 Accessories and Suspension Tech Talk With Superior Engineering