I give credit to a number of the Jeep forums for my research into finding a Jeep TJ Tie-Rod Upgrade – Also known as the ZJ Tie-Rod upgrade for the Wranglers. If there is one thing I hate, it is when I break / bend something and I need to replace it with a stock part. I have always been the kind of thinker that believes parts break because they have become the weak point in your setup. Replacing that weak part with the same weak piece is going to yield the exact same results in the not so distant future.
So, bearing this all in mind, when I walked outside the other day to find my Jeep Wrangler’s Tie-Rod bent after installing 33’s… I opted to go out and do the ZJ Tie-Rod upgrade.
So what do you need to know to do this upgrade? Well, if you’re American, it is a cheap upgrade…if you’re Canadian it is quite a bit more expensive… (Damn you Canadian prices!). But I’ll be nice and I’ll give you the part numbers for both countries.
All the upgrade parts you’ll find from a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 5.2L v8 engine– you’ll need:
- 1 Inner Tie-Rod end
- Canadian Part Source Part# NAD DS1312 Price: $101.99
- American Autozone part link Part# DS1312 Price: $34.99
- 1 Outer Tie-Rod end
- Canadian Part Source Part# NAD ES3096 Price: $61.49
- American Autozone part link Part# ES3096 Price: $28.99
- 1 Adjusting Sleeve
- Canadian Part Source Part# NAD ES2079S Price: $48.49
- American Autozone part link Part# ES2079S Price: $22.99
- Liquidtight Flexible Non-Metallic Conduit 1″ inside diameter (Optional**) about $1.06/ft
- Tie-Rod Separator (I actually used my ball joint separator as it is easy, clean and doesn’t ruin the boots or rod ends.
- My recommendation from Harbor Freight Tools (sorry fellow Canadians, it’s a USA store). Link
- Torque wrench
- Tremclad paint (optional**)
- Synthetic grease / grease gun
- Basic Socket set
- Tape Measure
- Basic wrenches
- Wire snips and / or pliers to help get the coder pin out of the old castle nuts.
- Beer, sunshine and your favorite tunes (optional, but always recommended!)
So to Recap expenses, you’re looking at spending $211.97 + tax if you’re Canadian or roughly $86.97+tax if you’re American. (This doesn’t include the grease, conduit or paint). My advice- if you’re close enough to the border…Cross into the USA!
Alright, time to get started. For this operation, I didn’t bother jacking the Jeep up as I didn’t feel the need to. Plus, this allowed / helped me to keep the alignment close to where it was with the old Tie-Rod on. Note, you’re going to need an alignment regardless after this, but it generally is nice when you can drive to the alignment shop…
Before I started yanking pieces off, I opted to take a few measurements to show how much more beefy the new bar is. As you can see in the picture below, the old Jeep Wrangler Tie-Rod is 0.86″ outside diameter.
Compare that to the picture below of the new ZJ Tie-Rod being 0.99″ outside diameter.
The thread area of the old Jeep Wrangler Tie-Rod was 0.66″ outside diameter as seen below
Compare that to the new ZJ Tie-Rod thread area being 0.85″ outside diameter. In case you kind of missed that comparison- the new thread area where the rod tapers down, is about as thick as your old rod!
Another shot of the new Tie-Rod – just trying to show how beefy it is!
Ok, ok, back to business.
Step 1: Crawl under your Jeep and pick a side- left or right, it doesn’t matter. Take your wire cutters / pliers and cut the coder pin off, but keep in mind you need to pull the entire thing out of the stud (so don’t just cut either side!).
Step 2: Once both Coder pins are off- find the right socket size and remove the castle nuts on both Tie-Rod ends. Don’t worry, the Tie-Rod isn’t going anywhere yet.
Step 3: You’re probably wondering why your Tie-rod hasn’t fallen down yet, that would be because you need to use your separator to decompress that joint. Either get your pickle fork and smack it, or use the Separator I linked to earlier and tap it into place with a hammer. Then you can crank the nut down to close the tool up and pop that joint.
Step 4: Very important- before you start doing anything to your old Tie-Rod, lay it down on the floor flat and take your measuring tape and measure from the middle of the stud on one side, to the middle of the stud on the other side. Every Jeep will be different, so there is no magical number. Important*** Be as precise as possible with your measurement. This will insure your alignment stays as close as possible until you can get to a shop. Even a few mm’s makes a massive difference- so try your best. AND don’t rely on the old “count the threads” trick- since this is off a Grand Cherokee, it won’t be the same number of turns as your Wrangler!
Step 5: ***This is an optional step*** My Tie-rod came with a lifetime warranty that replaces my Tie-Rod for any reason except if they see physical damage in the failed area. So for example, if you are on the trail and you come down on a rock and it bends your Tie-Rod, technically, you shouldn’t be covered. So, after paying $211 for my Tie-Rod, I want to fully ensure that if I damage it, it is covered. So I went out and bought some electrical conduit (liquid flexible conduit) which features a crush resistant construction and is nice and durable to protect my rod from visual physical damage. This is important, I only want to protect it visually because when you are on a trail, a bent Tie-Rod is better than an entirely broken Tie-Rod. The reason for that being is that you can “limp” your Jeep off the trail with a bent rod, not with a broken one. **Disclaimer, when you get off the trail, get a tow truck to get you home. Don’t drive on the roads with a bent Tie-Rod.
Here is an idea of how flexible and durable this stuff is. It is super easy to bend and 0.10″ thick. The 1″ ID stuff is a perfect tight fit onto your Tie-Rod to. You need to moderately muscle it on and into place. You need under 3ft of this stuff. Measure and cut it from the one end of the rod, right up to the thread area on your inner Tie-rod piece. Forget the outer Tie-Rod as you probably won’t be able to cover much and still have access to the threads.
Step 6: Take your measurement from the old Tie-Rod, and start threading your sleeve onto the new inner Tie-Rod (the long piece). I added Anti-seize to my Tie-Rod threads before I started the sleeve so that I can make adjustments down the road super easy. I then threaded mine in until the tip of my thread ran out of the threading on the sleeve, and then started to thread the outer Tie-Rod on. Keep threading it in and stop periodically to measure and see where you’re at. Once you match the old length, tighten down the sleeve bolts and put it in place under your Jeep. Note that the wavey bend in the Tie-Rod (side that has the sleeve) goes on the driver side of your Jeep.
Step 7: Put your new castle nuts on and torque them to the Jeep Wrangler torque specs (they are the same as the Cherokee ones). Once you have it torqued down properly, feed the new coder pin through the hole and bend it so it can’t come out. Note that you may need to go slightly beyond the recommended torque spec to clear the way for the coder pin to go through the hole.
Step 8: Grease your two Tie-Rod ends (you may have gotten a Tie-Rod that doesn’t allow this option, but if you did get one that does, it is 10000% necessary to do this step before driving. I Personally for this used Amsoil’s Dominator grease They are a sponsor and I use this grease on anything high performance I touch; so I know it’s good and it sits comfortably with me!
Step 9: If you have put the Electrical conduit over your Tie-Rod to protect it, you’ll notice it looks out of place. Grab some gloss tremclad paint and spray your conduit down so it matches your bar. Now not only does it match everything, but now this thing looks really, really beefy! You could always spray the conduit before, I did it after. Up to you!
Step 10: Go for a drive, enjoy and make sure you go get a proper alignment done very soon! Then go out and share the knowledge!