Full size GM trucks and SUVs have used Independent Front Suspension (IFS) since the late 80s to provide a more car-like ride while still offering much of the durability expected of trucks of the past. On the street and in mild off road situations this proved to be a great asset for GM; with the trucks and SUVs earning critical praise from consumers and media members alike.
When these trucks and SUVs are pushed hard off road or in competition owners soon noticed that there was a weak link in the steering system. In what many considered mild use situations drivers were experiencing bent or even broken tie rods causing loss of control of the vehicle and minor inconvenience in best cases and crashes in others. The problem became even more evident as horsepower and torque performance from the factory engines increased over the years and reached a crescendo when the Duramax diesel engine platform was released in the 2001 model year unleashing unheard-of levels of torque on an IFS 4WD vehicle.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE TIE RODS?
Under most circumstances nothing is wrong with the tie rods themselves, but with more power, bigger tires, aggressive driving, and competition use the factory tie rods just can’t handle the stress that is placed on them. The center link and cast tie rod ends are typically strong enough, showing the weak link to be the tie rod sandwiched between the two. It is not uncommon the see GM IFS 4WD trucks and SUVs with pronounced toe-in under hard acceleration and heavy loads in 4WD such as seen in drag racing and sled pulling.
Even if the tie rods do not fully bend and cause the vehicle to veer uncontrollably left or right, with the tires pointed even slightly in opposite directions control becomes more difficult with the vehicle sometimes violently pulling in one direction or the other. Additionally, when the tires are not pointed straight ahead the truck is not maximizing its acceleration and performance potential since all four wheels are not pulling in the same direction. With the solid rear axle both rear wheels are trying to drive the vehicle forward in a straight line but when the IFS suffers severe tie rod flex the driver side front wheel is trying to drive the truck to the right while the passenger side front wheel is trying to drive the truck to the left. Needless to say, with two tires pointing forward and the other two pointing in opposite directions the truck struggles to move in three different directions at one time greatly increasing the likelihood of something bending or breaking which in most cases will be one or both tie rods. To be able to put the power to the ground in both 2WD and 4WD a solution was needed to address the steering system weak points.
THE MERCHANT AUTOMOTIVE TIE ROD SOLUTION
To greatly reduce the chance of bending or breaking a tie rod the team at Merchant Automotive developed precision-fit CNC-machined stainless-steel tie rod sleeves that thread onto the tie rod replacing the jam nut and strengthening the rod. With a large diameter center link and a strong cast tie rod end the eight or so inch length of small diameter tie rod is the weakest part of the steering system and can easily bend under heavy load. Rather than the difficult and expensive process of replacing the center link, tie rods and tie rod ends the MA solution uses their stainless-steel sleeve to strengthen the factory tie rod. The MA sleeve also becomes the jam nut for alignment adjustments and securing the tie rod end into position.
The Merchant Automotive Tie Rod Sleeves are made using high-grade stainless steel to not only look good when installed on the truck but also to provide easy serviceability in the future. Tie rod sleeves made using inexpensive steel have a greater chance of rusting to the tie rod making it nearly impossible to adjust the alignment on your truck after they have been installed on the truck for any length of time. By using high-quality stainless-steel for the tie rod sleeves the MA team assured that they will not rust or corrode and will be able to be adjusted as required for the life of your truck. To make adjustment even easier the sleeves are machined with flats to allow an open-ended wrench to be used to tighten and loosen the sleeve.
We offer Stainless Steel Tie Rod Sleeve Sets for 2001-2010 GM 2500HD and 3500 4WD pickups and 2011-2019 GM 2500HD and 3500 4WD pickups which also fit most 2008-2013 GM 1500 4WD trucks and SUVs. Additionally, we have a set of Stainless Steel Tie Rod Sleeves for the 4WD 2016 and newer Colorado/Canyon midsize pickups with the 4-cylinder 2.8L Duramax diesel engine.
A great product doesn’t do much good if it is too difficult to install and never gets used, so the crew at Merchant Automotive made sure that their Tie Rod Sleeves were not only easy to install, but also easy to use and service years down the road. If you can change the tire on your truck and have some basic hand tools you should be able to install a set of Merchant Automotive Tie Rod Sleeves on your vehicle.
An overview of the general installation procedure starts by supporting the truck and removing one front tire then popping the tie rod end out of the steering knuckle. Then after breaking loose the jam nut count and note the number of turns as the tie rod end is threaded off the tie rod. Next remove and discard the jam nut and clean any dirt and road grime/debris off the full length of the factory tie rod. Then apply the included anti-seize compound to the threads and thread the stainless-steel tier rod sleeve onto the tie rod with the flats toward the wheel. Finally reinstall the factory tie rod end and button that side back up before moving over to the other side and repeating the process. While counting the turns or measuring the tie rod length will get you very close to the previous alignment specs we do recommend that you have the alignment checked and adjusted as needed at an alignment shop to make sure that you do not experience uneven tire wear.
Stay tuned for a step-by-step article showing the installation on a variety of trucks here on the MA website in the not to distant future. In the meantime you can view the MA Tie Rod Sleeve Installation Video on a Duramax diesel powered Chevrolet Colorado which follows the same procedures as its bigger 3/4- and 1-ton GM siblings with the 6.6L Duramax engine.
Even at stock performance levels the factory tie rods in GM IFS 4WD vehicles can bend or break causing problems or even an accident. At high power levels and in competition or off road use it is very likely that stock tie rods will bend or break at an inopportune time. If you want to virtually eliminate the possibility of tie rod flex and bending without breaking the bank we highly recommend you install a set of tie rod sleeves on your truck as soon as possible especially if you plan to compete with your truck or have upgraded its performance. The Merchant Automotive Stainless-Steel Tie Rod Sleeves are available for all Duramax diesel powered trucks (including the Colorado and Canyon) as well as many other GM IFS fitments. They are easy to install and will provide lasting protection for your truck so pick up a set today and install them tomorrow!
While this article focuses directly on the Stainless-Steel Tie Rod Sleeves that is not the only solution we offer. Give one of our sales and service team members a call at (616) 722-9551 and they will be happy to discuss our Kryptonite and Cognito steering upgrade options to find the perfect solution to your needs based on your performance upgrade level and intended use.