After some recent off-road trips and backcountry camping, we noticed we were getting a shake in the the steering wheel when back on the highway. This was happening when pumping the brakes to keep them cool. If we braked at high speed but maintained even pressure on the brakes peddle we didn’t get any shakes. Based on these symptoms we felt confident that our brakes weren’t warped and causing the shaking. We had also just replaced all of the brake parts including stainless steel brake lines as well as re-building each caliber. So if it isn’t the brakes what is it?
Making Sure We Keep Our Disco Running Smooth
How We Diagnosed The Issue
Step 1: Check under the truck
Get under the truck and stare hopelessly at the steering system. There were no obvious bends or breaks in our track rod, steering damper or drag link. This made us think it was the track rod ends, also known as ball joints, were worn.
Step 2: Check the truck in motion
We had to investigate the ball joints further by watching the parts in action, which is fairly easy. Someone needs to be under the truck and another in a drivers seat. With the vehicle running so the power steering pump is working, begin turning the wheel back and forth in short consistent jerking motions. When doing this you are able to determine if there is any lag between power steering movement and movement in the tires. We did see movement in the ball joints of the track rod which indicated that they were worn and needed to be replaced.
As the Land Rover Discovery and off-road community continue to develop there are more and more replacement parts available for your steering system. This includes multiple OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) specified replacement parts, as well as heavy duty upgraded parts. We made the decision to go with the OEM part after discussions with our friendly and knowledgeable local Land Rover shop, TRS Automotive. Heavy duty steering components were designed around extra thick bars the logic ensued that they would be able to handle greater impacts from rocks when off-roading. However these bars were still connected to the same ball joint assemblies as the OEM based parts. Our logic was that if the ball joint assemblies were still manufactured to the same tolerances but the bars were stronger an impact could result in a destroyed ball joint vs a bent bar on a OEM part. Since a bent bar can still get you out of the backcountry and a destroyed ball joint would leave you stranded we decided that the OEM track rod was the safer decision. We also considered that our first track rod had made it over 300,000 kms before needing replacement, we didn’t feel the need to upgrade from the OEM part.
How To Fix A Track Rod Yourself
Step 1: Getting the old part off
How do you get the old part off? At first glance, it looked easy, there were only two bolts to remove. After removing the bolts with a power drill we couldn’t get the bar free. The solution was multiple hammers! We were told details on how to get it off and it is SPOT on!
The secret to getting it off: Hit the side of the metal ring holding the track rod at each end in order to shock the conical bolt free from its seated position. The trick as not to be afraid to give it a good smack with a nice heavy hammer, at which point you will see the track rod pop up.
Removing the Bolt is Easy, Then Give it a Good Smack
Step 2: Get new part ready for installation
Once off you can adjust your new track rod using the bolts along its shaft to adjust its length so it equals the same length of your previous track rod. This will maintain a close enough wheel alignment for the tire toe in and toe out settings until you can take your vehicle to a wheel alignment center to be calibrated more accurately. We did the re-alignment ourselves.
Line Up New and Old Track Rod and Lengthen to Correct Size
Step 3: Install the new track rod
We didn’t need to use any crazy force or tricks to get the new track rod on. Hope the same goes for you.
Upon taking our Disco out for its test drive with its new track rod it was immediately apparent that the shake had been eliminated! Happy day and smooth drivin’ to come.
This whole process was a quick self fix and took us about two hours start to end. It should not take you this long, we had lots of little hands ‘helping’ which added significant time but for us this extra time is worth it.