1932- 1959 Chevy/GMC Specific
Ball to Tapered Stud - General
Safety is the single most important factor when undertaking any modification project. Any changes should be carefully studied to see how the modification will effect other components. The planed modification itself must be looked at closely to see if it and the components used are safe.
Originally, the early trucks from 1932 to 1959 used a tie rod end that cupped a ball trunions on the end of the steering arms. These tie rod ends consist of five separate parts contained in the housing. These parts are the seats, spring, safety plug and end plug. The seat caps surround the ball trunions and are held in place by spring tension exerted by screwing down on the end cap. As an assembly, the tie rod sits atop the ball trunions on the end of the steering arm. A foam rubber washer between the housing and the trunions base it used to seal water and dirt out. A grease zerk in the house provides a means for lubrication.
A REAL PROBLEM
The real problem with the original tie rod assembly is its strength and durability. The foam seal did not last long, which allowed water and dirt to enter the housing causing rust. In areas of the country where salts and chemicals are used to control ice and snow, it only worsens the effect. Soon the spring would freeze or brake, increasing the possibility of separation from the steering arm. Old grease, which harden in the housing end, also fouled the spring causing the same problem. Under hard braking and turning situations, the tie rod and steering arms would separate causing catastrophic results.
Up until the mid 60s most trucks required chassis lubrication every 1000 miles or 4 months, which ever came first. This type of lubrication requirement was sooner than a regular oil change, so it wasnt done on time in most cases. There are 24 lub points on a stock 48-55 1st truck. If you are not doing your own chassis lubrication, then I can almost bet you that not all your lub points are getting their fair share of lubrication. The point is, the lack of lubrication leads to the early failure of any tie rod and this tie rod isnt very tough to begin with.
The original design tie rod, when in new condition, is pretty solid. There is a little spring give in the connection to the steering arm, but acceptable. Add some time, radial tires, a rough road and you get squirrely pulls and lane floating. If you add disc brakes to the picture, you get a disaster waiting to happen. This is why you would want to replace the old style OEM tie rod end with the new OEM replacement ends. Sealed Power used to be the largest manufacture of these replacement ends, they have since discontinued production and are now manufactured by Golden State Pickup Parts.
Anybody can do this job if they have a hammer, screwdriver, adjustable wrench and a flat file. There is no machine work in this project. If your real good (lucky) you may not need to rest the toe-in. This project takes about 4 hours and is one of the best upgrades you can do on the early trucks. Please remember, SAFETY is the name of the game when modifying any OEM design configuration.
First things first, I plan to leave out all the details of this project that are of the common sense variety, like use wheel blocks, stand jacks, your head, ect
Ok, first, set the tires straight forward on the ground. Then measure from the center of the ball trunnion on each of the steering arms. This measurement will be needed to set the proper length of the drag link. Following this method will usually prevent the need to reset toe-in. Sometimes you have to remove the wheels and hub in order to loosen the steering arm bolts. If this is the case, jack up the front end and scribe a center line on the center tread of each front tire. Measure the distance between the tire centers for a second reference.
Next, remove both steering arms and drag link as a unit. The driver side steering arm will need to be separated from the steering link before removal. Remove the cotter pins and unscrew the end caps on the old tie rod ends. Separate the tie rod ends from the steering arm ball and remove the drag link Grind or file the swaging off the bottom side of the ball trunnion. You have file off enough of the swage when you can see a small circle appear on the casting boss. Drive the trunnion out with a punch or old screwdriver. After the ball has been removed, dress the other side of boss with a file. Clean, paint and reinstall the steering arms.
Next, remove the old tie rod ends from the drag link. Clean & paint the drag link shaft. Wire brush the threaded ends to remove any paint. Center the tapered stud on the new tie rod and thread them on the drag link. The stud on the new tie rod ends will be the new center to center distance. The goal is to replicate the same length of the old assembly. Once the original center to center measure has been achieved, test the assembly in the new holes. You should be real close. If the tires are still on ground do not force the studs off center in an attempt to mount the drag link. Simply adjust the tie rod ends in or out evenly until the assembly slips in easily. If the wheels are off the ground, adjust the drag link in or out to achieve the same center to center distance between tread centers. Install and tighten the castle nuts on the new tie rod ends, dont forget the cotter pins. Tighten the tie rod ends collar clamp to secure them firmly on the drag link shaft. Install the lubrication zerk and lub the tie rods. Test drive.
After you have test driven the vehicle you will have to decide whether it needs the toe-in reset. If you feel that the toe-in needs to be reset, rotate the rear tires to the front and test drive the vehicle again. If you still feel the toe is out, I would refer you to the factory manual for setting the toe-in yourself. If you feel you are not able accomplish this task yourself, then you should try an alignment shop that understands older vehicles. There is not a lot to setting the toe on these trucks.