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Tie Rod / Drag Link End story

My coach has a bunch of miles.  (All of them were gentle miles that I acquired driving on pre-inspected super smooth asphalt interstate highways).  

One of the things that needs attention more based on age than mileage is the condition of the tie rod and drag link ends.  These joints are protected by a rubber cap that will age out leaving sand, grit, moisture and other goblins a way to get in and ruin the joints.

If you do not know what a drag-link is (I didn’t) ...look at Drag Link - Wikipedia

A few years ago, I noticed that my boots were aging and needed replacing.

This thread talked about sourcing the tie rod ends.

I ordered a set of tie rod ends and drag link ends from Super Steer.  They hung out in the coach until this week when I happened to be at the factory getting a slide seal replaced.   The Newell shop was happy to put on my ends.

Although the rubber was not completely perished....the old tie rod ends were def. "crunchy" when I operated them.   This would be a good thing to inspect when you have your coach safely blocked and jacked up.

Here is where the story gets interesting.

The tie rod ends that I got from Super Steer fit perfectly and are great quality.   BUT....(and its a big ole but)...the drag link ends that I got from SS have the same fine thread that is on the tie rods, but my coach has a much coarser thread on the drag link ends than the tie rods.   Hmmmm.

I talked to Morgan in the Newell parts department.  He said that the tie rod ends are readily available....AND that he had some drag link ends with the coarse thread.  Yes!  So the drag link went back on the coach with new ends.  Success!

This is the original drag link end.

Here is the new SS drag link end.

Note that the new blue end has a much finer thread than the old one.

Lessons learned:
1)  Newell has tie rod ends in stock for the IFS84 front end  (actually cheaper than the SS parts).
2)  There are different thread pitches on at least one coach between the Tie Rods and the Drag Links.  It would be best to verify before you order.

The Newell Service Department did a great job!  They can do the tie rod ends and align the coach in one go.  


ps.  Maddux approved this post.  

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Bill Johnson
2003 Newell #653 Quad Slide Cat C-12 engine with Motorcycle lift 
2011 Jeep Wrangler, 2018 BMW 1200GS Adventure Motorcycle
Auburn, Alabama
Great information Bill, as always! When I get my coach back this is something that I will definitely be checking into.
Jon & Chris Everton
1986 40' Dog House #86
0 hp 8V92 Allison HT740
Soon to be 500 hp ISM 6spd ZF

When last we heard from our hero, Newell had installed tie rod and drag link ends.   You can read the rest of the story, but the bottom line is that the coach now drives great.  Not just ok...but really, really good.   So good that I was able to drive 13 hours back to Auburn.  Before, I would have been toast after 5-6 hours of sawing the steering wheel.

Newell had aligned the coach, but I had not driven the coach.   The machine said .03 degrees toe in on each wheel giving a total toe in of .06 degrees.

When I took for a test drive, the coach drove BAD!  I mean the evil kinda bad.   It would drive straight for a while and then make a strong pull for the ditch.  Other times it would want to drive in the other know where the oncoming traffic is.

Newell put the coach back on the machine and found that the  toe in was now a negative 0.1 degree.  This means the wheels are now “towed out” duck feet.

The Newell guys think that it was a combination of an airbag leaking on the rear drive (another story) causing the ride height to be off....and the fact that the ball joints were brand new and had not broken in.

Once the toe-in was set again (.03 + .03) I test drove again.   Second time was the charm.


The coach now drives like a big ole Cadillac.   I can go down the highway with one hand on the wheel.  I can easily pass trucks and not worry about wobbling too close to them.  My normal speed in the coach is around 65.  But on the way back, I looked down and I was doing 75mph.  No sawing, no stress, just enjoying the view out the front window.   

I would recommend having the ball joints done at Newell...but if you find yourself somewhere else, be sure to pay attention to make sure your coach height control valves are set perfectly.   Mine were set at 11.5” measured at the frame in the wheel well.   The geometry of the front end means that the toe will vary with the height of the coach.

Complicating the height issue is the fact that the HCVs have a hysteresis.   In other words, they will settle into a different height depending on if the coach was too high or too low.   The best procedure (and the one that Newell followed) was to drop the coach all the way down...then use shop air to allow it to come up to travel height.

Lessons Learned:

1.  When you get an alignment, be sure to road test.  If you feel something weird (Like the coach wanting to dive into the ditch)...take it back and figure out what changed.
2.  Pay attention to your ride height especially in the front.  It really has a huge affect on the front steering geometry.
3.  I said it before and I will say it again.   If your coach is more than 10-15 years old and you have not looked at the ball joints, do yourself a favor and put that on the list.  Smile 


Ps.   To save you the time from looking up all the old posts to see what I have done to make coach drive better.  I will list them in descending order of what I think made the biggest difference.  Your mileage may vary.

1.  Remove the rag-joint in the steering column. (You may or may not have a rag joint)
2.  Replace tie rod and drag link ball joints (6 total) and align.
3.  Add Rear sway bar / repair broken front sway bar.
4.  New shocks all the way around.  (Not road-king...just plain ole truck shocks)
5.  Fresh tires - more for ride than steering

Along the way, my steering box slack adjustment was set...but I am not sure how much that helped.
Bill Johnson
2003 Newell #653 Quad Slide Cat C-12 engine with Motorcycle lift 
2011 Jeep Wrangler, 2018 BMW 1200GS Adventure Motorcycle
Auburn, Alabama
Steering is always something I keep a check on during winter repair time.  There has been a small amount of see-sawing for a couple of years now.  I hired a mechanic to help me inspect and he found the tie rod ends, which Bill spoke of earlier in this post, were rusty.  I didn't like that so ordered new one from Newell since they had the better pricing.

A little explaining about the description of parts on the IFS84 suspension might help here.  the spindles attach to a forging that is fixed on each side but has a bearing allowing it to rotate.  The link between could be called the drag link although we always called the drag link the piece from the pitman arm to the spindle on a car.  There is a ball jointed rod on a Newell as in a car or truck but it is not the rod I am referring to.  This piece is from  DS forging to PS forging and is sympathetic with steering movement.  It was not tight as it had sloppy movement.   Now comes the drama!

The shaft is 1.625 OD (thread to thread) which is larger than Bill's , i believe.
       The ends are right hand and left hand threaded.  $800 each!  Newell cannot get them currently (might have one left hand).  Dana-Spicer list them as obsolete.  They are made with a large spring pushing a cup against the ball with a mating cup 180 degrees.               

Newell had one left hand in stock but cannot source the right hand end.  Since there was no other option, I added turns to the internal nut making the resistance nearly the same as the new one.  The pictures are the old left hand end I dismantled to understand what I was dealing with.  I was really surprised to see all the scoring and gouges in the hardened ball! 

Now alignment is next and I should be good to go.  Thank you Bill for posting the tow-in figures.
Gordon Jones

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