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Discussion Starter #1
Turns out my new X has a club foot by way of a bad passenger side tie rod and idler arm. SO Watched the youtube video, I can replace those, just curious if there is a better or worse brand. Figuring Ill just buy the MOOG ones from RockAuto. And since the front end ate my tires up, guess Im now forced to buy some All Terrains. Oh darn.

Anyone done this repair? Looks straight forward.

Guess ill wait on installing these shiny new Bilstiens until the other stuff comes in.




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Turns out my new X has a club foot by way of a bad passenger side tie rod and idler arm. SO Watched the youtube video, I can replace those, just curious if there is a better or worse brand. Figuring Ill just buy the MOOG ones from RockAuto. And since the front end ate my tires up, guess Im now forced to buy some All Terrains. Oh darn.

Anyone done this repair? Looks straight forward.

Guess ill wait on installing these shiny new Bilstiens until the other stuff comes in.




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The ends, or the adjusters, are messed up?

The adjusters are normally the weaker part. There are heavier duty versions at 4x4parts.com for example.

If getting new Bils, get the ones for the 3" SL kit as they also work on a stock rig.

Did you do a PML, etc, yet?
 

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For the tie rod adjusters (long rod with threads on each end...screws into each tie rod end (ball joint)) controls the steering...get the heavy duty tie rod adjusters from 4x4parts.com

Even if you don't off road...just look at how slender the stock ones are. It doesn't take much to snap them or bend them.

For the idler arm...I have always used the stock one, but paired it with an idler arm brace (TotalChaos Fabrication or 4x4parts.com). You likely don't need a new idler arm, but probably just a brace to bolt on to it....or new bronze bushings from bandit4x4.com. The bushings in the stock idler arm are plastic, and have a lot of play in them.

Do you go off roading with your Xterra at all? Even if it is your daily driver and you just take it on a trail every once in a while...you will want to reinforce the steering componenets. By far, the steering is, the weak link.

Note that any time you replace a tie rod/idler arm/center link/tie rod ends, etc...you will need an alignment. It gets pricey to do the alignment multiple times. Decide what you want to replace up front, and do everything at once.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hmm. I do lots of trails to the lake, driving through our acreage, and off road on our lease, etc. No real rock climbing or anything sinister like you guys. I looked at the 4x4parts.com tie rod/idler arm, but didn't notice the brace. I think I'll order the stock idler arm, and add the brace in. And I took the Xterra in for an alignment and found this damage, so once its all done, I'll go back and get it aligned up. Not new to working on cars, just Xterras, and I sure appreciate the help and tips!
 

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Not to hijack but I am interested in this as well as. I think I need a complete steering overhaul. So we are looking at tire rod adjusters a centre link and idler arm brace and anything else? It is rough up north to get any parts that are specially made so are the oem's sufficient? Like the OP I am wondering about OEM brands and quality. What is usually the best choice?
 

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Gen 1 steering components...you can go with individual bolt ons, or a complete kit. The steering system components consist of:

1) Pitman arm: this is on the driver side and comes out of the steering gear bolted to the frame. the stock version is generally plenty strong, unless you want to go with a complete kit or custom build gusseting on the pitman arm. No real need to do much here unless you want to go all out.

2) Idler arm: This is on the passenger side and bolts to the frame rail. The stock version is fairly weak, but can be improved with a bolt on idler arm brace and bronze bushings. This can also be replaced if you buy a kit, or like the pitman arm, custom gusset it.

3) Center link: This is the dumbest part of the stock design. This link connects to the pitman arm and idler arm...and bolts to the INNER tie rod end on each side. The stock link has a ball joint on the pitman arm side and a stud on the idler arm side. If you do anything with larger tires or a suspension lift, you need to reinforce this. The steering kits all replace this with a new design. The only bolt on piece is grassroots4x4.com. It removes the ball joints and allows for a grade 8 bolt to attach to the idler and pitman arm. It removes a lot of play, allows for a more precise alignment, and is a heck of a lot stronger. Note: I did a suspension lift, even with the upper control arms etc...and only ran 32s which is one side larger than stock. It was nearly impossible to get a good alignment and the reason was the center link flexes like crazy, so the parts that are supposed to hold the tires in alignment...are pushing against the stupid flexy center link. I kept getting bad tire wear until I finally took the plunge and bought the center link.

4) Tie rod adjusters: These are the slender rods with threads (opposite on each side like a turnbuckle) and the tie rod ends threads on to them. You maintain your toe in/alignment by changing the length of them. Get the heavy duty ones from 4x4parts.com. It won't change the steering "feel"...but when you see how ridiculously thin the stock ones are...you will understand. I didn't understand until I broke one on a light trail and lost all steering. Steering kits will upgrade these or replace them with even more heavy duty tie rods.

5) Tie rod ends: 4 total on the truck...drivers side inner and outer, passenger side inner and outer. Both inners are the same part, both outers are the same part. No real heavy duty version of these...they are just ball joints and need freshening up. I liked my Moogs from rockauto.com. Note that if you do go with the Grassroots4x4 center link above, you need a stock sized inner tie rod or else you will get some interference with the frame. Duralast inner tie rod ends from auto zone work. Kits usually don't upgrade these, unless you go with something that converts the ball joint to a heim joint.

Your options are:

1) Franken-kit: piece together individual upgrades as you have the money and bolt on to improve single parts at a time. Be sure to fork over the money for multiple alignments or the Firestone life time alignment if you can.

2) Calmini steering kit: Replaces it all but the tie rod ends. Pricey at around 500 or so dollars

3) Total Chaos Fabrication King Kong steering kit: Priciest kit at nearly $1000 but is pretty damn bomb proof. Replaces everything, and converts the tie rod end ball joints to heim joints for less play.


I ended up doing a franken kit. I think i saved ~100 bucks over time compared to the Calmini steering kit. Nice savings, but not insanely significant.
 

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Gen 1 steering components...you can go with individual bolt ons, or a complete kit. The steering system components consist of:

1) Pitman arm: this is on the driver side and comes out of the steering gear bolted to the frame. the stock version is generally plenty strong, unless you want to go with a complete kit or custom build gusseting on the pitman arm. No real need to do much here unless you want to go all out.

2) Idler arm: This is on the passenger side and bolts to the frame rail. The stock version is fairly weak, but can be improved with a bolt on idler arm brace and bronze bushings. This can also be replaced if you buy a kit, or like the pitman arm, custom gusset it.

3) Center link: This is the dumbest part of the stock design. This link connects to the pitman arm and idler arm...and bolts to the INNER tie rod end on each side. The stock link has a ball joint on the pitman arm side and a stud on the idler arm side. If you do anything with larger tires or a suspension lift, you need to reinforce this. The steering kits all replace this with a new design. The only bolt on piece is grassroots4x4.com. It removes the ball joints and allows for a grade 8 bolt to attach to the idler and pitman arm. It removes a lot of play, allows for a more precise alignment, and is a heck of a lot stronger. Note: I did a suspension lift, even with the upper control arms etc...and only ran 32s which is one side larger than stock. It was nearly impossible to get a good alignment and the reason was the center link flexes like crazy, so the parts that are supposed to hold the tires in alignment...are pushing against the stupid flexy center link. I kept getting bad tire wear until I finally took the plunge and bought the center link.

4) Tie rod adjusters: These are the slender rods with threads (opposite on each side like a turnbuckle) and the tie rod ends threads on to them. You maintain your toe in/alignment by changing the length of them. Get the heavy duty ones from 4x4parts.com. It won't change the steering "feel"...but when you see how ridiculously thin the stock ones are...you will understand. I didn't understand until I broke one on a light trail and lost all steering. Steering kits will upgrade these or replace them with even more heavy duty tie rods.

5) Tie rod ends: 4 total on the truck...drivers side inner and outer, passenger side inner and outer. Both inners are the same part, both outers are the same part. No real heavy duty version of these...they are just ball joints and need freshening up. I liked my Moogs from rockauto.com. Note that if you do go with the Grassroots4x4 center link above, you need a stock sized inner tie rod or else you will get some interference with the frame. Duralast inner tie rod ends from auto zone work. Kits usually don't upgrade these, unless you go with something that converts the ball joint to a heim joint.

Your options are:

1) Franken-kit: piece together individual upgrades as you have the money and bolt on to improve single parts at a time. Be sure to fork over the money for multiple alignments or the Firestone life time alignment if you can.

2) Calmini steering kit: Replaces it all but the tie rod ends. Pricey at around 500 or so dollars

3) Total Chaos Fabrication King Kong steering kit: Priciest kit at nearly $1000 but is pretty damn bomb proof. Replaces everything, and converts the tie rod end ball joints to heim joints for less play.


I ended up doing a franken kit. I think i saved ~100 bucks over time compared to the Calmini steering kit. Nice savings, but not insanely significant.
Thanks for the list. Is it not advised then to replace steering components with oem parts? The price difference is astronomical. I could get the center link and tire rod ends for like 175 cad. Cheapest steering upgrade kit is 599 usd plus shipping. If I was to go OEM would Moog seems to be a well recommended brand?
 

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It all depends on your goals and what you do with your truck. If you are purely 100% street driven with no suspension lift at all...then you could rebuild with all OEM designed parts. If you plan do do any lift, run any larger tires (even just bumping up to 32s...one size larger than stock and fits on a stock Xterra with no lift)...I would recommend looking at upgrading some more.

Even for a street driven truck with no lift and stock tires...I would still recommend Moog tie rod ends, heavy duty tie rod adjusters (again...stock ones are so ridiculously thin, and from my experience of bending and breaking a few, it is a huge feeling of relief knowing you have the extra strength), and an idler arm brace with upgraded bronze bushings. That will improve the steering feel significantly.

If you want to do any type of suspension lift, larger tires, or trail driving...then you would want to heavily consider a stronger center link on top of that and possibly gusseting the idler/pitman arms for additional strength.

The issue with the stock style center link is that it flexes a lot since it is attached with studs and ball joints. The tie rods/ends can't hold the tire in alignment since the center link will flex upwards, which draws the tie rods and tires inwards...but this is mostly an issue when you go with a lift as the tie rods are at a sharper angle, which causes the center link to flex easier.

Note that the idler arm rarely actually "goes bad" or needs to be replaced unless you have a catastrophic failure off road. The bushings get worn, and the bandit4x4 bushings are bronze and will out last the life of the vehicle. These made a huge improvement in tightening up the steering feel. When you look at the geometry of the stock idler arm...and see how the brace works...it just makes sense how it gives you added protection by preventing a large cantilever load on the idler arm.
 
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