Saturday, March 3, 2012

Beaterblog Product Review - HF Tie Rod End Separator and 8lb Sledge Hammer

When the time came to start rebuilding everything on my old rally car, I decided to start with the easy bits first and tear down the suspension and brakes. After some Saturday morning coffee-and-planning time I decided to go down to Harbor Freight and see if there were any large hammers for the inevitable persuasion that goes along with suspension work. As I was in the sledge hammer aisle, this tie rod separator caught my eye. Follow the jump to see why you should just grab the sledge hammer in the first place.

Tie rods are notoriously difficult to pop out, and this one has lived an especially hard life bouncing off rocks and curbing. This tool cost $14.99 and is supposed to be able to separate the joint by forcing the tapered bolt back through the upright. Things started out well enough; the tool seemed to be applying pressure to the joint. Wanting to check progress before things got too far along, I stopped tightening the bolt well before the yield point and tried backing it out a bit. Unfortunately though, the tool had already become hopelessly cross threaded. So, after twenty seconds of use and about 40 ft-lbs of torque on a 1/2" ratchet, it was already hosed. Buying tools from HF is always a little like playing russian roulette, and I was about due for a negative result.

Fortunately, HF has a great return policy. I headed back to my local Ypsi HF, grabbed an 8lb sledge hammer and exchanged the tool without any issues. The sledge hammer is well put together with no slop between the hickory handle and the well-cast iron head. It also feels nice resting against your shoulder while walking across Ypsi parking lots.

Back at the garage, the tie rod end was loose within 10 hits from the sledge. If you've never used a sledge hammer to pop loose tie rods, it's a simple procedure:

1. Undo the nut that secures the tie rod end.
2. Turn the steering wheel of the car so that you can hit the end of the steering arm along its axis. You want to be able to put a lot of force into compressing the hole around the tie rod end bolt without bending anything.
3. Hit it as hard as you can.
4. Celebrate!

So, next time you need to pop loose your tie rods, go ahead and pick up Harbor Freight's 8lb Sledge Hammer. It cost $19.99, but it was worth every penny.

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