The Truth About 6th Gen Bronco Tie Rods and 4 Solutions to Fix the Problem

Tahuya Flex

The Tie Rods are a weak spot on the Bronco that needs to be addressed if you plan on serious off-roading or going up in tire size. But the easiest “fix”, may not be the best.

We’ve all heard horror stories about how weak the tie rods are on the 6th-generation Bronco. Many have criticized Ford for allowing such a brittle component on what is supposed to be an off-road machine. Even a Jeep killer. However the more I have delved into this, I have learned that the tie rods being the weak link was actually intentional.

Before I explain why, let’s get into what the issue is and what failure people are seeing. Then we will get into a variety of fixes for the tie rods.

The Issue


The issue lies in the threaded portion of the tie rod where it meets the tie rod end. This is a weak spot in any steering rack, but the Bronco is particularly vulnerable because of the capabilities and the off-road scenarios you can get it in.

The threaded part of the tie rod is the thinnest portion of the metal in the tie rod. The force that between the steering rack and the wheel can sometimes become too much. As with anything under pressure, the weakest part is going to give first and in the case of the Bronco, that is the threaded part of the tie rod.

Who is affected?

If you use your Bronco to do grocery and school runs or just the day-to-day commute, then you are going to be just fine. However, if you plan to do any off-roading, you might need to address this weakness. Particularly if you are hitting obstacles like rocks or fallen trees or maybe moguls because all of those will greatly increase the force that is placed on the weak spot.

Also, if you plan on lifting your Bronco or putting bigger tires on it this is a must for you. A lift will change the angle of the tie rod which in and of itself increases the forces on the tie rod. When you go up in tire size, that is additional weight that they now have to deal with that they were not designed to handle.

Why did Ford engineer it this way?

Off The Grind Bronco on a lake

In every system, there must be a weak point or a failure point. Not everything can stand up to everything you throw at it, so engineers put great thought into what should fail first. A lot goes into this decision. They must consider things like; what is going to be the easiest to fix, the cheapest to fix, and most important, what is the safest component to break.

In the case of the Bronco, and all vehicles for that matter, the tie rods are the best solution. They are easy and cheap to replace, and they are also the safest. If your tie rod brakes, your front wheels will be at two different angles, forcing the vehicle to come to a stop.

The next in line to break would be the rack itself. So let’s say you brace or upgrade the tie rods and you get yourself into a situation where there is a lot of force on the steering components. The thing that will fail you is the steering rack. Specifically, the end cap. When that breaks, you lose all steering because it falls out of mesh. But the problem here is that your wheels are still connected meaning you won’t be forced to stop. Instead, the wheels take the path of least resistance and all you can do at that point is brake.

This does not mean that tie rod braces don’t have a place for the Bronco, but there are things you must consider. I will cover all the options you have when it comes to upgrading your steering components and with each, I will outline the driver that that may be best suited for. Please note that what follows is my opinion and you should conduct your own research prior to landing on a solution.

1. Tie Rod Braces

BroncBuster

This is certainly the cheaper alternative but would fall under the band-aid fix. However, there are certainly benefits to this as well. A brace is a great way to distribute the load to stronger portions of the factory tie rod, making a break far less likely to occur. Should it still break, there are braces on the market that will keep your wheels connected so you have a better chance of getting off the trail.

For some of these braces, you will have to take the tie rod end off and put it back on. These are the cheapest option as they are a sleeve that goes or the tie rod. It is best to get your vehicle aligned after messing with suspension components, but there are ways around it with something like this.

The best option in my opinion though is the Busterbrace from BroncBuster. This is a two-piece billet aluminum block that wraps around your tie rod and is held there by 8 screws. This does not require a shop to do it, nor will you have to get an alignment after the installation.

If you are keeping the stock-size tires and not lifting, this might be a good solution for you. But if you plan on getting off-road and really testing the Bronco out, this is not going to be the best solution for you.

2. Tie Road Replacements

Icon Tie-Rods: 

This is a great option IF you have the resources to do it. A total tie rod replacement fixes the problem entirely rather than putting a band-aid on it. The problem with this is this is an incredibly expensive route to take.

The cost of the full replacement starts at $400 and goes up to over a thousand just for the product. If you are replacing the entire tie rod end, then this is something that a shop is going to have to do as these components affect the alignment of your vehicle and will have to be adjusted after. So on top of the cost of the part, you are looking at about another $300 or more for the installation.

Here lies the same problem though. By strengthening your tie rod and doing nothing about the steering rack, that now becomes the vulnerable spot in the steering system.

3. Steering Rack End Cap Replacement

If you go with replacing the tie rods, you should also consider replacing the end cap of the steering rack. The factory rack is made from very thin cast aluminum that has had a history of cracking or even exploding under pressure. Typically, the tie rods would fail before this happens, but if the tie rods are upgraded, the end cap is the next thing to go.

There can be a lot of force on the end cap from all directions when you are wheeling your Bronco. With enough force, that may cause the endcap to blow out. Typically this is seen when the wheels are stuck in a direction that the driver does not want them and they try to force it into another direction. If the tires are pinned by a rock or stump, they are not moving. There goes the end cap.

A billet end cap replacement from 74 Weld is considerably stronger than the factory one and will mitigate this issue entirely. If you plan on heavy wheeling, lifting your Bronco, or increasing the tire size, this is the way to go.

4. Steering Rack Replacement

The last issue you may see, and from what I understand this is the least common failure, is for the pressure-bearing housing to crack. If this happens, you will lose all steering as that is what holds the steering column in contact with the splines on the steering rack. No contact, no steering.

Again, 74 Weld has you covered here. They have a full billet option that will replace the entire housing of the factory rack but will reuse the internal components. From their research, they found that the internal components are plenty strong to handle the abuse. The weakness lies in the housing itself.

From what I can gather, this seems to happen in racing applications, although I am sure there are people out there who will send it hard enough to experience this level of failure.

Final Thoughts

Bronco Tahuya (A51)

This article is not intended to scare you into buying more things for your Bronco. It is simply to provide you will all the information about this so-called issue of the Broncos. Now that you have the full story, I hope that this helps you make the right decision for your use of the Bronco.

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Jason
Jason
7 months ago

The sleeves and braces for tie rods just seem like a band aid for something that really just needs to be replaced completely. If you’re spending the money on a tie rod brace, why not just buy stronger tie rods entirely. Sure the installation is a bit longer, but in the long run, it’s such a better solution to the problem.

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