Dennis T 1971 Chevrolet C10 1/2 Ton 2dr Stepside Pickup

Improvising a right broken tie rod

My daughter was driving my pickup on an errand when she went over some railroad tracks about 10 miles from home when the right tie rod dropped off. She pulled into a driveway and called me to report the problem. She thought I needed to call a wrecker.

As I was a vehicle mechanic that also aligned front ends of vehicles, I have been told that a vehicle with a broken tie rod can sometimes be driven as every vehicle has a certain amount of CASTER designed into the front end which allows them to steer by themselves. This of course was a rear wheel drive and I don't think this would work with a front wheel drive vehicle.

Armed with a cellphone to possibly call for a wrecker, I drove out to meet her. I tied up the broken tie rod up so it would not drag on the ground with a shoelace. I kicked the right tire straight and backed the truck out onto the 2 lane road leading back to my house. Sure enough, when I started driving down the road it seemed to steer straight down the road ok but when I reached 20mph it would become unstable with the right tire squeal sliding sideways down the road with the other tires straight. Thinking about Macgyver, I wondered what if I tried driving in the loose gravel on the shoulder with the right tire if it would self steer better.

Sure enough, the loose gravel allowed the right tire to steer straight down the road with no tie rod connected to it. I was able to drive it the 10 miles back to my house. Surprisingly I could actually steer the vehicle straight making slight steering adjustments as you normally would when driving to keep it going straight the road. When it was necessary to turn a corner, I had to get out and kick the right tire in the direction of the turn but it would turn the corner fine and actually straighten out after the turn to keep on going. At one time, I reached a speed of about 45-50mph but tried to stay about 35mph all the way home. It worked perfectly like other mechanics said it might. Except for having to drive on the gravel shoulder and slower speeds, it drove like there was no tie rod problem.

Dennis Tomlinson, Master ASE certified Light and Heavy vehicle mechanic.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Brian West Dryden, NY November 11, 2015 at 23:45
    The tie rod broke on my '53 Buick Roadmaster Convertible and I backed it five miles home. I didn't know anything about suspension geometry but figured it would work better trailing the car rather than pushing.

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