Dodge Ram Tie Rod Flop and Sloppy Steering
2nd gen Dodge pickups are not known for their precise steering, especially as they age. Driving my 1999 Ram 2500 on a 700 mile drive was a chore as the truck wandered and I sawed at the wheel down the highway. Knowing I had recently replaced the entire steering linkage with Moog parts I was surprised at how bad the truck still drove. With only a few thousand mile on theses parts they surely couldn't be worn out already, so I poked around under the truck to see what was causing my sloppy steering. First was to have someone turn the wheels back and forth while I watched the steering linkage. Right off the bat, I noticed the tie rods rolling as the wheels changed direction. That amount of movement felt wrong and I verified the linkage does not roll on my 1999 Ram 3500. Comparing the two trucks there was one glaring difference in the steering linkage. The 3500 had hard plastic pucks where the dust boots were on my 2500 tie rod joints that prevented unwanted movement of the joint. Seeing the variation of parts on two trucks with identical steering setups meant further investigation on the 2500.
I brought the truck into the garage and put the front axle on jack stands. With the wheels off and the steering wheel locked, I used a prybar to roll the tie rod linkage to see its effect. The amount of movement allowed by the joints translated to a surprising amount of movement at the knuckle. The video below shows how much the knuckle moves as the tie rods roll.
This amount of movement explains why the steering wheel had a dead spot when trying to keep the truck tracking straight down the road. Time to look at finding tie rods designed like the ones on my 3500 that did not exhibit tie rod flop.
After doing a bit of searching on RockAuto because they show pictures of the actual part and not generic stock photos, I found that not all aftermarket tie rods are built the same way. I ended up ordering Delphi tie rods to replace the Moog ones because they had the plastic puck like the OEM linkage on my 3500. Below is a picture showing the difference between the Delphi and the Moog "problem solver"(problem creator) joints.
After replacing the tie rods, steering was dramatically improved. The truck feels way more responsive to steering inputs and tracks straight down the road now. It is shocking that "high quality" replacement parts are not made to match the OEM parts and can create problems even when marketed as "problem solvers". In the future I will be cautious when ordering replacement parts and verify that they are the same design as the factory part.
Below are some closeups of the puck that is used as misalignment bushing rather than a standard dust boot.