Like many, my steering had become sloppy and I wanted to replace the tie rod and drag link with something new and beefy and hopefully not use my steering stabilizer all together. I'll be honest. I was sold on Carolina Metal Master's kit until Fusion 4x4 started selling their kit. Intrigued by the 2.5 ton ends and the 1.75" aluminum shafts I pulled the trigger.
The tie rod and drag link showed up quickly and very well packaged. Along with the parts came instructions and a Fusion 4x4 sticker. Pictures do not do this kit justice. It is extremely beefy and very well made. The instructions are clear and complete despite my tired, stupid brain getting thread directions wrong and not referring to the cover page on what to do with the lock washers (more on that later).
Now the install. Obviously you will want to get the front end up on jack stands and remove your wheels. I would immediately blast both ends of the tie rod and drag link with whatever your flavor of WD40 is to hopefully help loosen them up. My battery op impact made removing 3 of the 4 nuts very easy. The final one on the top of the pitman arm needed to be removed with an open ended wrench. With the nuts removed now comes the tricky part; getting the tapered ends to drop out of the knuckles and pitman arm. There are many videos online showing how to do this with a pair of sledge hammers and Dan at Fusion 4x4 swears by a 3 pound sledge (nothing less including a dead blow works very well). All I have are normal hammers and a dead blow so I had to do this the hard way. Fortunately, the tapered ends that go into the knuckles popped out pretty easy.
However, the end at the pitman arm was extremely stubborn.
I hammered on it from all different directions for awhile with zero luck (this was before learning that my sledge was inadequate). Finally I went down to AutoZone and rented a ball joint puller and two pitman arm pullers (I wasn't making two trips and you get all your money back when you return them).
I quickly decided the ball joint puller was going to be the easiest to use and began cranking that thing away to free the drag link from the pitman arm. I cranked and cranked and finally stopped. It was clear I was putting a lot of pressure to separate the two and it wasn't budging. I got up and lift the drag link and POP! it came free. Sounded like someone set off a fire cracker. The release of energy was enough to give off a burning grease smell, kinda cool.
Ok with the Jeep free of its old tie rod and drag link now its time to assemble the new ones. I basically lined up the old and the new on the floor and tried to get the lengths as close as possible and figured I would do the rest of the adjustment once mounted.
Essentially, I just followed the instructions provided (and admittedly Facebook messaged Fusion 4x4 because I can't read). Remember when I said I was tired? I was coming off some long work hours dealing with the DOD and cyber security agreements, kids weren't sleeping well, and it was hot out. Fusion was extremely responsive on Facebook and helped me sort out the one thing I realized was in the instructions; the lock washers go on the ends between the nut at the aluminum shaft (duh). Be sure to use the rubber boots on the drag link and not the tie rod. Also, the drag link ends come with a metal slinky like clamp for the rubber boots so be sure to wrestle those suckers on. So I mounted everything up being sure to use anti-seize on the shaft threads and tightened everything down to the torque spec listed in the instructions.
Now for the alignment. I would leave your wheels on but the front end still on jack stands. Center your steering wheel and then set your toe in alignment. I basically used trial and error to center the steering wheel and then used chalk to mark a spot on each front tire, measure in the front, then rotate them to the rear and measure the same point. Doing so and simply twisting the aluminum tie rod shaft made setting the toe in pretty easy and quick. I'll admit it wasn't perfect but I got it pretty close using this method. Fusion 4x4's tie rod and drag link are SO easy to adjust especially with the front tires off the ground. Simply loosen the jam nuts and twist the aluminum shaft clockwise or counter clockwise and then tighten the jam nuts and use some blue loc-tite when you are done.
Final Impressions: This kit is complete, relatively easy to install, looks great, and should perform even better. The parts are extremely high quality and so is the service. My steering is very dialed in now and it feels a lot better. I am not even using my OME steering stabilizer anymore and I like it. I think I know who to call if I need axles ... :)