Installing "Turbo" Tie Rods On An Old Porsche 912E
Every 911, 912, or 914 from 1969 to 1989 needs this tie rod upgrade. Every single one.
When I bought this car last August, it wasn't running and it needed a bit of a refurbishing as it'd been sitting for years. It had decade-old tires, the alignment was horrifying, and the brakes were barely effective. As part of the plan to getting it back on the road, I completely overhauled the brake system. I purchased a set of Yokohama S.Drive tires (picked up locally from the Tire Rack warehouse) and had them installed on a set of wider 6" front and 7" rear Fuchs wheels. With a primary focus on driving safety, our next project is to replace the car's original 160,000-mile 1976-built tie rods.
On basically all Porsche 911, 912, and 914 models from 1969 through 1989, the tie rods look like this one shown above. There is a traditional tie-rod end with a ball-type joint on the suspension upright end. On the steering rack end of the tie rod, however, is a strange looking joint that actually houses a rubber bushing. In order to help quell steering wheel vibration on their sports cars, Porsche installed this rubber bushing. Ostensibly for NVH reasons way back in the late 1960s, this rubber bushing is probably not too bad when it is brand new, but over time it wears down and you lose a lot of steering feel and directness with this nasty old rubber. Again, every aircooled Porsche used this style of tie rod for two decades. Every aircooled Porsche except one.
In 1976 Porsche introduced the 911 Carrera Turbo with a 3-liter engine and a turbocharger providing additional shove. It was a phenomenal car, a world beating car, an insanely fast car in its day. Because the Turbo was a bit of a handful to drive, Porsche wanted to make sure there was not any steering bind or even momentary delay in the response of the front wheels to the driver's steering inputs. As a result, they removed the standard tie rod and replaced it with a metal-on-metal ball-and-socket style of joint at the steering rack. Since that time, Porsche enthusiasts have figured out that the two styles of tie rod are interchangeable and have installed several thousand sets of Turbo Tie Rods on non-turbo Porsches. Which is exactly what I've done here.
The process is actually quite easy to do in your own home garage. I've done the work here with just a set of jackstands, proving you don't need a lift for every job (though they are quite nice, because concrete is cold in the early Spring).
Step 1: Removing The Old Tie Rods
There is a splash pan covering the area where the steering rack goes, which is held on with four nuts. Once that is out of the way, you can try to get to work. I found it was easier to remove the front sway bar as well to gain access to the rack.
Once you have the castle nut out of the suspension upright, you can knock the tie rod end down and out with a mallet. You can remove the old steering rack boots, which are held on with a pair of metal spring clamps. Then you can spin the old tie rod out of the steering rack. The easiest thing to do here is to push the rod down at an angle and use the rod itself as leverage against the connection to the steering rack. Otherwise a set of channel locks work alright around the rod itself. Removing the old ones is probably the easiest part.
Step 2: New Tie Rods
Get the new tie rod adjusted to about the same length as the ones you removed from the car, then tighten everything down. The rod can then be run up into the steering rack. I really hate this phrase, but it seems to fit; "Installation is reverse of removal".
Pro-tip: Tie Rod boots are hidden up under the body anyway, and the metal spring clamps are a huge pain in the ass. Use a zip tie instead. Anytime you need to change the tie rods (probably the life of the car in my case), you can cut the zip tie and replace it. This also works very well for CV axle boots, but that's a completely different project.
Once the rods are installed, you can run your car over to a shop that will do an alignment. Try to find a shop that knows Porsches well enough to be able to align them properly. A rip-and-flip tire shop isn't going to cut it.
"Turbo Tie Rods" are available in a kit with everything you need for the installation. There are a handful of kits available, some with Genuine Porsche parts, a kit from Lemfoerder, and a kit from URO. I recommend the Lemfoerder kit, even though it's a bit more than the URO kit, becuase it's a proven quality brand and I don't want to skimp on my steering components. The best deal I could find on this kit was from PelicanParts.com at $167.50 plus free shipping and I was able to pay with PayPal. And if you need a more comprehensive set of installation instructions, you can check out their how-to page here.
Now that the car's steering, brakes, and tires have been properly sorted, it drives like an absolute dream. It's still ridiculously slow, but it sure is fun to hustle it through the corners. A proper momentum car, you really have to carry speed through the corners with this thing, and properly connected steering is a necessary component. Now that I can feel what the car is doing on road through the wheel, I have more confidence in the car in spirited driving.
Of course, a Porsche steering project wouldn't be worth its salt if there wasn't a Momo steering wheel. I recently installed a Momo Classic wheel that I won in a raffle at last year's 912 Registry Rendezvous event. This wheel is great, but it blocks the upper limits of the speedometer and the tachometer from where I sit, which maybe isn't ideal. It's worth it for the period-correct look and excellent steering feel.
More projects coming soon. We're planning some aesthetic upgrades here shortly.