Bronco Tie Rod Failures: Rarity or Looming Problem?

Jul 01, 2022

Adding aftermarket performance parts without upgrading the surrounding vehicle underpinnings means risking failures at the weakest unchanged point. It’s basic reliability engineering. In the case of the Ford Bronco, some owners have upgraded to heavier wheels or larger tires without toughening up the stock steering system. That leaves the stock tie rods as the exposed element.

Result: We’ve seen some examples of tie rod failure when rock-stomping some difficult off-road trails or challenges.

Already, some Ford forums (including ours here and here), YouTubers, and –– as expected –– Jeep troll forums (here) are showing examples of Bronco tie rods getting busted up.

So, is this an endemic problem, or just a few isolated incidents?

First of all, a quick search of the NHTSA recalls and service bulletins database shows zero Bronco recalls, investigations, consumer complaints, or investigations involving tie rod failures.

That covered, we look at use cases. Not to start blaming owners, but just like Jeep fans know not to challenge the Rubicon Trail in a Wrangler Sport – though some have tried – it’s best to know the limits of the hardware you’ve purchased, and trim your vehicle appropriately.

While even a base-model Bronco is capable off-pavement, you probably shouldn’t be trying treacherous off-road courses with a base-trim that hasn’t had at least a Sasquatch package upgrade. And if you go beyond Ford’s max tire option of 35 inches into the aftermarket world of 37s, or add on heavier wheels for rugged off-roading, you’ll want to upgrade the tie rods.

Ford has created a couple trim packages for just this reason: The new Bronco Wildtrak HOSS 3.0 suspension has an upgraded suspension that includes “severe duty” inner and outer tie rods, and is a $2,515 add-on to the Wildtrak “to further improve steering system durability under high loads,” said Ford spokesman Mike Levine. The Wildtrak starts at $51,375, including destination.

Moving up to the Bronco Raptor, of course, is the factory way of getting a properly credentialed Bronco. In addition to the HOSS 3.0 tie rods, you get BF Goodrich KO2 37x12.50R17 tires and a Raptor HOSS 4.0 race-ready suspension system. However, the Bronco Raptor starts at $70,095 including destination (if you can find a dealer willing to sell it for sticker price), which might be out of many folks’ budget.

For those with a Bronco already in their driveway, Ford Performance Parts has developed several individual Bronco chassis components, Levine says. That includes those upgraded severe-duty steering rack and tie rod ends. Unfortunately, the aftermarket Ford Performance bits won’t be available until September or beyond. As such, pricing is as-yet unavailable.

If you don’t want to wait to conquer Moab with upgraded HOSS 3.0-package tie rods, there are several aftermarket vendors offering uprated tie rods. If you want to go the cheap route, there are firms offering items like the “Bronco Splint” that fits over the tie rod ends and claims to offer some protection.

Levine offers the expected factory response about venturing into the aftermarket: “Genuine Ford and Motorcraft replacement parts are the only replacement parts that benefit from a Ford Warranty. The Ford Warranty may not cover damage caused to your vehicle because of failed non-Ford parts. For extra information, customers should refer to the terms and conditions of the Ford Warranty.”

Meanwhile out on the trail, expect to hear Jeep owners trolling you about the Bronco’s allegedly less-durable independent front suspension, as opposed to the Wrangler’s solid-axle setup.

Ford did not disclose dimensions nor specifications of its tie rods, stock or aftermarket, but did say the Wildtrak’s HOSS 3.0 inner and outer tie rods are 32 percent stronger than stock parts.

By comparison, Jeep tie rods are 40mm diameter and weigh approximately 17.5 pounds. Also, as is well known, Jeep uses a front solid-axle setup, as opposed to the Bronco’s independent front suspension. Is there a Mopar tie rod upgrade? No, said Stellantis spokesman Scott Brown: “Stock tie rods are suitable for all Wrangler variations, including Rubicon, 4xe and 392.”

We asked Levine if Ford ever considered a solid-axle setup for the Bronco, at any trim level. No way, he said: “Bronco’s independent front suspension offers the best combination of higher speed control, comfort and capability on and off-road.”

Of course, that means a certain trade off in terms of off-road durability in exchange for on-road feel and precision. But if you equip your Bronco properly, it should take you pretty much anywhere.

Have you increased your tire size or wheel weight? Will you try to get the Ford Performance severe-duty steering rack and tie rods? Talk about it in the forums.


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