Inner track rod ends fitting problem
This post is by way of a warning that pattern parts don't always fit as you would expect...
I am in the process of sorting out the steering on my 2006 3.2 Brera Q4. I have already swapped the reservoir, the pump and switched from red to green fluid and just to make sure that everything was perfect, I decided to change the inner and outer track rod ends before I get the car 4 wheel aligned as there was a little play in the system.
I ordered a pair of inner rod ends (some call them drum sticks) from Shop4parts and they arrived next day, so this weekend I jacked up the car and stripped out the old units.
On comparing the new shafts with the old units, I couldn't help notice a huge difference, (see pictures). The old rods are made in 2 parts and the ball part has a shaft that is the same diameter from end to ball. The new parts come in 3 bits and the big difference is that the rod has a huge lump of metal from the end of the thread to the ball. Other than that, the rods are exactly the same length and will fit and function perfectly with one exception...
The plastic corrugated gaiter won't pass far enough along the new shaft to enable it to attach to the rack casting, due to the lump of metal on the shaft. If stretched to fit it will probably come off the first time the steering is used on full lock. Also, if fitted, the narrow end of the gaiter would have to be clamped to the thread on the shaft allowing a water passage into the ball and socket area, causing premature failure. The old shafts have a series of ridges that mesh with the plastic gaiters and stop any water ingress.
I called Shop4parts and they seemed very concerned, especially as they claim to have sold hundreds of these parts with no complaint. In that case, I said, there must be hundreds of badly fitted inner track rod ends out there, unless Alfa have recently changed the design of both the rods and the gaiters. S4P could not tell me if the parts had changed but thier web site clearly shows a picture of the old design, although they did tell me that the image was for "illustration only".
S4P do not sell a gaiter to fit these new design of parts and there was no way I was going near a main dealer unless it was a last resort, so I shopped around for some universal rubber gaiters and made them fit, £10 from ebay (see pictures). I have used these gaiters before on a couple of cars and they are perfectly servicable. The universal gaiters come with ends in 3 different diameters and you just use a pair of scissors to cut them down to the size you need. The new shafts have a recess in the middle of the large lump of metal that is exactly in the same place as the ridges on the original shafts and it is obvious that the gaiters should be fitted at this point.
Fitting the gaiters to the rack is a challenge as you have to streatch them over the aluminium casting, but it is possible with a bit of grease and sweat.
Hope this post helps if you are thinking of swapping your inner track rod ends.