How to Check and Replace Tie Rod Ends
If the front wheels of your vehicle move excessively then you might have a problem with the tie rods ends. You need to check the tie rod ends first to see if there’s excessive wear and replace them if necessary. It’s not a big job and one that most people can manage, even with limited mechanical ability. Nor do you need specialized tools for it.
Step 1 - Checking
Put the vehicle in neutral and apply the hand brake. Turn the key to “accessories.” Raise the front end with a hydraulic jack and secure with a pair of jack stand and chocks on the back wheel to ensure the vehicle can’t move.
The tie rod boot needs to be unclamped, and then you need to move the wheels by hand, pulling and pushing them. It will soon be apparent if the tie rod ends are loose as they will make noise and you’ll detect movement in the inner ball socket. Be sure that the problem is with the tie rod ends and not the rack. If you’re not sure, have a mechanic friend help you.
Step 2 - Cotter Pin
Start by lowering the car and loosening the lug nuts on the front wheels. Raise the car gain on jack stands and remove both the front wheels. This will make access easier. Begin by making a mark on the rod and measure the distance between that and the grease fitting that sits on the end of the rod. Note this distance down. At the end of the rod you’ll see a cotter pin. Pull this out and set aside and the remove the nuts by it with you wrench.
Step 3 - Tie Rod Puller
For this you’ll need the tie rod puller. Put it on the steering arm and have the puller bolt centered on the end stud of the tie rod. Use a wrench to tighten the puller screw and keep turning until the end of the tie rod has become freed from the steering arm. At this point you can begin to unscrew the tie rod end from the area of the sleeve by loosening the sleeve bolt (one some vehicles this will be a locknut). When fully unscrewed, take off the old tie rod end and discard.
Step 4 - New Tie Rod Ends
Put the new tie rods ends on the end of the sleeve. Begin turning them, and keep going until the distance between the mark you made and the grease fitting is the same as the one you noted down earlier. Now you’re ready to tighten up the sleeve bolt and put the stud back on the steering arm.
To finish, put a new cotter pin in place, being certain the holes for it are properly aligned. If they’re not, tighten the nut (never loosen it) until they are. Put the tires back on the wheels and hand tighten the lug nuts. Lower the vehicle from the jacks and complete the tightening of the lug nuts.