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Tie Rod End Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Tie Rod End Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$100

Talent:

***

Tools:

Set of sockets (22mm), 24mm wrench, large adjustable wrench, pry bar, wire brush, floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, lug wrench, torque wrench

Applicable Models:

BMW X5 (2000-06)

Parts Required:

Inner and outer tie rod ends

Hot Tip:

Replace inner and outer together

Performance Gain:

Quiet and smooth front end

Complementary Modification:

Replace both sides

As you turn your steering wheel you spin a shaft inside the steering column. This shaft is attached to a steering rack on the BMW X5 chassis. The steering rack gets power assist from the power steering pump. The steering rack takes the twisting motion from the steering shaft and turns it into a back and forth motion in the rack itself. At each end of the rack is a ball joint referred to as a tie rod end. This ball-joint allows the steering rack to pull the spindle to the left or the right together, depending on which direction the driver wants to turn. Since the spindle floats up and down with suspension movement the tie rod end allows it to flex up and down and still provide the left and right steering input. As tie rod ends wear out they allow the wheel to wobble back and forth. This will cause a vibration in the steering wheel and also contribute to uneven tire wear. In this tech article we will go over the steps to replace your tie rod ends.

These fasteners are going to be tight and there may not be a lot of room to swing the wrench. You are going to have to be patient and use some force to remove fasteners and components to rebuild your front end. Corrosion may hold a component in even after you have loosened a fastener. Keep in mind the joint may pop out when you use a removal tool so keep your hands clear and wear protective gloves.

There are two tie rods on each side, each with a ball joint. I will refer to these as inner and outer tie rod ends. They can be replaced separately, however, I prefer to replace them in pairs. The inner and outer tie rods are threaded together. In my region they rust together and make adjustments difficult. Rather than fighting this when aligning, I replace them together. When tie rods wear, the ball joints will wear creating free-play. You may have a knocking noise or looseness in your steering. You can check for free-play by jacking the front of your vehicle and wiggling the wheel side to side. If there is any free-play, replace the tie rod.

Remember, your car may have been serviced before and parts replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches.

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Never work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

Raise and support the front of the vehicle on jack stands. See our tech article on jacking your vehicle. You'll want both wheels off the ground for this repair.

Remove the front wheel from the side of the vehicle you are replacing the tie rod on.

The inner tie rod is hidden behind a dust boot (green arrow).
Figure 1

The inner tie rod is hidden behind a dust boot (green arrow). The outer can be seen here, attached to the steering knuckle (red arrow).

Start by loosening the connection between the inner and outer tie rod ends.
Figure 2

Start by loosening the connection between the inner and outer tie rod ends. Counter-hold the inner tie rod end with a 13mm wrench while loosening the 24mm lock nut. Loosen the nut about 3 turns.

Then slide the locking sleeve (red arrow) over toward the nut to loosen the connection.
Figure 3

Then slide the locking sleeve (red arrow) over toward the nut to loosen the connection.

This photo shows the locking sleeve moved toward the nut (red arrow).
Figure 4

This photo shows the locking sleeve moved toward the nut (red arrow).

Working at the outer tie rod, remove the 22mm tie rod end nut (red arrow).
Figure 5

Working at the outer tie rod, remove the 22mm tie rod end nut (red arrow).

The nut (red arrow) is self-locking.
Figure 6

The nut (red arrow) is self-locking. You will have to replace it.

You will need a separating tool (red arrow) to remove the outer tie rod end from the steering knuckle.
Figure 7

You will need a separating tool (red arrow) to remove the outer tie rod end from the steering knuckle. Use the tool to press the tie rod out of the steering knuckle.

Pull the ball joint down out of the steering knuckle bore.
Figure 8

Pull the ball joint down out of the steering knuckle bore.

At this point, you can replace just the outer tie rod end.
Figure 9

At this point, you can replace just the outer tie rod end. Loosen it, counting the turns. Then install the new one in the same position, using the number of noted turns to install it. Install the new ball joint nut and tighten. Then tighten the tie rod locking nut. If replacing both, follow the remaining steps.

Next, use pliers or a flathead screwdriver (green arrow) and remove the inner boot clamp (red arrow).
Figure 10

Next, use pliers or a flathead screwdriver (green arrow) and remove the inner boot clamp (red arrow). You can just make out the shaft of my screwdriver in this photo. It is a tight work space.

Once opened, remove the clamp (red arrow) from the boot.
Figure 11

Once opened, remove the clamp (red arrow) from the boot. Throw the clamp away. You will need a new one.

Clamp pliers work best here, but regular flat jaw pliers work as well.
Figure 12

Clamp pliers work best here, but regular flat jaw pliers work as well. Remove the outer boot clamp. Slide it away from the boot down the tie rod end.

Slide the dust boot toward the outer tie rod end.
Figure 13

Slide the dust boot toward the outer tie rod end. This allows access to the inner tie rod end nut.

Next, loosen the inner tie rod end using a 32mm wrench or inner tie rod end tool.
Figure 14

Next, loosen the inner tie rod end using a 32mm wrench or inner tie rod end tool. If you do not have a wrench this large, you can use an adjustable wrench. The tie rod is not held on with a lot of torque. It will loosen easy. Keep this in mind when retightening it.

Unscrew and remove the tie rod end from the vehicle.
Figure 15

Unscrew and remove the tie rod end from the vehicle. Compare the length of the old tie rod with the new one and adjust it if needed. Complete tie rod ends are available. You will have to check that the installed length will be close before installing it. Then install it into the vehicle. Reverse the removing steps when installing. Remember to replace the locking nuts and use new dust boot clamps on the dust boot. Once you are done, have the vehicle professionally aligned. This will ensure proper tire wear.

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Comments and Suggestions:
NotTooBrightJohn Comments: I have tried and tried, but can't loosen the inner tie rod on my 03 X5 4.4. I have used two different types of tools, including a universal tie rod remover. The remover is tight and doesn't slip at all, but the inner tie rod doesn't move. I don't think I have a lock washer. Have you seen this problem before?
August 22, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes, most times it is due to leverage. Try to get closer to the tie rod at the rack, don't use an extension. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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