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Tie Rod Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Tie Rod Replacement

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$100

Talent:

*****

Tools:

16mm wrench, hex key set, 34mm open end wrench

Applicable Models:

R50 MINI Cooper Hatchback (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
R53 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2002-06)

Parts Required:

-

Hot Tip:

Have the car professionally aligned afterwards

Performance Gain:

Better handling and tracking of your suspension

Complementary Modification:

Replace shocks, wheel bearings, tie rod ends, ball joints, tires
How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Pelican Parts' new book, How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 500+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any MINI owner's collection. The book is due to be released in late 2015. See The Official Book Website for more details.

It is very important to keep the front suspension of the MINI Cooper and Cooper S tight and firm. The system's moving parts have a tendency to wear out and become loose and the mileage on the car increases. If the steering wheel on your MINI can be turned a few degrees in each direction without impacting the wheels' direction can indicate that one or more suspension components have worn beyond their useful life.

The most common wear item in the steering system is the tie rod end. This is a spherical joint that is located on the end of each tie rod and control the position of each front wheel when the car is steered. There is also a large ball joint at the other end of the rod where it connects to the steering rack. Over time, the clearances inside these joints increase due to wear, eventually making precise steering control impossible. Additionally, the car may have a slight wobble under speed and braking and cause vibrations. Many times, a new set of tie rods can make a car's handling feel like new. Of course, Pelican Parts can provide you with the correct tie rods for your car.

Replacing the tie rods isn't particularly difficult; however there is a sight trick to the process to make it a bit easier. Start by jacking up the front of the car and removing the front wheels. See our article on jacking up you MINI for more information.

Once the front wheels have been removed, locate the ball joint on the end of the tie rod and remove the 15mm self-locking nut holding the tie rod end to the steering knuckle on the wheel housing. Typically a box end wrench with enough leverage or a socket will suffice, but you may find an impact wrench to work better if the nut is frozen in place. Next, remove the old tie rod end from the steering knuckle. You can either use a ball joint separator or line the self locking nut up flush with the top of the threads and give it a good blow with a hammer.

Look at the end of the tie rod where it attaches to the steering rack. There is a large rubber boot that covers the inner part of the rod to keep grease and dirt out of the inner portion of the steering rack that slides in and out of the rack itself. This boot is secured with a factory supplied hose clamp that is intended to be a one-time use item. Use a flathead screwdriver to pry the clamp apart and off the boot. In our case we simply replaced the clamps with the traditional screw-type hose clamps. However, if you have the special tool for the factory clamps you can re-use them, but you may have trouble tightening the inner clamp as it is difficult to get the tool inside the engine compartment.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. In order to remove the old tie rod, you need to access the large ball joint under the boot. The easiest way to do this is through the gap between the control arm and the subframe. With both hose clamps removed, pull the boot back and turn the steering wheel to position the nut in between the gap.

You will need a thin, 34mm open end wrench to remove the tie rod end through the gap. Unfortunately, a crescent wrench won't work here unless you also unbolt the inboard ball joint from the subframe and also the outboard ball joint from the wheel housing. This will allow you just enough room to slip a crescent wrench or a standard width open end wrench in. See our article on control arm bushing replacement for more information.

If you are using a thin profile 34mm wrench, you may need to slip a piece of pipe on the end to get enough leverage to break the ball joint free. You will also need to hold the boot back to prevent it from covering the ball joint. Once free, unscrew the ball joint and remove the tie rod from the car.

Now, take the appropriate side tie rod (both sides are different) and line the old tie rod up next to the new tie rod. Each tie rod is threaded so that as you turn the tie rod end, it either shortens or lengthens the overall length of the tie rod. Loosen the jamb nut on the new tie rod and turn the tie rod end until the overall length matches that of the old tie rod. It doesn't have to be perfect, but just enough that they are close enough to be able to drive the car to an alignment shop to have them adjusted precisely.

The tie rod provides the only factory adjustment in the R50/R52/R53 MINI Cooper's front suspension, however this adjustment is critical to the car's handling. This adjustment is called toe angle. Toe refers to the angle of the two wheels with respect to each other. If a car has toe-in, it means that the front edges of the wheels are closer to each other than the rear edges. Toe-out occurs when the front edges of the wheels are farther apart than the inner edges. Toe angle is adjustable by changing the length of each tie rod. The only way to have this adjustment set is on a good laser alignment rack.

Loosen the jamb nut on the old tie rod and unscrew the tie rod end completely off in order to remove the boot. If you have new tie rod boots you can skip this step.

Once the new tie rod is adjusted to roughly the correct length, use some paint or some liquid paper to make a mark on the threads as a reference point as you will need to remove the tie rod end in order to install the tie rod boot. Slide the boot over the new tie rod and also a hose clamp. There are two raised ribs on the tie rod that act as a "gate" for the small end of the boot. Once in place, thread the tie rod end back on and tighten the jamb nut one the tie rod is set back to the reference point you painted on there.

Now, pull the large end of the boot back to allow you to grip the hex-shaped ball joint end and begin to thread it into the steering rack until it bottoms out. The threaded end of the joint has a tendency to turn independently of the tie rod, so make sure it is completely threaded in.

Again, turn the steering wheel so that you can access the large nut on the tie rod in between the subframe and the control arm. Now use the 34mm open end wrench to tighten the nut. As before, slip a piece of pipe onto the end of the wrench to give you a bit more leverage.

Now place the new tie rod end into the steering knuckle. Counter-hold the tie rod ball joint with a hex wrench and torque the new self-locking nut to 52Nm (38 ft/lbs.) as you tighten the nut, it will seat the ball joint in the steering knuckle. Be sure to use the new self-locking nut supplied with the new tie rod and not the old nut.

On the R55/R56/R57 cars, the procedure for removing the tie rod is nearly identical except that the fitting on the inner tie rod joint is a 38mm fitting instead of a 34mm fitting. Like with the earlier cars, rotate the steering until you can slide a 38mm wrench in-between the control arm and the subframe to reach the tie rod.

Additionally, cars equipped with DSC will require use of a MINI scan tool or equivalent to adjust steering angle sensor once new tie rods are fitted.

At this point, all that's left to do is secure the boot with the hose clamps. The outer hose clamp is a snap, however the inner hose clamp can be a bit tricky to gain access to. Make surer that the lip of the boot fits securely over the flange of the steering rack. Once you are certain it is on there, tighten the clamp using a 1/4" ratchet.

Now, put the wheels back on, torque the lug bolts and drive the car over to your local alignment shop for a final adjustment.

Shown here are a set of new tie rods (available through Pelican Parts).
Figure 1

Shown here are a set of new tie rods (available through Pelican Parts). Typically, you want to replace the tie rods as a set rather than individually.

With the front wheels removed, remove the 15mm self-locking nut holding the tie rod end to the steering knuckle on the wheel housing.
Figure 2

With the front wheels removed, remove the 15mm self-locking nut holding the tie rod end to the steering knuckle on the wheel housing.

Although we are using a ratcheting wrench to remove the self-locking nut in thisPicture, an impact wrench can make quick work of a frozen or rusty nut.
Figure 3

Although we are using a ratcheting wrench to remove the self-locking nut in thisPicture, an impact wrench can make quick work of a frozen or rusty nut.

Next, remove the old tie rod end from the steering knuckle.
Figure 4

Next, remove the old tie rod end from the steering knuckle. You can either use a ball joint separator or line the self locking nut up flush with the top of the threads and give it a good blow with a hammer.

There is a large rubber boot covering the tie rod where it attaches to the steering rack inside the engine compartment.
Figure 5

There is a large rubber boot covering the tie rod where it attaches to the steering rack inside the engine compartment. Shown here are is the factory hose clamp securing the boot to the end of the steering rack. (green arrow)

Use a flathead screwdriver to pry the clamp apart and off the boot.
Figure 6

Use a flathead screwdriver to pry the clamp apart and off the boot. In our case we simply replaced the clamps with the traditional screw-type hose clamps.

In order to remove the old tie rod, you need to access the large ball joint under the boot.
Figure 7

In order to remove the old tie rod, you need to access the large ball joint under the boot. The easiest way to do this is through the gap between the control arm and the subframe. With both hose clamps removed, pull the boot back and turn the steering wheel to position the nut in between the gap (green arrow).

You will need a thin, 34mm open end wrench to remove the tie rod end.
Figure 8

You will need a thin, 34mm open end wrench to remove the tie rod end. Unfortunately, a crescent wrench wont work here unless you also unbolt the inboard ball joint from the subframe and also the outboard ball joint from the wheel housing. This will allow you just enough room to slip a crescent wrench or a standard width open end wrench in.

Shown here is the tie rod removed from the steering rack.
Figure 9

Shown here is the tie rod removed from the steering rack. It's a good idea to clean any dirt or grease from the area prior to installing the new tie rod.

Line the new tie rod up next to the old tie rod to approximate the length.
Figure 10

Line the new tie rod up next to the old tie rod to approximate the length. You will need to get the lengths of each new tie rod as close as possible to the old ones. this will allow you enough leeway to drive the car down to the alignment shop to get the toe-in set correctly. Once the new tie rod is adjusted to roughly the correct length, use some paint or some liquid paper to make a mark on the threads as a reference point as you will need to remove the tie rod end in order to install the tie rod boot.

Begin to thread the large ball joint into the steering rack.
Figure 11

Begin to thread the large ball joint into the steering rack. The threaded end of the joint has a tendency to turn independently of the tie rod, so pull back the boot of the tie rod to get a good grip on the large nut.

Turn the steering wheel so that you can access the large nut on the tie rod in between the subframe and the control arm.
Figure 12

Turn the steering wheel so that you can access the large nut on the tie rod in between the subframe and the control arm. Now use the 34mm open end wrench to tighten the nut. The factory manual specifies 80+/-8 Nm (59+/-6 ft/lbs.) You might find it useful to slip a piece of pipe onto the end of the wrench to give you a bit more leverage.

Fit the new tie rod end into the steering knuckle.
Figure 13

Fit the new tie rod end into the steering knuckle. Be sure to use the new self-locking nut supplied with the new tie rod.

Counter-hold the tie rod ball joint with a hex wrench and torque the new self-locking nut to 52Nm (38 ft/lbs.
Figure 14

Counter-hold the tie rod ball joint with a hex wrench and torque the new self-locking nut to 52Nm (38 ft/lbs.) as you tighten the nut, it will seat the ball joint in the steering knuckle.

Slide the boot back over the steering rack until it bottoms out on the lip and slide the new hose clamp around the large end.
Figure 15

Slide the boot back over the steering rack until it bottoms out on the lip and slide the new hose clamp around the large end. It can be kind of tricky to get access, but can be done with the 1/4 drive ratchet combo seen here. Once the large hose clamp is tight, secure the small hose clamp as shown here.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Lex2008 Comments: I am about to do this job on my 2008 r56 Copper S hardtop with the subframe down and I have a question. The driver's side inner steering tie rod end is recessed into the rack so that no "flats" are sticking out. I assume you need to use an inner tie rod puller for this or some special Mini/BMW tool?

Also, your method is fine accept for the fact that you cannot torque the inner tie rod end to spec using the open ended wrench. Its better to use a inner tie rod tool for that reason. Yes?
December 11, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It's always better to use the tie rod tool, however access to the tool can be tough. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JD Comments: How about lock tight on the inner tie rod? I seem to remember seeing an article or video with someone putting lock tight on those threads.
November 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't recall there being loctite. If there is on the one you remove, the new one will have it as well. If it does not, ass loctite of the same color. However, I don;t feel you will have to. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JD Comments: Do you recommend any anti seize on the threads? the threads between the inner and the outer definitely seems like it would benefit from some anti seize but I'm not sure about where the tie rod attaches to the steering rack.
November 14, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I never apply anti-seize on bolts, unless they come from the factory with it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Lyndon Johnson Comments: I used an large adjustable wrench oriented upwards in the engine bay and a long prybar levered against the strut as a fulcrum to break the inner tie rod loose.

Maybe five wrenches is exaggerating the difficulty a little bit? This is one of the easier cars I've changed the tie rods on-about a half hour per side.
May 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dirktiger Comments: On my 2009 Mini Cooper S Hardtop, the inner tie rod factory installed required a 36mm slim open end wrench to remove. The new one not factory, required a 32mm wrench.
February 1, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The size can change depending n manufacturer. Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Vlad Comments: Before clamping down the steering rack boots in Figure 15, is there any kind of oil or grease that needs to go on the tie rod assembly under the boots beforehand? Thanks!
January 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the ball socket is prelubricated. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
nicknick Comments: Can you give a list of the proper wrench sizes for the ball joint nut at the hub, the jamb nut and the wrench size used to hold the tie rod in place? I just ordered the parts from you guys and I want to make sure I have everything I need with me! Thank you!!!
December 2, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Wrench sizes can vary, depending on fastener manufacturer. It's best to have a collection of the common metric and ASE wrench sizes if you're going to work on your own vehicle. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DD Comments: Very helpful info Pelican. Thank you. I have a R53, 60k miles, with a clunk that happens in the right front whenever there is any lateral G's to the right or left, most noticeable at low speeds. There doesn't seem to be any abnormal play in the steering though. Would this most likely be tie rod or control arm bushings that need replacement? Or something else?
October 17, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would jack the front of the vehicle, then wiggle the front wheel in and out (in the direction of turns), if you feel play, inspect the tie rod end to see if it is the source. If the tie rod is tight, grab the bottom of the wheel and pull it in and out while monitoring the lower ball joint and control arm bushing for play. It would also be a good idea to inspect the sway bar end links, they can make noise also, grab them and wiggle up and down, they should be tight.- Nick at Pelican Parts  

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