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Steering Rebuild (Tie Rod, Drag Links, & Idler Arms)
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Steering Rebuild (Tie Rod, Drag Links, & Idler Arms)

Peach Parts

Time:

6 hours6 hrs

Tab:

$0

Talent:

**

Tools:

5mm Allen, car keys, trim removal tool, Phillips-head screwdriver

Applicable Models:

Mercedes-Benz W123 (1977-85)

Parts Required:

tie tods, drag links, idler arm

As your car ages, it may become necessary to rebuild the steering. I had a torn tie rod boot, and some knocking/play in my idler arm, so it all got rebuilt/replaced. This is how it was all done. All of it was quite easy, and is less than a day's work. In this article I'll cover how to rebuild the Tie Rods, Drag Links and Idler Arm.

To begin, the wheels must come off. I locked the steering wheel in position so that at least the box and its arm would be correct, thus forcing the idler arm to be correct and hopefully letting me size the new tie rods in place. More on all that later.

Follow all safety guidelines and wear eye protection. Use the proper equipment and tools, and be careful. Failure to follow safety precautions can lead to injury, or even death. Always use safety jacks when raising the car up on hydraulic jacks. The brake pads of your car may contain dust particles that are hazardous to your health. When in doubt, wear breathing protection, such as a respirator. The use of nitrile gloves is highly recommended, as some fluids, such as motor oil, can be damaging to the skin.

The first key to the project is to get the car up in the air.
Figure 1

The first key to the project is to get the car up in the air. Jacking it up and putting it on jackstands is the preferable method. I used a Heavy US-made 2-ton hydraulic jack to lift up the front from under the engine support.

Remove the wheels/tires.
Figure 2

Remove the wheels/tires.

I started from the passenger side just because that was where the torn boot was.
Figure 3

I started from the passenger side just because that was where the torn boot was. It wasn't bad, not rusty or terribly dirty, but was contributing to play on the wheel.

New style tie rod ends utilize a locknut generally, but older ones utilize a castle nut and a cotter pin.
Figure 4

New style tie rod ends utilize a locknut generally, but older ones utilize a castle nut and a cotter pin. I don't know that either is better/worse, but the cotter pin type needs a needlenose.

You simply bend the cotter pin and then pull out, after which the nut on the tie rod end balljoints can be loosened and removed.
Figure 5

You simply bend the cotter pin and then pull out, after which the nut on the tie rod end balljoints can be loosened and removed.

I have a pickle fork, and tried using it, especially since there was nothing to loose on this joint.
Figure 6

I have a pickle fork, and tried using it, especially since there was nothing to loose on this joint. Hammering it in didn't do much. Maybe if I swung extra hard it would have come out, but I just don't have a good feel for how hard is too hard.

Instead I opted for acquiring a set of OTC tools which can be used for popping the joints.
Figure 7

Instead I opted for acquiring a set of OTC tools which can be used for popping the joints. The kit I used is OTC-6295, from Amazon. This kit has two main items that are used, an enclosed version of a C-clamp (for lack of better explanation) and a three-point hinged press. You will see both in the following pictures. Each is shown in the true MB part form in the FSM, and you cannot easily get away with just one. Each has its application point depending upon which joint is being separated due to space and accessibility.

After the outer was off, then it was time for the inner.
Figure 8

After the outer was off, then it was time for the inner. It was easier to bend it to make tool access to the joint more straightforward.

C-Clamp tool used to separate joint.
Figure 9

C-Clamp tool used to separate joint.

Tie rod removed.
Figure 10

Tie rod removed.

The job continues on with the drag link on the idler arm.
Figure 11

The job continues on with the drag link on the idler arm.

The second tool gets used here.
Figure 12

The second tool gets used here...

unbolted at last.
Figure 13

unbolted at last...

and the steering shock also needs to be removed from where it bolts to the body of the car.
Figure 14

and the steering shock also needs to be removed from where it bolts to the body of the car.

At this point the Idler Arm is free, so the separation of its parts can begin.
Figure 15

At this point the Idler Arm is free, so the separation of its parts can begin.

I did everything from underneath, using a 24mm 3/4 drive breaker bar and a similarly sized 1/2 ratchet.
Figure 16

I did everything from underneath, using a 24mm 3/4 drive breaker bar and a similarly sized 1/2" ratchet. A big adjustable also came in handy under certain parts of the effort.

Note the top dirt cap and bottom cover washer with nut.
Figure 17

Note the top dirt cap and bottom cover washer with nut.

Then we are at the point where the bearing inserts are friction fit in.
Figure 18

Then we are at the point where the bearing inserts are friction fit in.

I found it best to use the long bolt at an angle to help pull down the lower bearing/bushing.
Figure 19

I found it best to use the long bolt at an angle to help pull down the lower bearing/bushing. Using the threaded part slightly inserted allowed for enough grip on the item to help slowly pull it out.

And then drive out the upper one using the same bolt.
Figure 20

And then drive out the upper one using the same bolt.

It was a good clean bore inside.
Figure 21

It was a good clean bore inside.

It is important to remember the order of the parts that are together on the idler arm.
Figure 22

It is important to remember the order of the parts that are together on the idler arm. I put them back together for the photo.

Note the washer that is directly under the arm is not necessarily always installed.
Figure 23

Note the washer that is directly under the arm is not necessarily always installed. It is dependent upon the part number for the specific arm itself. This is laid out in the FSM.

The bearing/bushings to be used are slightly larger than the hole for the idler arm.
Figure 24

The bearing/bushings to be used are slightly larger than the hole for the idler arm. To do the install, I used a bit of Sil-Glyde on the surfaces to help guide them in. I then utilized the old idler arm bolt, washer and nut to create a tool to help guide the new ones into the bore.

Bushings installed.
Figure 25

Bushings installed.

Figure 26

After that, the sandwich of parts can be put back together

and torqued appropriately to 88 ft-lb.
Figure 27

and torqued appropriately to 88 ft-lb.

So now that the idler is complete, the other tie rod must come off like the last one.
Figure 28

So now that the idler is complete, the other tie rod must come off like the last one.

Tie rod off.
Figure 29

Tie rod off.

I adjusted the tie rods so that there was visible threads on both ends, and that the overall length was similar to the old ones.
Figure 31

I adjusted the tie rods so that there was visible threads on both ends, and that the overall length was similar to the old ones.

The FSM states that for newer designs, the clamp end goes towards the wheel.
Figure 32

The FSM states that for newer designs, the clamp end goes towards the wheel. For older designs, the longer rod end goes inboard.

The new style ends and drag link utilize a locknut, and the shaft has an opening in its top such that an Allen key can be installed to prevent the shaft from turning.
Figure 33

The new style ends and drag link utilize a locknut, and the shaft has an opening in its top such that an Allen key can be installed to prevent the shaft from turning.

The order of install can go really any way it seems.
Figure 34

The order of install can go really any way it seems.

Don't forget to also tighten in the steering shock damper to the guide rod and the body.
Figure 35

Don't forget to also tighten in the steering shock damper to the guide rod and the body.

Complete connection and tightening down all tie rod ends.
Figure 36

Complete connection and tightening down all tie rod ends.

Figure 37

Tighten down

Figure 38

Continue process

Figure 39

More tightening

Use the Allen wrench for this.
Figure 40

Use the Allen wrench for this.

Don't forget to torque down the clamps and locknuts that hold the tie rod ends together.
Figure 41

Don't forget to torque down the clamps and locknuts that hold the tie rod ends together. Recheck everything for torque, reinstall and torque wheels and then go for an alignment. Done!

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