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Front Tie Rod End Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Tie Rod End Replacement

Steve Vernon

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$20 to $100

Talent:

**

Tools:

5mm Allen, 17mm wrench, ball joint separator

Applicable Models:

Mercedes-Benz W123 (1977-85)

Parts Required:

Tie rods

Hot Tip:

Use a ball joint separator

Performance Gain:

Proper steering feel

Complementary Modification:

Have vehicle professionally aligned

The tie rods on a vehicle do exactly what their title describes; they are rods that tie the steering system; in this case, a Pitman and idler arm and drag links, to the steering knuckle. The rod has two ball joints on each end. These ball joints wear over time creating free-play in the steering, which can lead to tire wear and an undesirable steering feel. The rubber boots protecting the ball joints on the tie rod ends also can get damaged, rip and dry out over the years allowing the grease inside to escape and cause the joint to fail. You can replace the inner and outer separately, just be sure to have your vehicle aligned once complete. To inspect, jack up the front of your vehicle, wiggle the wheel in both directions of the steering axis. Take note of any free-play. If free-play is felt, repeat the wiggle test while holding outer tie rod. If no free-play is felt in outer tie rod end, locate the inner tie rod and repeat the wiggle test.

Raise and support front of vehicle on jack stands. See our tech article on jacking up your W123.

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

The tie rods connect the steering knuckle (red arrows) to the drop link and pitman arm (yellow arrows) and these are connected by the drag link (blue arrow).
Figure 1

The tie rods connect the steering knuckle (red arrows) to the drop link and pitman arm (yellow arrows) and these are connected by the drag link (blue arrow).

This photo illustrates the tie rod and how it connects to the pitman arm and steering knuckle (red arrow).
Figure 2

This photo illustrates the tie rod and how it connects to the pitman arm and steering knuckle (red arrow). There are ball joints on both ends that you will need to separate. The length of the tie rod also sets your alignment and even though you will need to get the car aligned after you change them, it is important to measure the distance of the old arm and set the new on as close as possible, this way you will be close on the alignment and not tear up your tires driving to the alignment shop.

Over the years the design of the ball joints (red arrow) has changed from a castle nut and cotter pin to an Allen bolt and regular nut.
Figure 3

Over the years the design of the ball joints (red arrow) has changed from a castle nut and cotter pin to an Allen bolt and regular nut. There is a double nut in the drag link end (yellow arrow); if you are just replacing the inside ball joint you will use this to adjust the length and get it as close as possible to the old rod.

Inspect the ball joint for damage to the cover, lack of grease, rust or other damage.
Figure 4

Inspect the ball joint for damage to the cover, lack of grease, rust or other damage.

There is an adjustment locking clamp on the outside of the tie rod (red arrow): if you are just replacing the outside ball joint you will use this to adjust the length and get is as close as possible to the old rod.
Figure 5

There is an adjustment locking clamp on the outside of the tie rod (red arrow): if you are just replacing the outside ball joint you will use this to adjust the length and get is as close as possible to the old rod.

Use a 5mm Allen to stop the ball joint from spinning (red arrow) and then remove the nut with a 17mm wrench.
Figure 6

Use a 5mm Allen to stop the ball joint from spinning (red arrow) and then remove the nut with a 17mm wrench.

Ball joints are held in place with a surprising amount of force and while you can whack away at the top of the joint with a hammer you really run the risk of bending and/or damaging a part of the suspension.
Figure 7

Ball joints are held in place with a surprising amount of force and while you can whack away at the top of the joint with a hammer you really run the risk of bending and/or damaging a part of the suspension. Make sure to use the proper tool; a ball joint separator (red arrow) will make quick and easy work of separating the joint. Note: Do not get any part of yourself around the joint when separating as it has a tendency to let go with substantial force.

With the ball joint free you can now change out the outer tie rod section.
Figure 8

With the ball joint free you can now change out the outer tie rod section. The same procedure is used for the inner ball joint. Installation is the reverse of removal and then make sure to get the vehicle aligned.

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