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Pelican Technical Article:

Front Tie Rod Replacement

Steve Vernon

Time:

3 hours3 hrs

Tab:

$15 to $100

Talent:

**

Tools:

22mm, 17mm, 13mm wrench, 5mm Allen

Applicable Models:

Mercedes-Benz W124 (1986-95)

Parts Required:

Tie rods

Hot Tip:

Let soak overnight with penetrating oil

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 rack 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 causing 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 and 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 the outer tie rod. If no free-play is felt in the outer tie rod end locate the inner tie rod and repeat the wiggle test.

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

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

This photo illustrates how the tie rod (yellow arrow) connects the steering rack (via Pitman arm and drag link) to the steering knuckle by a ball joint on the knuckle (red arrow) and drag link (green arrow) end.
Figure 1

This photo illustrates how the tie rod (yellow arrow) connects the steering rack (via Pitman arm and drag link) to the steering knuckle by a ball joint on the knuckle (red arrow) and drag link (green arrow) end.

When checking the condition of the ball joints the first place to check is the rubber protective boot.
Figure 2

When checking the condition of the ball joints the first place to check is the rubber protective boot. This boot has failed a long time ago and all the grease has escaped (red arrow). This ball joint should have been replaced long before it got to this condition.

Make sure to check the condition of the inner ball joint as well (red arrow).
Figure 3

Make sure to check the condition of the inner ball joint as well (red arrow). Even though it is protected from the elements a little better than the outside joint these still do get ripped and fail.

To remove the ball joint use a 5mm Allen (yellow arrow) to keep the joint from turning while using a 17mm wrench to remove the nut on the joint (red arrow).
Figure 4

To remove the ball joint use a 5mm Allen (yellow arrow) to keep the joint from turning while using a 17mm wrench to remove the nut on the joint (red arrow).

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 5

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 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.

Use a 22mm wrench and loosen the securing nut (red arrow).
Figure 6

Use a 22mm wrench and loosen the securing nut (red arrow). Note: measure the length of the tie rod end to end and count the amount of turns it takes to remove the ball joint from the rod. When reinstalling a new ball joint screw it in the same amount and re-measure. While you will still need to get an alignment on the car, this will get it close enough that you can drive to the shop.

The threads on this ball joint (red arrow) are fine which means the rod should be good, but the threads are about the only good thing left on this ball joint.
Figure 7

The threads on this ball joint (red arrow) are fine which means the rod should be good, but the threads are about the only good thing left on this ball joint.

When replacing the inner ball joint (yellow arrow) the procedure is the same as the outer with the exception that the orientation of the joint is upside down.
Figure 8

When replacing the inner ball joint (yellow arrow) the procedure is the same as the outer with the exception that the orientation of the joint is upside down. Measure the length of the rod and joint (red arrow). Use a 13mm wrench to loosen the retaining collar and unscrew the inner ball joint from the rod. Installation is the reverse of removal.

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Comments and Suggestions:
David Comments: Thanks for the response. How do you counter hold it? I couldn't figure out how to do that since it does not seem to have a flat spot for a wrench to counterhold it. A pipe wrench on tie rod?
January 10, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There should be a hex portion of the tie rod, where a wrench will fit. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
David Comments: When I try to loosen the loosen the 22mm "securing nut", the whole tie rod wants to turn, and is stopped only by inner tie rod end. I then tried to loosen it with both tie rod ends secured in their holes, but have the same issue. I am afraid if I use more force it will damage ball joint in the inner tie rod end. Is that a valid concern? Other cars have a flat spot on the tie rod to fit a wrench to hold it from turning. Any tips?
Thank you for your guidance. -David
January 8, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You have to counterhold the tie rod. If it will not budge, you will have to replace them both as a unit. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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