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6 Tie Rod End Replacement Tips

An old tie rod end.

Tie rod ends are a small but integral part of your vehicle’s steering system. They provide the linkage between the steering knuckle and the rack, or cylinder. The ball-and-socket design of the tie rod end allows for movement in all directions, providing a joint where components can attach stiffly, but also allowing for necessary movement as the wheels steer back and forth.

Over time, your tie rod end may wear and become loose, rusted or stuck, or it may break completely. Check for signs of failure before an incident arises. Although replacement requires moderate skill to accomplish, if you follow these steps, you can complete the job at home.

1. Set Up for Safety

As with any repair, take all necessary precautions, and lift and support the vehicle according to the manufacturer specifications. Wear goggles, gloves, and have hearing protection ready. Read up on how to check for bad tie rod ends so you can determine which ones need to be changed and which are still good. Use some penetrating anti-rust lube while you’re setting up to make the job easier.

2. Make Some Space

Remove your wheel to allow more light in and create more space so you can see what you’re doing. A good trick for tire removal is to crack the lug nuts loose while the tire is still on the ground so that the wheel won’t turn.

3. Mark Your SpotTie Rod End Replacement Tips

Tie rod ends affect alignment, so don’t pull them out without knowing exactly how you plan to put them back in. Either mark the thread where it meets the rod, or count the number of full turns as you twist it off. For accuracy, use a tape measure before removal and confirm that the distance from the middle of the tie rod end to the start of the rod is the same.

4. The Right Tools

This can be a frustrating job, but luckily someone invented a special tool for it. Consider investing in a tie rod puller, and make sure you use the right wrench and socket size to avoid stripping any nuts. Some locking nuts and ends are left-handed thread and will loosen to the right. Avoid using air or power tools to tighten the castle nuts. Instead, use a torque wrench and torque them to spec to avoid damage.

5. Check Your Parts

Make sure your replacement tie rod end is the same type as the old one, as there are subtle differences in thread, taper, and length between different types. Also, check that you have new non-reusable parts (such as cotter pins) and replacements for any worn parts (such as boots). Have a bit of grease ready if the new ends don’t come prefilled, or simply refresh any old ends you’re reusing.

6. Get an Alignment

Even when you’re careful to put things back as you found them, it’s a good idea to get an alignment. If your old ends were bad, there’s a good chance you’ll need a tune-up anyway. Now is an excellent time to get things back on track to avoid uneven tire wear later on.

Check out all the tie rod end products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on replacing a tie rod end, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

Blair Lampe View All

Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter.  In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.

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