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Old 07-18-2010, 07:38 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Snohomish
Posts: 312
My Ride: 2001 325i
E46 Tie Rod Replacement DIY

This weekend I installed a complete front suspension overhaul kit from bimmerworld. Except for getting the ball joints apart with the pickle fork it was pretty straightforward thanks to the various DIYs I found on this forum. One DIY that seemed to be missing, however, was how to replace the tie rods. It isnít a terribly difficult procedure and the Bentley manual has reasonably good steps but I figured while I was doing it why not whip up a DIY with photos. All the photos shown here are for the driverís side, but itís the exact same process for the passenger side. Thanks to my wife for taking the photos!

For those that enjoy seeing a diagram of parts RealOEM is your friend.

Tools required
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Pipe wrench
  • 19mm socket wrench
  • 13mm wrench
  • 19mm wrench
  • 22mm wrench
  • Allen key
  • Hacksaw
  • Liquid Wrench
  • Normal zip tie
  • Long (14Ē) zip tie

Step 1: Loosen the wheel bolts on your front wheels prior to going up on jack stands. Youíll need to get the wheels off shortly.

Step 2: Get your car up on jack stands.

Step 3: Take your front wheels off (if you canít figure out how to do this I suggest giving up on this DIY at this pointÖ)

Step 4: Turn your steering wheel all the way in the direction of the side you are working on. This makes it easier to get at the outer tie rod nut.

Step 5: Spray the nut holding the outer tie rod onto the wheel with Liquid Wrench. I found it made things easier when the tie rod hadnít been touched in 9 years and 150,000 miles.

Step 6: Pop apart the bands holding the protective boot onto the inner tie rod. I used a flat head screwdriver, wormed it in there, and pried it off. Thereís a small one near the outer tie rod (as seen in the photo) and a larger one attached to the steering rack. Be careful when using the screwdriver if you are planning on reusing the boots. You donít want to accidentally tear them, especially when the suckers are $52 each!

Step 7: Using the 19mm socket wrench remove the nut attaching the outer tie rod to the wheel.

Step 8: Using a pickle fork and a BFH (I used a 6lb sledge) bash away until the damn thing pops apart. Or, if youíre fancy, use a ball joint separator. If you are using a pickle fork take care not to hit any of the ABS sensors or brake lines.

Step 9: Turn the steering wheel until both wheels are roughly facing forward. This makes it easier to push the boot out of the way to get at the inner tie rod end.

Step 10: Using a pipe wrench unscrew the inner tie rod from the steering rack. Youíll likely need to push the protective boot out of the way a bit. There are lots of threads on the forum that talk about using a 1 5/16Ē crowfoot wrench to do this, but my local Sears didnít have one and claimed that they could barely special order one. I have a perfectly good plumberís pipe wrench and it unscrewed that sucker with ease.

Step 11: Measure the length of your old tie rod. This will help you get your new one to roughly the same length so your trip to the alignment shop after youíre done isnít completely terrifying. You definitely want to do this before step 12Ö

Step 12: If you are planning on re-using your old boot save yourself a ton of grief and just hacksaw it apart so you can get the boot off. I tried using Liquid Wrench and a couple of plumberís wrenches to get my old one apart without sawing and it was impossible.

Step 13: There is no step 13. That would be unlucky.

Step 14: Unscrew the new tie rod assembly and slip boot and nut onto the inner tie rod.

Step 15: Take the inner tie rod and screw it in where the old one was. I used the pipe wrench to tighten it down as hard as I could since I had no crowsfoot to put on my torque wrench. If you do have one torque spec is 100 + 10 Nm (74 + 7 ft-lb). (In theory you can do this with the outer tie rod attached but I found it was a pain as it kept whacking things as I screwed the inner tie rod on.)

Step 16: Screw the outer tie rod onto the inner tie rod until the total length is around what you measured on your old tie rod combo. In my case it was about 17 ľĒ. Don't forget to put the locking ring on the inner tie rod first! Tighten the locking nut down using your 22mm wrench. I didnít try and get mine torqued to spec as itís just going to get adjusted by the alignment shop anyway. Torque spec for the tie rod end lock nut is 45 Nm (33 ft-lb).

Step 17: Attach the outer tie rod end to the wheel. Youíll need an allen key to insert into the top of the bolt to keep it from spinning as you tighten the nut down with a 19mm wrench. Torque spec is 65 Nm (45 ft-lb), but as with most nuts on the car I couldnít fit my torque wrench in there.

Step 18: Zip tie the boot back in place. Use the 14Ē zip tie where it attaches to the steering rack. The smaller one is used to attach the boot just before where you use the 13mm wrench to adjust the toe. You can use hose clamps here too, but there are plenty of threads here that say just use zip ties. I used black, but if you want to get creative you could use a different colour.

Step 19: Put your wheel back on and see how dumb it looks. In my case I accidentally had the length of my tie rod on the passenger side at 18 1/4" It looked obviously bad. If this happens to you get under the car and loosen the lock nut with the 22mm wrench. Then use the 13mm wrench to adjust how far the outer tie rod is screwed in/out. Then tighten the lock nut again with the 22m wrench.

Step 20: Take your car off the jack stands and go get an alignment!
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