Back in March I took our car into the mechanic to have a flat tire patched. He noticed that the passenger side outer tie rod was nearing end of life and recommended that I replace it. Of course, he was happy to do the work for me for a steep up-charge on parts and $100/hr labor. I politely declined and went home to order the parts.
I have replaced tie rods before on a different car, see here for that adventure. This time around, I wasn’t going to mess with the inner tie rods. I figured it was about an hour job. Sadly, I was woefully incorrect.
After getting the wheel off, I could see that the passenger side outer tie rod was in poor shape. The protective rubber boot had torn on the other side and most of the grease had leaked out. The castle nut holding the tie rod to the wheel assembly just spun when I tried to loosen it. It was spinning because it is attached to a ball joint. Normally, mechanics will use a tool called a pickle fork to apply pressure to the joint so it won’t spin. I don’t have that tool, so I ended up just cutting through the metal.
The next challenge was loosening up the lock nut between the inner and outer tie rods. This lock nut is used as an adjustment when your car gets aligned. After pouring a river of penetrating oil on it and adding as much muscle as I could muster, I eventually conceded that only fire would get the job done.
It took about 3 minutes of blasting it with the propane torch before I was able to wrench the nut free from its rusty prison. With that done, the outer tie rod threaded off easy peasy.
I used the same procedure on the driver’s side. The mechanic said only the passenger needed replacing, but seeing as you have to get an alignment after this job, it makes sense to get them both done at the same time. While the driver’s side was in better shape, I could see some obvious signs of rubber fatigue in the boot. It was also on the way out.
The easy part is putting everything back together.
I bought both tie rod ends off Rock Auto for $50 with shipping and tax. Installation took about 4 hours, 3 for the passenger side, 45 minutes for the driver side, plus cleanup. The mechanic wanted $50 for just the passenger side and another $80 in labor. If I break down my cost to better match apples to apples, then mine would have been $25 in parts (one side) + 2 hours in labor (average per side). That would make my hourly rate $52.50/hr. Not too shabby.
Even with stubborn rusted on parts, it still was worth DIY’ing this project.