Camry rack & pinion dust boot

To solve a vibration problem (@ 70 mph) I replaced both front struts on my '04 Camry. Vibration still here. I figure its the tires out of balance, but since I have never had the front end aligned I took it to a national chain this morning that sells lifetime warrantied alignments. As I’m leaving the mechanic tells me I need to have the rack & pinion bushings checked because they’re worn and a hard right turn could easliy thow off the alignment. Since the vibration is still there (which is what I expected), I proceed to my tire shop. While on the rack, I tell the mechanic what I was told about the bushings. Its plain to see that the dust boot on the passenger side has ripped because the alignment was adjusted without removing the spring clip. The boot was fine yesterday when I was working on the car. I also notice the rubber seal on the tie rod ball joint is leaking. I didn’t notice that yesterday, but is a small leak and I could of missed it. Would there be any reason for the mechanic to remove the ball joint while doing an alignment? I can’t think of any, but I’m basically a shade tree mechanic. The tire change resolved the vibration issue,

It has been the experience of my friends ( I personally have never bought a lifetime alignment ) that these lifetime alignments are just to get the car back in the door for repairs that are unneeded or else caused by the alignment shop. I try to stay away from national chains except for tires.

I have to agree with @oldtimer11

I only go to those places to get tires.

On my previous car, when it was time for tires (80K, wearing perfectly, no pulling, but the tires were dry-rotted because they were several years old), the tire shop INSISTED that I need an alignment.
I declined. What bothered me was the fact they didn’t even mention my clicking CV axle.

So they wanted an unnecessary upsell, but missed a really obvious defect, which I already knew about.

Last year I changed the rack and pinion steering gear on a friend’s 1997 Camry and when he took it to an alignment shop the same thing happened to him. The shop failed to remove the boot clamps and twisted the boots all to heck, ruining both sides. He took it back and they replaced the boots free of charge.

If you are considering replacing those rack bushings, get a second opinion. I doubt it’s really necessary.

I agree with @AlanY

I also have a hard time believing the rack bushings on a 9 year old car could be that bad

Why do you have to remove the boot clamps to do an alignment? I have never done that and I have never twisted a boot either. The boots have always slipped a little allowing the inner tie rod to turn without damaging the boot. I live in the south, maybe that is not true in other climates.

The boots on our 97 Accord did tear on their own over time. The only reason I replaced them was because I had the steering knuckles out to replace the disc rotors so it seemed like an opportune time to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother because by the time any damage gets done, the car will be ready for the recycle yard anyway.

Tie rod ball joint leaking. I’d be curious what it is leaking. Unless it is an aftermarket joint, there isn’t anything to leak from these joints anymore. They use an ultra-dense polyethylene as a lubricant, not grease.

I agree with db on the rack bushings too.

Well, I brought the car back in today. He was going to get the dust boot and replace it. Its Labor Day, so the local Toyota dealer is closed. He can’t find the boot by itself at local parts dealers (I checked, he’s right about that) and is now saying his mechanic didn’t damage the dust boot and if he can’t find just the boot, he’s not replacing the entire rack & pinion. The dust boot on the side with no wrench marks is fine, the damaged boot has marks all over the connecting rod. The boot has obviously been twisted and had no damage when I replaced the strut on Saturday. I asked how could the mechanic mention the bushings to me and not the damaged boot which was impossible for him not to see. I’ve only replaced two sets of inner tie rods in my life; a 1984 Corolla and a 1987(?) Taurus. In both cases (I also live in the south) the boots were practically glued to the shaft.

RockAuto Raybestos PN 4301131 $7.38 ea. They call it a bellows.

Thanks! The tie rod ball joint: nothing actually leaked out. There was a crack that maybe a dime could slide through. The lips of the crack looked to be moistened with something, could have just been exposed new rubber. I’m pretty sure the alignment didn’t cause that,


“a crack that maybe a dime could slide through.”

The tie rod end needs to be replaced

It will get contaminated, it will wear faster, and its lifespan will be reduced

The alignment mechanic should have noticed this, and sold you a new tie rod end . . . IMO

db, I have to disagree with you on this one. The boot splits but its usually at the outer rib. It folds over and the two halves are held together by the spring action of the rubber. You can separate the halves and slip a dime in there, but normally they are pressed together and still keeps the debris.

I keep cars for 15 to 20 years and generally after 5 years or so, all the ball joint boots are split like that and they still don’t wear out. The rack boots also usually are split by 10 years and I still don’t experience any harm from it.

CV joint boots, thats another story.


You’re free to disagree

But technically I’m correct . . . a split tie rod boot, or a ball joint boot, for that matter should be replaced.

And that means replacing the tie rod end, or the ball joint

FWIW . . . I’ve seen my fair share of worn out and failed ball joints that needed to be replaced BECAUSE the boot was torn . . . these joints didn’t have zerks, but that’s not the point here

We can agree to disagree

Well, I’m bringing the car back Thursday to have the damaged boot replaced. They bought a replacement from the local Toyota dealer. I have to say, I’ve had good service from them in the past, but all I let them do is the alignment. Any other work I’ve been able to do myself. I didn’t mention what happened at the tire shop, but that was pretty funny. I had decided by process of elimination the vibration had to be the tires and since they were worn unevenly (more on the outside) and didn’t have much tread left I was going to replace them no matter what (which is what I told the cashier). Well, I guess word didn’t get to the mechanic. He calls me in the back to look at the belt slipping on the passenger side tire as he slowly spins it by hand (still mounted on the car). So I say yep, I see it, replace both tires…


Replacing the boot means they have to first remove the outer tie rod

The correct thing to do is check/set the alignment again after the new boot is installed

Please insist on this, at their cost

Don’t let them convince you that “counting turns” is sufficient


One more thing

Insist that they use the correct clamps

Some guys are lazy and use zip ties . . . this is not the correct procedure

Are you sure the outer tie rod has to be removed? Its been so long since I did tie rods I don;t recall. I asked the manager that very question Monday and was told they did not have toremove it…

If they don’t have to remove the outer tie rod end, then they are using a zip boot.


“zip boot” . . . I don’t like the sound of that

It sounds like they may be too lazy to do a proper repair, because they may not want to recheck the alignment

I’m not too impressed with that shop, based on what you have reported

Here’s what I would do

Insist that they put your car on the lift and show you the new boot

If it is a “zip boot” . . . insist that they replace it with the proper part and clamps

And insist that they recheck the alignment after the repair, because a proper repair means removing the tie rod end

Look at it like this . . . the shop screwed up your boot, which was fine before you brought it into the shop. Now they essentially don’t want to do right by you

If the bellows on the steering rack is spit and damp with fluid then the steering rack seals are on the way out.

As to zip boots, I don’t know what that is unless it means the same thing as a split boot. Never seen a steering rack split boot though. ???

Well, I feel like I’ve fallen through the looking glass. I brought the car in this morning for them to replace the boot. The manager shows me the Toyota boot, so I say Monday you told me you didn’t have to remove the outer tie rod to replace the boot, but since you’re not installing a zip boot you’ll have to. He says “I didn’t say that Monday”. I tell him the reason I’m asking is that I don’t want to come back and find the dust cover on the outer tie rod torn up because someone used a pickle fork to remove it. I then ask whether he’s going to reuse the clamps or use zip ties. He says (I’m not making this up) he thought the new boot would come with new clamps, but it didn’t and that the reason the old boot was damaged (and he reiterates that his mechanic didn’t do it) is that the oem clamp was too tight so the inner tie rod shaft couldn’t turn freely inside the boot (i.e., during normal driving, not during the adjustment). So I tell him if you don’t use the original clamps I want them back.