Tie rod ends and hammers


Hi folks, long time listener, first time caller.

I’ve got a 1991 Buick LeSabre that will driving around with new struts and shocks pretty soon, IF I can get the tie rod to separate from the steering knuckle first. I bought this car almost 2 years ago, but I suspect that nobody had tried to do this since the car was new.

The shop manual says to use a 2-jaw puller. The Haynes manual says to use a 2-jaw puller, and for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t pound it out with a hammer.

So far, I’ve bent two different pullers from the local shop. They’re cheap pullers, but I don’t know where I can find better one yet. I’ve tried tapping the end of the puller while it’s pressing on the bolt too. Lots of penetrating oil too. No dice.

The question is, why CAN’T I pound it out? These parts take huge hits from potholes on the highways, surely a carefully directed hammer on a part that should eventually move won’t knock the alignment out?



Last time I got frustrated, and used the old BFH, I ruined the threads, and wound up having to replace the tie-rod end as well.


Hitting it with a hammer won’t work any better than the puller because the tierod end is tapered and seats quite well in the knuckle. If you can’t get a jaw-style puller to work (turn that sucker as hard as you can, use a cheater if you have to) and you are replacing the tie rod ends, just use a pickle fork and beat the daylights out of them.

If you DO feel you need to hit them with a hammer, thread on the castle nut so that the top sticks up about a millimeter above the threads. Proceed to hit with hammer.

You may have to apply a little heat to the knuckle.


You have a 17 year old vehicle that needs struts and shocks and there’s a good chance you need new tie rod ends.
The easiest way to separate them is with a pickle fork, which is available as a free loaner tool from some auto parts houses. This will of course destroy the dust boot on the end.
A new replacement end will have a new boot and if you reuse the tie rod end, then new boots are available from most parts houses.

If you continue to use the puller, apply some pressure on the threaded stud/nut, with the nut loosened half a dozen turns or so.
Try briskly whacking the area of the steering knuckle where the stud passes through it a number of times and see if that works.

My personal preference is the pickle fork - it’s speedy. It can also be used in conjunction with a puller.


You see where the tie rod stud passes through the steering knuckle? Take a big dead blow hammer and smack the steering knuckle where the tie rod end passes through. Ater a couple of good blows, the tie rod end will just fall out.



I’ll have to try and get my hands on a better puller tomorrow. I tried a “real” puller - cast arms, each connected to the screw by metal plates. Unfortunately, the thing was so cheap that no matter how hard I tried to put the puller on straight, it would just bend over as the force got applied, bending the plates.


When a mechanic last looked at the front end in June, he said that things were still pretty tight. I can see that the boots are still in good shape. Still, it’s the pickle fork is a good fall back, hopefully I can pick up new parts tomorrow (it’s Thanksgiving up here).


Being tight is only requirement of a tie rod end. They can be tight and still be bad.

Sometimes, once the tie rod end is separated from the knuckle, one can move the ball stud around by hand and detect a “catch” in it. This means the ball socket and/or stud is abnormally worn. The stud should move smoothly, but firmly, in all directions if it’s good.
A defective one like this can cause a steering wheel catch, wandering, and in some cases it may even pop like a firecracker depending on the position and forces applied to it.


To make it clear WHERE and HOW to hit it with a hammer: just TAP on the end of the loosened nut. This could be with the puller, or fork-shaped tool, applying tension. Hit sound blows with the big hammer on the SIDE of the part the stud passes through (NOT the end of the stud). You could hold another big hammer, or block of metal, to the other side to help concentrate the vibration in the part. This vibration should help loosen the stud. /// The question of, “Why not use a hammer?” Maybe it’s a caution by well meaning engineers who never had to remove a really tight tapered stud from a joint. Sometimes, I’m sure the stud is, EFFECIVELY (not actually), welded to the part. The vibration, produced by striking with a big hammer, helps to break that bond.


Thanks to everybody for your help. In then end, a day’s worth of penetrating oil and a new quality 3-jaw puller did the trick. In fact, the entire strut operation has been going fine up until now, when it became apparent that the spring compressor I rented doesn’t fit… Life is great.


Is the correct answer.

Striking the joint on the side of the eye, distorts the eye (temporarily and fractionally) enough to pop the taper.

I usually use a 4lb short handle mallet, works every time.