My sister has a 2002 chevy malibu that she was told the tie rods need to be replaced.Is this something i should attempt myself.? I have done almost all my own repairs on my own cars, including replacing a complete engine and transmission, but have never done this type of repair. is this better left to the professionals?
Yes and the alignment too.
It isn’t rocket science but just look at the procedure in a repair manual first, at the library if you don’t have one. Need a tie rod puller, pipe wrench maybe and a crescent wrench and the normal sockets, and a grease gun. Course you’ve got to get the rusted cotter pin out of the nut, unscrew it, use the puller to get it out of the socket, unscrew the old one, and screw the new one in an equal number of turns. Tighten the lock nut, tighten really good the nut on the socket, grease it up, put the cotter key in and take it down for alignment. If you’re talking the outer ones anyway. If inner, forget it.
I agree with @Bing, easy enough to do. Use lots of your favorite penetrating oil, let it sit overnight to soak in before you start. You can borrow, for free, tools to break the taper loose at various auto shop or buy a cheapie at Harbor Freight. Before you start, note the steering wheel position and whether the car tracks straight when driving. As @Bing said, count the turns when removing. You may also make a paint mark on the steering rod and measure to the grease fitting on each side. Write it down and compare the same measurement when finished. Once finished if the car tracks straight and the steering wheel is in the same position, you can get the alignment when you have time and money.
I like to use a small pitman arm puller for separating the tie rod ball joint from the steering knuckle. Its an easy job, but you will need to get the front end aligned afterwards. Only the toe in is actually affected. Here are a couple tips, find a reference point on the inner tie rod and measure from it to the center of the ball joint. When you install the new ball joint, adjust it to this length.
Some people count the number of full turns it takes to remove the old ball joint and turn the new one in that exact amount. That may not work as the new ball joint may have a different total length and even one turn off is a lot to the alignment.
If you want to adjust the toe your self, heres a way to do it, but you can still end up with the correct toe, but the steering wheel may not be centered.
Before you start this job, chock the wheels and set the parking brake. Have someone you trust start the car and move the steering wheels back and forth about an 1/8th turn each way while you lay on the ground and watch the tie rod ends. If they are in fact needing replacement, you will see movement between the top half and bottom half of the ball joint.
Or you can jack up the car with both wheels off the ground (or one at a time if you want. wiggle the tires back and forth to see if the ball joint on the end of the tie rod moves between the bottom and top halves. If you are putting a lot of force on them and they don’t move, then they are good. I would then ask the mechanic why he thinks they are bad. If he gives you an explanation, I’d like to hear what it is.
I’m a DIY’er and I’ve popped tie rod joints without much problem. Never had to replace a tie rod end though, so can’t comment on that part. You need the proper tools of course, but they aren’t very expensive. As suggested above, follow the procedure in the factory service manual or equivalent instructions, as every car is different as to what order to do things in, which tools to use, etc. There is one caution, the tie rods tend to be under some significant flex forces and when you unpop them it relieves this force and they can rebound into something else and damage it, including your arm. So I always use a rope or those extra thick rubber bungee cords and tie them up to something solid before unpopping them so they don’t flail around.
Inner tie rods? No fun.
I just did an inner tie rod on my Escort yesterday. It’s really not that big a deal, though you do need an inner tie rod tool AND access ease will certainly vary. Look around online and you’d probably see if there’s anything weird about it on the Malibu. But generally, you just pull the outer end, use the tool, unthread it, thread on the new one, reinstall the outer. If you did an engine/transmission you should be able to handle this.
My inner end tool came from the NAPA where I bought the part. I put up $90 for it and I’ll get that back as soon as I return the tool.
I will not have time or $$ to get it aligned for about 2 weeks. So I went a little crazy with measuring stuff and shadetree methods for checking toe. I measured from rack mounts along tie rod with the wheel straight, used a pair of 4x4s in front and rear of tires to make measurements before starting, counted threads, used the jam nut position etc… Used all of that again and added the “string” method when I was done. On test drive, the car drives great and straight as an arrow. I’m sure it’s not laser perfect, but I’m quite confident that I can put a few hundred miles on it before having someone put it on a rack.
Anyway, I don’t think an inner tie rod is a big deal though ease of access and curve balls can certainly vary.
IMHO if you’ve done an engine & tranny swap you’re definitely capable of changing a tie rod. Read through the procedure, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need, and go for it. Just be sure to get it properly aligned after.
Depending upon several factors, the car may need both tie rods and tie rod ends. Those are separate parts and on some parts sites are given the same nomenclature in spite of the difference.
You sound capable of doing this and if you do change the tie rods (the shaft inside the boot on each side of the steering rack) be sure to remove any roll pin, Allen screw, or other means of attachment before unscrewing the tie rods. Of course, be certain that any pin or screw is installed after the new one is in place or the new tie rod may come unscrewed from the steering rack.
If the tie rod ends are tight in the steering knuckle that does not necessarily mean they’re good. Once separated from the knuckle rotate the ball studs by hand. They should rotate firmly and smoothly. If you feel any hitches in it then those are worn also and need replacement.
Easy to check inner tie rod. Pop off outer tierod. Does inner tierod stay horizontal on its own? If it droops down, it’s shot.
Had my favorite crew chief put one on my Dak a few weeks ago(this vehicle eats parts a lot faster then my Nissans ever did,)he was very reasonable and did 4 wheel alignment(caster off a tiny amount on left front,yet) drives great thats the main reason I had Him do it He has an alignment rack,otherwise this is actually a pretty straight forward easy job and dont be suprised when a tie rod end goes bad,some vehicles never seem to need them while others go through them pretty fast,stress has a lot to do with it and most modern componets arent designed to be lubed,the Guy at the inspection station showed me the slop in that one and I was preparing to go on a 250-300 mile roundtrip on interstate,so I wasnt about to drive it like that(besides the weather was bad and I didnt have time to do it)-Kevin