Tie Rods

I am planning on replacing both front outer tie rods on my very rusty 1989 Honda Accord SE-i. I am a quick-lube employee with some experience doing a lot of basic maintenance services (oil changes, coolant changes, trans fluid changes, etc.) but have no experience with suspension work.

I’ve watched a few youtube videos, read my haynes manual, and my factory shop manual on this subject and it doesn’t look to difficult, but I know that that really doesn’t mean it will actually be easy.

What special tools am I gonna need and what do you guys think the odds are of me being able to remove these very rusty tie rods without having my car towed to a shop on a flat bed?

It’s not that difficult a job at all. The easiest method for separating the tie rod end from the steering knuckle is with the use of a pickle fork. You can rent one of these from many car parts house as part of their loaner tool program. Return the tool and they refund your money.
There are other methods for doing this but the fork is the easiest.

Before you unscrew the tie rod end from the tie rod carefully measure from a marked point on the inner tie rod to the center of the old tie rod end.
When installing the new tie rod end screw it on until the distance is the same.
This should keep the toe alignment very close anyway.
Hope that helps.

Sounds easy enough, I was told on another forum that I shouldn’t use the pickle fork on this car but didn’t explain why. Is there any reason I shouldn’t use it and instead opt for a different method? Could I end up damaging something by using one?

If you were doing other work that required good tie rod ends to be separated then I would not use a pickle for because the fork will ruin the rubber dust boots.
However, you’re replacing bad tie rod ends (I assume they’re bad) so separating them with a fork will hurt nothing.

Just curious. I’ve generally replaced far more inner tie rods rather than tie rod ends.
Are you sure the ends are bad or is it the inner tie rods?
What are the symptoms?

If I make hard turns I get a really loud clunk and sometimes a “boing” spring-like noise and on another forum of '86-‘89 era accords someone said they fixed this particular problem with new outer tie rods. I jacked up the front of my car and put my hands at the 9 and 3 o’ clock positions on the tire and there was a lot of play back and forth but not up and down at 12 and 6 o’clock which I read is a symptom of a bad tie rod. I also had a mechanic at the Honda dealer look at it and also told me that my drivers side outer tie rod was very loose and the passenger side was also loose but nowhere near as bad as the drivers side. So i’m hoping that I can replace just the outers and have the problem solved.

Getting badly rusted tie rod ends to unscrew from the tie rod itself can be almost impossible without a torch. Salt corrosion and fine threads become a one piece unit…Some designs are more susceptible to this problem than others…

I do live in MN so this car has seen lots of road salt over the past 207k miles (I do believe these are the original tie rod ends from the factory). What is your opinion on the effectiveness of PBBlaster?

Based on this it does sound like bad tie rod ends. If rust is a problem (not counting mild surface rust) you might try breaking things loose before separating the tie rod end from the steering knuckle.

Loosen the lock nut on the tie rod slightly and spray a little PB Blaster in there or a few drops of mineral spirits, kerosene, or even ATF.
Allow it to soak for an hour or so and try to rotate the inner tie rod with a pipe wrench to make sure the threads will move in the tie rod end.

If the inner tie rod moves then you’re almost home free.

ok, final question then. Which direction should I rotate the inner tie-ride? I haven’t looked at the threads closely and it’s dark out right now but I don’t want to be accidentally tightening things when I think I should be loosening.

A small, (12") quality pipe wrench with sharp teeth can be VERY helpful with this job. Two of them are even more helpful.

With your car up on jack-stands, a worn tie-rod end will be very obvious…OK’s suggestion to break the threads loose BEFORE you pop the joint loose from the spindle is a good one. After you are done, a wheel alignment is almost mandatory as it’s very difficult to maintain the toe setting and steering wheel position by trying to count threads…Before you start, center the wheel and lock it in position. Then measure across the front tires edge to edge. Install the new joints so as to maintain that measurement…That will get you to the alignment shop…They are PROBABLY both standard right-hand threads. You will know when you loosen the locknuts…

Yeah, i’m planning on letting the dealership mechanic who inspected them for free do the alignment as a thanks for doing a free inspection. It’s a pretty rotted looking joint so it’s pretty obvious that bad. All i’m worried about is getting the sucker off, installing a new one should be a cake-walk after that.

If there is a problem with the pickle fork, it might be… nope, you probably can’t hammer with it pointed at the steering rack, so go ahead. Angle it as far away from a direct line to the rack and don’t worry.