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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 07-18-2010, 06:38 PM   #1
missamo80
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E46 Tie Rod Replacement DIY

This weekend I installed a complete front suspension overhaul kit from bimmerworld. Except for getting the ball joints apart with the pickle fork it was pretty straightforward thanks to the various DIYs I found on this forum. One DIY that seemed to be missing, however, was how to replace the tie rods. It isnít a terribly difficult procedure and the Bentley manual has reasonably good steps but I figured while I was doing it why not whip up a DIY with photos. All the photos shown here are for the driverís side, but itís the exact same process for the passenger side. Thanks to my wife for taking the photos!

For those that enjoy seeing a diagram of parts RealOEM is your friend.

Tools required
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Pipe wrench
  • 19mm socket wrench
  • 13mm wrench
  • 19mm wrench
  • 22mm wrench
  • Allen key
  • Hacksaw
  • Liquid Wrench
  • Normal zip tie
  • Long (14Ē) zip tie

Step 1: Loosen the wheel bolts on your front wheels prior to going up on jack stands. Youíll need to get the wheels off shortly.

Step 2: Get your car up on jack stands.

Step 3: Take your front wheels off (if you canít figure out how to do this I suggest giving up on this DIY at this pointÖ)

Step 4: Turn your steering wheel all the way in the direction of the side you are working on. This makes it easier to get at the outer tie rod nut.

Step 5: Spray the nut holding the outer tie rod onto the wheel with Liquid Wrench. I found it made things easier when the tie rod hadnít been touched in 9 years and 150,000 miles.

Step 6: Pop apart the bands holding the protective boot onto the inner tie rod. I used a flat head screwdriver, wormed it in there, and pried it off. Thereís a small one near the outer tie rod (as seen in the photo) and a larger one attached to the steering rack. Be careful when using the screwdriver if you are planning on reusing the boots. You donít want to accidentally tear them, especially when the suckers are $52 each!



Step 7: Using the 19mm socket wrench remove the nut attaching the outer tie rod to the wheel.



Step 8: Using a pickle fork and a BFH (I used a 6lb sledge) bash away until the damn thing pops apart. Or, if youíre fancy, use a ball joint separator. If you are using a pickle fork take care not to hit any of the ABS sensors or brake lines.



Step 9: Turn the steering wheel until both wheels are roughly facing forward. This makes it easier to push the boot out of the way to get at the inner tie rod end.

Step 10: Using a pipe wrench unscrew the inner tie rod from the steering rack. Youíll likely need to push the protective boot out of the way a bit. There are lots of threads on the forum that talk about using a 1 5/16Ē crowfoot wrench to do this, but my local Sears didnít have one and claimed that they could barely special order one. I have a perfectly good plumberís pipe wrench and it unscrewed that sucker with ease.



Step 11: Measure the length of your old tie rod. This will help you get your new one to roughly the same length so your trip to the alignment shop after youíre done isnít completely terrifying. You definitely want to do this before step 12Ö



Step 12: If you are planning on re-using your old boot save yourself a ton of grief and just hacksaw it apart so you can get the boot off. I tried using Liquid Wrench and a couple of plumberís wrenches to get my old one apart without sawing and it was impossible.



Step 13: There is no step 13. That would be unlucky.

Step 14: Unscrew the new tie rod assembly and slip boot and nut onto the inner tie rod.



Step 15: Take the inner tie rod and screw it in where the old one was. I used the pipe wrench to tighten it down as hard as I could since I had no crowsfoot to put on my torque wrench. If you do have one torque spec is 100 + 10 Nm (74 + 7 ft-lb). (In theory you can do this with the outer tie rod attached but I found it was a pain as it kept whacking things as I screwed the inner tie rod on.)



Step 16: Screw the outer tie rod onto the inner tie rod until the total length is around what you measured on your old tie rod combo. In my case it was about 17 ľĒ. Don't forget to put the locking ring on the inner tie rod first! Tighten the locking nut down using your 22mm wrench. I didnít try and get mine torqued to spec as itís just going to get adjusted by the alignment shop anyway. Torque spec for the tie rod end lock nut is 45 Nm (33 ft-lb).

Step 17: Attach the outer tie rod end to the wheel. Youíll need an allen key to insert into the top of the bolt to keep it from spinning as you tighten the nut down with a 19mm wrench. Torque spec is 65 Nm (45 ft-lb), but as with most nuts on the car I couldnít fit my torque wrench in there.



Step 18: Zip tie the boot back in place. Use the 14Ē zip tie where it attaches to the steering rack. The smaller one is used to attach the boot just before where you use the 13mm wrench to adjust the toe. You can use hose clamps here too, but there are plenty of threads here that say just use zip ties. I used black, but if you want to get creative you could use a different colour.



Step 19: Put your wheel back on and see how dumb it looks. In my case I accidentally had the length of my tie rod on the passenger side at 18 1/4" It looked obviously bad. If this happens to you get under the car and loosen the lock nut with the 22mm wrench. Then use the 13mm wrench to adjust how far the outer tie rod is screwed in/out. Then tighten the lock nut again with the 22m wrench.

Step 20: Take your car off the jack stands and go get an alignment!
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Old 07-18-2010, 06:46 PM   #2
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Awesome writeup!

I did the same thing with cutting the old tie rod in half to reuse the boots. The only way to get that to budge is to air hammer and/or torch, which most people don't have. Cutting it is the best and easiest way.

Just as you suggested, alignment is a must and should be done right away.
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 07-18-2010, 10:28 PM   #3
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yeah man, thanks for the write up, the inner nut was the thing i had a question about, Good picks, and i think ill be using your pipe wrench idea, i like it.
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Old 07-18-2010, 10:42 PM   #4
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Great job with the write up and pics. Should have went with pink zip ties.
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Old 07-19-2010, 07:33 AM   #5
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I used big adjustable wrench for inner tierod nut. Also make sure it's on tight. After I did my tie rods, I developed clunking when going over the bumps. It was the big nut that got loose.
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so 2004 bmw's dont come with a diff?
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Old 07-20-2010, 09:27 PM   #6
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Awesome, and this came right in time as I'm planning on doing mine is a couple of weeks...!
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by missamo80 View Post
Step 3: Take your front wheels off (if you canít figure out how to do this I suggest giving up on this DIY at this pointÖ)

Step 13: There is no step 13. That would be unlucky.
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:10 AM   #8
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Tagged as I am about to do this. Thanks for the awesome DIY!
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Old 09-14-2010, 03:22 AM   #9
Rick C
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Excellent post, I used this howto at the weekend and it was very easy to do. I also used the monkey wrench, but just undid the ball joint and drenched it in WD40 and left for 15 mins then used a lump hammer to knock the joint out it came out very easy. I also used an angle grinder to get the boot off (any excuse to use it lol).
Thanks missamo80 !

;-)
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Old 09-27-2010, 10:40 AM   #10
dshaley77
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It may be a dumb ?...but I was wondering is it required to replace the inner tie rod? (and why)
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Old 10-01-2010, 07:15 PM   #11
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BUMP

Just got back from the dealer. They wrote on my invoice LEFT OUTER TIE ROD END LOOSE. So I too would like to know, how to see if the inner is fine. I would assume they would say something.
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Old 10-02-2010, 04:10 PM   #12
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I am going to be doing this soon along with my control arms. i'm glad found the info that i was looking for. thanks a lot for the great writeup
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Old 10-19-2010, 11:02 PM   #13
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Wont putting that much torque on the rack (the actual rack with teeth not the housing) to loosen or tighten the inner rods cause damage to it?? Any long term effects? I would think tightening it would cause the rack to twist into the pinion damaging teeth. Any input? I am about to do this project myself.
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Old 10-19-2010, 11:12 PM   #14
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I'm not sure I understand the concern. I didn't apply any more torque with the pipe wrench than you would need to apply with a crowfoot wrench. That's how much muscle it takes to unscrew and then re-attach the sucker.

Neil
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Old 10-20-2010, 08:22 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by missamo80 View Post
I'm not sure I understand the concern. I didn't apply any more torque with the pipe wrench than you would need to apply with a crowfoot wrench. That's how much muscle it takes to unscrew and then re-attach the sucker.

Neil
My concern is twisting the rack into the pinion and damaging teeth. Any sort of twisting can damage the rack gear and then 5000 miles later you have to replace the rack assebly. I want to know if there are any long term effects doing it your way.
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Old 10-20-2010, 10:27 PM   #16
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I followed what was outlined in my Bentley manual and all of the comments I found on various forums. The threads I found on forums all described taking it apart using a crowfoot wrench. I didn't have one, so I used a pipe wrench. I've noticed no ill effects from the work.

Neil
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Old 10-20-2010, 10:38 PM   #17
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My concern is twisting the rack into the pinion and damaging teeth. Any sort of twisting can damage the rack gear and then 5000 miles later you have to replace the rack assebly. I want to know if there are any long term effects doing it your way.
Using a wrench to remove the inner tie rod is not going to damage the rack. Just think about the forces that the rack has to endure on a daily basis just driving the car down the road. Imagine the force generated when you hit a bump or pothole at 20-30 MPH/KPH.

If the rack were that delicate, you would be replacing it at every oil change.
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Old 10-20-2010, 11:06 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by loginfailed View Post
Using a wrench to remove the inner tie rod is not going to damage the rack. Just think about the forces that the rack has to endure on a daily basis just driving the car down the road. Imagine the force generated when you hit a bump or pothole at 20-30 MPH/KPH.

If the rack were that delicate, you would be replacing it at every oil change.
You have a point but the rack sees loads in tension and compression, not torsion while street driving. I have a friend who works for TRW and they have destroyed several racks by tightening in the inner tie rods without holding the rack from turning. I just want to know if anyone has any long term effects from using the method by the OP.
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Old 10-21-2010, 05:36 AM   #19
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You are not going to damage the rack by replacing the inner tie rod. Period. You unscrew the old one, then screw on a new one. You are over thinking it.
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:08 PM   #20
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Perhaps I'm missing something. As 'dshaley' asked, why replace the whole tie rod? Usually it's just the tie rod ends that wear. Much simpler job to just replace the tie rod end as well...
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