Steering Renovation

(Just a few topics) 

(The drawing above is from our good friends at 

Outer Tie Rod Ball Joint Boot

These boots (part #18 above) are typically torn after about 10 years/150k miles. With a torn boot over time the bearing grease inside will become dirty, so the ball joint may wear sooner, and steering may become sloppy. Steps for replacing a boot follow.

  1. Loosen the front wheel lugnuts half a turn or so. Block the back wheels. Put the front of the car on jackstands. Remove the front wheels.
  2. Use needle nose pliers and/or a thin screwdriver to pry and remove cotter pin (part #29 above) below the castle nut (part #25), which is below the taper, which is below the ball joint itself.
  3. Drip some PB Blaster onto the threads beneath the ball joint. Remove the castle nut. Consider chasing the threads of the ball joint down with a 10 x 1.25 mm die and cutting oil available at True Value, Sears, and similar. These threads have a tendency to strip.
  4. Use a ball joint separator to separate the ball joint taper end from the steering knuckle. For a description of a ball joint separator, see
  5. Use a precision screwdriver and pry off the circlip (part #19) holding the boot in place. If you do not bend it too much, you can re-use it.
  6. Slide the boot down and off. Wipe off as much of the old grease from the ball joint as you can with a rag and Q-tips. Re-pack the ball joint with Mobil 1 Synthetic Grease. This grease is for bearings, ball joints et cetera and was available for about $8 at Autozone in 2009. Specifically, the shop manual states: "Pack the lower area [of the ball pin] with fresh grease. Caution: Keep grease off the boot installation section and the tapered section of the ball pin." See the picture of the shop manual page below. If you use too much grease, it will leak out and make a bit of a mess, as well as promoting poor adhesion at the taper joint. Put the new boot on. Wipe off the taper surfaces, both male and female ends, with a clean rag. Use brake cleaner for a final cleaning of the taper mating surfaces. If you do not clean them with brake cleaner, you will have trouble installing the castle nut. Re-assemble the ball joint to the steering knuckle. Screw the castle nut in place. Torque close to the shop manual spec then inspect the cotter pin holes and see if you want to tighten the nut a bit more so the holes line up for easy insertion of the cotter pin. I think it is better to go a tiny bit less rather than more. As noted above, these threads strip easily, and I think one reason is from overtorquing. Install the cotter pin. Install the front wheels. Hand tighten the lugnuts. Lower from jackstands. Torque the lugnuts to spec.


Inner Tie Rod Dust Boot

These dust boots (part #s 14 and 15 above) commonly tear at the outboard end. Tears may occur in the bellows part of the boot too. Steps for replacing it follow.

  1. One week in advance, get into the space where the locknut (part #28) is, and drip the penetrating catalyst "PB Blaster" (available at Wal-mart, Autozone, Pep Boys and similar) onto both sides of the lock nut. Repeat a few days later. Driving around after applying the PB Blaster should help it to work through the rust etc. The lock nut is very hard to free otherwise. One sees a lot of swearing about it at Without the PB Blaster I had no luck on the tie rod locknuts I tried at a wrecking yard and on my 1993 Civic DX. It is possible a single application of PB Blaster and waiting 20 minutes will work, too.
  2. Repeat steps above for "outer tie rod ball joint boots" up to the point after the outer tie rod ball joint is separated.
  3. Use a machinist's ruler to measure the distance of the inboard end of the outer tie rod to the ridge just inboard of where the "rack set end's" threads stop; record. See the rack set end above; it is part #1 above on the driver's side and similar on the passenger side. Count the number of exposed threads; record. Draw lines with white-out and/or a sharpie to show the alignment of the outer tie rod, lock nut and "rack set end" relative to each other. This will help preclude needing a toe alignment after you are done. It is preferable to get an alignment after this job is done, though.
  4. Put a 7/8-inch or 22 mm open end wrench on the lock nut. Brace it against the lower control arm. Put a 19 mm or adjustable wrench on the outer tie rod's (part #17's) square portion, about two inches from the outer tie rod's inboard end. Turn the outer tie rod counter clockwise (as you sit at the wheel well). You may have to maneuver a bit to get the locknut's wrench secure and at a good angle. A short pipe extension on the 19 mm (or adjustable wrench) end may help.
  5. Unscrew the outer tie rod, counting the number of revolutions needed. Record the number of revolutions. Again, the point is to maintain the original alignment. You will not be dead on afterwards, but you will be closer. Drip some PB Blaster onto the rack set end's threads. Remove the lock nut as well, also counting revolutions.
  6. Use a small and/or medium sized screwdriver to remove the clip at the outboard end of the inner tie rod dust boot.
  7. Disconnect the air transfer tube (part #2 above). Put some liquid soap on the fastener area where the tube connects to the dust boot. Use pliers to pinch the fastener and slide the fastener up. Carefully pull the tube off its nipple.
  8. Squeeze into the space where the inner tie rod dust boot's bellows band (part #s 9 and 10) is with a pair of wire cutting pliers. Get the pliers under the band and cut it off. It should cut pretty easily with the wire cutters; twist a bit and snip. Pull the dust boot outboard over the rack set end. Rotating it over the thread portion may help.
  9. Clean the rack set end ball joint with a rag and Q-tips. Pack with Mobil 1 Synthetic Grease (see above).
  10. Installation is reverse of removal, except I am currently using 75-pound cable ties (a.k.a. "zip ties") to replace both the clip and band on the dust boots' outboard and inboard ends. I did some calculations and think these will be fine. Make sure you buy ones that are easily long enough to go around the inboard ends. It is hard to maneuver in this space. Make it easy on yourself and get longer rather than shorter cable ties.

Outer Tie Rod Replacement  

The outer tie rod taper joint or ball joint can fail, or the threads may strip. For replacement, see "Inner Tie Rod Dust Boot" steps 1-5 above. New outer tie rods may be bought from or Napa for around $30 each. Also, wreckers may have decent used ones.

Resources for Further Assistance (Great photos of the dust boots in ripped up condition)