BMW E46 Tie Rod Replacement – 4 hours
A BMW E46 tie rod repair is usually necessary when replacing torn or worn out steering rack boots. A tie rod repair and boot replacement will help fix alignment issues, front end shake and unevenly worn tires.
Let’s face it…your BMWs suspension takes a beating. And unless you are a complete tea toddling Sunday driver, you most likely have put a lot of stress on your frame and suspension components over the years, especially if your vehicle is pushing 100,00 plus miles.
One of the most frequent repairs to the front suspension on a BMW e46 3 series is replacing torn steering rack boots. Steering rack boots must be replaced when torn to prevent dirt and grime from getting into the steering rack and causing steering failure. Since the steering boots can only be replaced by removing the vehicles tie rods, it only makes sense to perform a BMW e46 tie rod repair while you are at it. The tie rods for a BMW e46 are inexpensive, and can return that factory fresh tight rattle free steering that BMW is known for.
Worn tie rods produce a number of issues including front end shake and rattle, poor front end alignment (car pulling to one side or the other), and uneven or prematurely worn tires.
Tools and Supplies
18mm socket and wrench
12″ adjustable wrench
- Jack and support your vehicle using the “four corner” wheel stand method. Please click here to learn how to properly jack and support your vehicle for this repair.
- Use an 18mm socket and wrench to remove the outer tie rod ball joint nut.
- Use a ball joint separator and a 4lb sledge hammer to remove the tie rod ball joint from the steering arm. This can prove to be a tedious process…especially if the ball joint is stuck. If ball joint is stuck and can’t be removed from steering arm, try spraying liberally with PB Blaster (or equivalent) and let soak in thoroughly. Hammer the sides of the ball joint and the top of the outer tie rod to try and pop it out of the steering arm. It may take a lot of patience and time, but eventually the ball joint will release and pop out.
- Using a utility knife, cut away the old steering rack boot exposing the end of the inner tie rod.
- Use a 12″ adjustable wrench to remove the inner tie rod shaft from the steering rack.
- Using a pair of cutting pliers, remove rest of the old steering boot attached to the steering rack.
- Lay the old tie rod on a bench. You will need to take a measurement from the centerline of the ball joint to the edge of the steering boot (point A as shown below). Write down this measurement…you will need to use the same measurement when setting up the new tie rod. The reason why we do this is to match the existing front end alignment of your vehicle…if the measurement is off, your car may pull to the right or left after completing the repair.
- Use a clean rag and thoroughly clean out the inside of the steering rack.
- Mount the new interior tie rod to the steering rack and tighten with adjustable wrench. Do not install the locking nut or locking ring yet.
- Use a good quality grease on the inner tie rod ball joint.
- Prepare the steering boot for installation by inserting the plastic reducer into the end of the boot.
- The rubber boot comes with “push lock” or “ear type” hose clamps that require a special tool to install them. We have found these to be extremely difficult to install on the steering boots…they tend to slip off the boot when tightening. Here at the BMW Repair Guide, we use standard #28 and #40 steel hose clamps (available at any home improvement store) in place of the ear type clamps. They are wider and easier to install than ear type clamps. If you decide you want to use the “factory look” ear type clamps, you will need a special tool to install them.
- Slide the steering boot onto the inner tie rod as shown below. Carefully tighten the hose clamps until they are secure. ***The boot will have a tendency to slide out of the clamp when tightening. Use your other hand to hold clamp in place when turning the hose clamp screws. This will prevent the clamps from sliding off the boot.
- Install locking nut, locking ring, and outer tie rod to inner tie rod. Use a measuring tape to EXACTLY match the dimensions of the old tie rod taken in step 6.
- Insert outer tie rod ball joint back into the steering arm and screw on locking nut hand tight. Use a torque wrench to torque nut to 65 Nm (48 ft-lb).
- Firmly tighten locking nut against locking ring.
Take car for a test ride and check to see if front end is pulling to either side. If so, you will need to have the front end aligned by a qualified mechanic. Usually if you get your measurements correct in steps 6 and 13, you wont need to spend money on the alignment.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. And congratulations for Doing It Yourself!
The Repair Difficulty Level displays graphically how challenging the repair is, from easy to advanced. Easy repairs usually require very few tools, have short repair times and do not require jacking and supporting the vehicle. As the difficulty level rises, expect the repair to demand more time, specialized tools, and better understanding of mechanics to complete the job.