This article gives detailed instructions on replacing the tie rods and steering boots in a BMW E63/E64 vehicle. Even though we used a 2005 645ci to perform this repair, this article can be applied to any 2004-2010 6 series vehicle with minor modifications to the repair steps.
This BMW E64 tie rod replacement article can also be used as a reference for repairing the torn or damaged steering boots on your 6 series car.
The BMW E63/E64 6 series was produced from 2004-2010 and still remains one of our favorite vehicles here at the BMW Repair Guide. Its iconic design and superb driving characteristics make it (in our humble opinion) one of the greatest models every produced by BMW.
One issue that has always plagued our “slant nose” sixers is their low stance and lack of ground clearance under the front end of the vehicle. This lack of ground clearance can often make even the smallest road debris a destructive projectile, leaving battle scars to the bottom of our E63 hardtops and E64 convertibles.
One of the main casualties of road debris (and pot holes) are often the 6 series’ tie rods and steering boots. Augmented by age the steering boots become brittle, causing them to disintegrate under even the smallest impact. The BMW 6 series tie rods are also susceptible to wear an tear. Age and years of aggressive driving can cause the ball joints to deteriorate, creating “sloppy” steering, front end alignment issues and creaking sounds from the front end. Impact from debris and potholes can also destroy tie rod components – a potentially dangerous condition that can cause a loss of control of the vehicle if not fixed.
A BMW E64 tie rod replacement is a relatively easy repair for the intermediate mechanic. BMW made it easy to remove the tie rods on its 6 series vehicles with very few tools required. Please note that if you are just planning on replacing your damaged steering boots, you must still remove the tie rods. You cannot install new steering boots without disassembling the tie rods first. Please also note that you may need a front end alignment at the conclusion of this repair.
If you are replacing the tie rods on a E63/E64 6 series with Active Steering, you will have to complete an active steering adjustment with a BMW diagnostic scanner at the conclusion of this repair. For more information, please see our article on active steering adjustment. If you need to purchase a BMW diagnostic scanner to adjust your active steering, please click here.
1. Tie rods (required) – When replacing your tie rods, it is good practice to replace both the inner and the outer tie rod together. Many mechanics will try and save money (and time) by just replacing the outer ball joint portion of the tie rod when changing out a damaged boot, forgetting that the inner ball joint is just as important.
2. Steering boot (required) – The steering boots fit over the inner tie rod and protect the ball joint connection to the steering rack.
Removing the two tie rods from the BMW 6 series is actually a simple procedure. The tie rods are easily accessible with a minimal amount of parts that need to be cleared out of the way
- Jack and support the front end of your vehicle using jack stands. For more information on jacking and supporting your BMW for repairs, please see our article BMW Jacking and Supporting for Repairs and Maintenance.
- Remove the two front wheels.
- Remove the front belly pan. It is simply held in place with phillips head screws.
- Identify the two tie rods that connect the front wheels to the steering rack.
- Turn the steering wheel so the wheel you are working on is pointing out. This will give you enough room to separate the tie rod from the steering knuckle.
- The outer ball joint lock nuts are usually very heavily corroded. Spray them liberally with Blaster PB and let them soak for about 5 minutes before removing them.
- Using a 21mm socket and a long socket wrench (or breaker bar), loosen the tie rod ball joint nut (or use an impact wrench and completely remove the nut).
- If you did not use an impact wrench in step 7 above, finish removing the lock nut with a T40 torx bit and a 21mm open end wrench.
- The tie rod ball joint should easily pull free from the steering knuckle. If it doesn’t, give it a couple of strikes with a ball peen hammer until it pops out.
- If the steering boot is still intact on the tie rod, use a utility knife to cut it off. You can now access the inner tie rod ball joint.
- Use a large adjustable wrench (or inner tie rod tool) to loosen the inner tie rod ball joint. Unscrew the ball joint from the steering rack and remove the tie rod from the vehicle.
- Repeat on the other side of the vehicle.
The reason why many mechanics need to get the front end aligned on their 6 series vehicles after installing new tie rods is because they do not take the time to properly measure and set up the replacements. The closer you can match the length of the new tie rods to the old ones, the less chance you will need a front end alignment when completing this repair.
- If they are not already, separate the new inner and outer tie rod by loosening their hex adjustment nut and unscrewing them apart. Remove the clamp ring and the hex nut from the inner tie rod and set aside.
- Screw the inner and the outer tie rod back together without the clamp ring and hex nut. The reason why we are doing this is so we can adjust the new tie rod to match the length of the old tie rod – the closer you can match the length of the new tie rod to the old one, the less chance you will need to realign the front end.
- Lay the old and new tie rods side by side on a bench. Adjust the new tie rod until it is as close as possible to the length of the old one. Pay careful attention to lining up the edges of the inner ball joint and the center lines of the outer ball joints (see images below). Take your time…a few minutes of careful adjustment can get you very close.
- Once you are satisfied they are the same length, use a Sharpie permanent marker to label the exact line where the inner and outer tie rods meet. Make your line thick and heavy so it doesn’t rub off during installation.
- Repeat the above steps on the second tie rod.
Installation is basically the reverse of disassembly accept for one deviation; the inner and outer tie rod must be installed separately so the new steering boot can be properly fitted. Installing the tie rod in one piece will not allow the steering boot to be slid into position on the steering rack.
- Separate the inner and outer tie rod again.
- Add a small amount of waterproof grease to the threads of the inner tie rod ball joint and screw it into the steering rack until it is hand tight.
- Using an inner tie rod tool (please see our parts list if you need to purchase one), torque the inner tie rod ball joint to 100 Nm (81 ft-lb).
- Slide on the new steering boot and the inner hose clamp. If you are using the stock “single ear” hose clamp supplied with the boot, use a pair of hose clamp pliers to pinch it tight.
- Install the outer hose clamp.
- Install the hex nut and the clamp ring onto the inner tie rod.
- Screw the outer tie rod onto the inner tie rod until it lines up with the mark you made in Section 2 above.
- Install the outer tie rod ball joint into the steering knuckle and torque to 80 Nm (59 ft-lb).
- Hand tighten the hex nut and the clamp ring then torque to 51 Nm (38 ft-lb).
- Repeat the above steps on the other wheel.
- Reassemble the car. Torque the wheel lug nuts to 122 Nm (90 ft-lb).