How to Replace a '99 Malibu's Inner Tie Rod

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Chevrolet introduced the Malibu in 1964. The 1999 Chevrolet Malibu was equipped with the option of a 2.4-liter, in-line four-cylinder engine, or a 3.1-liter V-6. The 1999 Malibu incorporates a system of tie rods to link the steering rack and pinion to the steering spindle behind each front wheel. The tie rods have ball joints located at the end of the rods, where they connect to their respective parts on the car. These joints can wear out over time and replacement then becomes necessary. The inner tie rod connects the steering rack and pinion to the outer adjustable tie rod end.

Things You'll Need

  • Tire iron
  • 2-ton or greater capacity floor jack
  • 2 jack stands, 2-ton or greater capacity
  • 1 can PB Blaster or similar penetrating aerosol
  • Open end wrench set
  • 3/8-inch drive ratchet and deep well socket set
  • Small pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Side cutters or tin snips
  • Drain pan
  • 3-inch or larger pipe wrench
  • New inner tie rod
  • 2 industrial strength zip ties, 9-inch to 11-inch length
  • 1/2-inch drive torque wrench and socket set
  • 1-square-foot piece of linoleum or cardboard
  • Park the Malibu on a level surface. Loosen, but do not remove, the front wheel lug nuts on the side you're working on, using a tire iron. Raise the front of the Malibu using the jack. Place jack stands beneath the front frame rails, on either side of the vehicle. Raising the entire front end will allow you greater access to the inner tie rod, rather than only lifting one side. Remove the lug nuts, then remove the wheel.

  • Locate the outer tie-rod spindle joint just behind the front rotor. Apply penetrating spray to the tie-rod adjustment nut, located just inward from the outer tie-rod end. Allow the penetrant to sit for 10 minutes.

  • Put an open end wrench on the flattened surface of the inner tie rod. Use another open end wrench to loosen the outer tie-rod adjuster nut so that it backs off of the outer tie rod by about one inch. Apply more penetrating spray as needed to help clean the inner tie rod threads, to allow easier rotation of the adjuster nut.

  • Mark the threads of the outer tie rod where they enter the inner tie rod, using a piece of white chalk or crayon. This mark will help you perform the preliminary alignment of the vehicle after you have installed the new tie rod. Make sure your mark is completely around the threads.

  • Remove the mounting nut on the spindle joint of the outer tie rod, using the ratchet and deep-well socket. Use a small pry bar to pull the tie-rod joint up and out of the front spindle. If you get resistance from the tie-rod end, lightly tap the steering spindle at the tie-rod joint with a hammer. Do this while simultaneously prying upward on the tie-rod end. The vibration of the hammer against the spindle knuckle added to your prying leverage should release the tie rod end completely.

  • Apply an open end wrench to the inner tie-rod end. Use another open end wrench to turn the outer tie-rod end until it's completely removed from the inner tie-rod end. If you are reusing the outer tie-rod end, set it away from your work area in a place where it will not get damaged.

  • Set a drain pan beneath the Malibu, where the inner tie rod meets the steering rack. Remove the inner tie-rod protective boot clamps, using a pair of side cutters or tin snips. Slide the rubber boot outward and off the inner tie rod. Apply a large pipe wrench to the flattened sides of the nut on the outer end of the steering rack. Turn the nut counterclockwise. Remove the large lock nut by sliding it off the inner tie rod.

  • Pull the inner tie rod free of the steering rack by hand. Check the steering rack seal at this time. You will lose a small portion of power steering fluid when you open the seal between the inner tie rod and steering rack. If power steering fluid continues to flow from the steering rack, then your rack seals are bad. Replace the rack and pinion seals as necessary.

  • Install the new inner tie-rod end onto the steering rack, then slide the steering rack nut over the tie rod and onto the steering rack. Turn the nut onto the rack by hand to assure proper threading. Finish tightening the inner tie-rod end with the pipe wrench. Tighten the large steering rack nut as tight as you can with your hand. Hold the pipe wrench in place and jar the outer end of the pipe wrench with your hand, to thoroughly tighten the steering rack nut. Visually inspect for leaks.

  • Install the tie-rod protective boot over the new inner tie rod. Make sure the larger opening is facing inward. Install industrial strength zip ties to the rubber boot, to hold it in place on the steering rack and the inner tie-rod end. Pull the zip ties as tight as you can.

  • Spin the outer tie-rod adjuster nut onto the inner tie rod as far as it will go. Count the threads on the old inner tie rod, from the end to the white mark you made. Use an open end wrench to hold the new inner tie rod motionless. Apply grease to the inner tie-rod end threads, then turn the outer tie rod onto the inner tie rod by hand. Turn the outer tie until you've matched the number of threads you counted on the old assembly.

  • Install the outer tie-rod end into the spindle. Attach the spindle nut back onto the tie-rod joint. Tighten the tie-rod spindle nut to 44-foot-pounds using torque wrench and socket. Visually inspect the side-to-side alignment of the spindle. Make a rough judgment of the alignment using the brake rotor as a guide point. Adjust the alignment in or out, using an open end wrench on the new inner tie rod.

  • Install the front wheel back onto the Malibu and snug the lug nuts into place with a tire iron. Raise the car off of the jack stands with your jack, then remove the drain pan and jack stands from beneath the Malibu. Place a 1-square-foot piece of linoleum or cardboard beneath the wheel and tire.Lower the car until the tires touch the ground, but do not lower the jack completely.

  • Turn the key to the "II" or accessories position. Turn the steering wheel so that it is positioned in the straight position. Turn the key off and remove the key from the ignition. Visually inspect both front wheels to ensure that they are both pointed straight forward. Make adjustments as needed on the side which you just repaired, using an open end wrench on the inner tie rod, reaching in through the wheel well. Lower the vehicle completely when you have completed your preliminary alignment. Torque the front lug nuts to 100-foot-pounds with the torque wrench and socket.

  • Have the car professionally aligned.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is recommended that you replace the outer tie rod along with the inner tie rod.
  • Never lift a vehicle on uneven ground or a slope, as this can cause jacks and jack stands to collapse.

References

  • Photo Credit Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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