MKIII Golf/Jetta Inner and Outer Tie rod DIY.

This "how to" assumes you have some basic tools, and safety gear. Safety glasses should be worn at all times when working with tools and automotive fluids. Always use a hydraulic jack and safety stands when lifting or getting under a vehicle. If you are unsure on where to safety lift your vehicle, refer to its owners guide. Steering and Suspension components should never be heated with a torch, bent, or welded. Replacement parts must be direct matches and should be torqued to specification.  The writer of this how to assumes zero liability in how to use this guide, or any damages that may come from it to you, your property, or others and others property. If you are uncertain at any point, refer to a qualified automotive technician.

Inner and outer tie rods are major players in the steering system.  The connect the left and right directional forces of the steering rack, out to the knuckles and in turn the wheels and tires.  Constant stress, impact and wear eventually cause loose steering, tire wear, drifting and pulling.  Having a vehicle that is lowered also causes some abnormal stress on these components, and can in turn shorten life.  OEM parts on a stock MKIII should last 80-100k miles.

For a quick primer on steering systems visit - How Stuff Works.   

Never add any type of grease to a sealed joint.  Some aftermarket types may have a grease fitting, if so they are not the original ones and may be greased.  If the boot is torn, I'd just install a new outer joint, I don't think you can get new boots.  The reason why you should not just shoot grease, or WD-40 into them is because they have a plastic "socket" that the ball sits in.  Adding a petroleum based grease will only cause the joint to fall apart sooner.

How can I tell its bad?  Well, testing for a bad tie rod is easy.  

1 - Noise, if the joint, squeaks or squawks on turns.
2 - The boot is torn open
3 - When you grab the tire/wheel at 9 and 3 o' clock and move it back and forth (see diagram) and the tie rods have free play...
4 - There is a clunking sound when you have the car parked, and you turn the steering wheel side to side.
5 -  VIDEO LINK see  this by seeing this comparison of two types of inner tie rods.

The MKIII model line has two types of steering racks.  Most 2.0 cars have a TRW design.  This rack is on the "base" suspension, and is seen by having a smooth painted finished.  VR6 or "plus" suspension cars have a ZF design, these cars have an-all aluminum rack that has a "waffle grid" design.  The tie rods for the two types of racks work the same way, but are not the same.  Make sure to check your rack design before you order parts.  There are a few cars out there (from swaps and so on) with mixed parts.  This DIY shows a 2.0 car with a TRW base suspension rack.

The tie rods (inner) are the same for left/right - the outers are not, and are stamped with an L or R.  L is the drivers side, R is the passenger.  Make sure not to mix them up when installing them.   I prefer to always replace inner and outer joints as sets.  Its almost silly not to.  If you replace a bad outer joint, how far away is the inner joint from failing?  Right, you don't know, and if your paying for a proper alignment, you'll wind up doing the same job twice.  So, I prefer to replace them as sets.  And what goes for the left, goes for the right.  This is not NASCAR, your car makes just as many left turns as right ones - so replace "all four tie rods" and say hello to like new steering.

An alignment is highly recommended after this job.  Only toe is effected, but toe is the major player in eating tires, and crooked steering wheels.  If you do this job carefully, you can get the alignment close, but its still going to be off.  2 degrees off may not sound like a lot but it is a major tire wear issue.  The MKIII model line wants to see a toe "that is zero", meaning there should be NO toe in or toe out.  The tie-rods are the point at which all cars with a rack and pinion steering system have the toe set at.

If there is fluid leaking out of the rack boots - don't bother with new boots - you have bigger problems - fluid leaks at the rack boots mean bad news - the rack seals are leaking, and you need to install a new rack.

Installation is not overly difficult, and can be done with mostly hand tools, with two exceptions.  One is a 32mm wrench.  A big-ass open-end 32 mm wrench is needed to remove the inner tie rods.  Another tool, that I prefer is a KD (tool company) 3312 (part number KD-3312).  This is a tie rod remover that slides over the inner rod, and prevents a TON of hassle.  By the book, VW says that the rack has to be removed in order to get to the inner rods.  While, sure, that's nice - its a TON of extra work, steering column, sub-frame, rack mounts, power steering lines would all have to come out - bah, we can do it in far less time.  IMHO the only thing this saves you at all is some hassle installing the rack boots - and I'll show you a trick for that.  This is a driveway job, once your good at these, you can knock them out in 30 min a side.  With the right tools, ALL the work can be done from the wheel well!  You don't even have to really get under the car!

Parts Needed:

2 Inner Tie Rods
1 Left Outer Tie Rod
1 Right Outer Tie Rod
2 Rack Boots
4 1' long zip ties
2 new outer tie rod nuts

Tools Needed:

32mm Open End Wrench, OR KD tool # 3312
22mm Open End Wrench (two are handy to have)
13mm Open End Wrench
14mm Open End Wrench
17mm deep socket (1/2 drive)
19mm deep socket (3/8 or 1/2 drive)
 BFH (Big F**king hammer - I prefer a nice well used 24-48 oz ball peen hammer)
Torque Wrench that can go down to 25 ft lbs - and up to 81 ft lbs.
1/2" breaker bar.  (Long handle)


PB Blaster/CRC Power Lube
Red Locktite
Razor blade.


Step 1 -   Lift and support the car on jack stands.  Give the car a good shake to make sure its not going to fall on you when your working on it.

Get out your 19mm deep socket and go to town, take this nut off.  If the nut spins, and wont come off - chances are the out joint is really worn.  In that case try to spray the joint down with PB blaster/CRC Power Lube, and wait 10 min.  Then try it again.  If your lucky hand tools can remove it.  If not try air power, or just cut the nut off.  You should have gotten a NEW nut when you got the new outer joint.  There is a 5mm(?) allen opening in the end of the joint - this is worthless, and will strip out as you look at it.  Another option is to cut a slot with a Dremel in the bottom of the stud, and then hold it with a screw driver as you use an open-end wrench to take the nut off.

Step 2 - With the nut loose, (but still on the threads) - hit the steering knuckle with a hammer.  Yes, a hammer, and you'll shock the tie rod free from the knuckle.  Forget about hitting it on the threads, that wont work, and if for some chance, you turn back now, you'll have ruined the threads and wont be able to steer the car.  Forget about "pickle forks" and presses as well - they are all totally unnecessary.  Hit it hard, your not hugging grandmom.  Swing away.  3-4 hits should shock it free.  

With some PB blaster again,  soak down the 22mm jamb nut on the inner rod.  If you can, loosen it and then separate the two (the inner from the outer).  The inner tie rod is a 13mm, and there is a large flat area on the head of the outer tie rod - that can take another 22mm open end wrench.

Tech Tip! - Count the number of times you turn the outer tie rod - in order to remove it - this will get the alignment "close" to where it was before you took everything apart.

Step 3 - Well, I could not get the jamb nut off for the life of me, so I just cut the inner rod - who cares, it was the cause of the problem to begin with.

Step 4 - Off with the clamps.  The OEM style rack boots are held on with a metal clamp system that is identical to a CV joint clamp.  A special tool is used to install these clamps, and well, zip ties work fine here... so pry, twist, cut (with wire cutters) off the old metal clamps and chuck them.  The picture below just shows you how you really cant get to the clamps too well with a screwdriver from the direction shown.  I prefer to attack the clamps from the wheel wheel area of the car - I use a long prybar and a hammer and just knock them loose.  Forget about hurting the boot, we got a new one.

And.. its off!

Be careful, they can be sharp and pokey.

Remember! If there is fluid leaking out of the rack boots you have bigger problems - fluid leaks at the rack boots mean bad news - the rack seals are leaking, and you need to install a new rack.  No over the counter "sealer" or other crud is going to help at all - get a new rack, and use the OEM fluid!

Step 5 - Yank off the boot and turn the steering wheel so you can access the flats on the inner joint when your big ass 32mm open end wrench can fit in-between the subframe and control arm.  From here, you can turn the joint off - but I hate this way.  It takes too damn long.

I Prefer the KD 3312 tool.  This handy unit shown below fits over the inner rod, and then has a 1/2" breaker bar, ratchet, or torque wrench, and makes life as easy as cake.

The small bolt on the end holds the inner joint flat (where the 32mm wrench would go) in a stable position so you can unbolt and bolt in the new inner tie rod with just a few turns.  Righty tighty-lefty loosey.  These are not reverse threads.

Install it as shown, and snug the bolt down with a 14mm open end wrench.

Step 6 - Done,  The inner rod is removed, and you can see it just has threads that hold it in place.  No special locks or seals are used here.

Getting the new boots ready - Note, there is a breather hole, and cross over tube as part of the racks boot system.  This breather tube is needed since the rack is sealed from the outside.   The rack boots are like bellows and breath into each other.  The cross over tube allows air to flow in and out of each bellow and keeps the system sealed without popping off the bellows.  Getting the boots back on, can be a pain in the ass - making sure they are fully seated, and lined up is the hardest part, but I have some tricks.

Getting the boots on is critical to the life of the rack seals.  If dirt, water, rust, moisture or anything gets on the rack here - you'll have major issues here.  The rack seals will become damaged and then you'll leak fluid out of the rack.  And - that means you replace the rack.  Its that simple.  So unless you feel like shelling out a ton of money, and time, and doing the job again - make sure the rack boots are on right.

Paint with white paint, a line down the boot so you can make a mental note of where the hole is.

And cut, a small slit on the INSIDE of the boot.  This will save you a long time of trial and error with your hands in a small confined space with the control arms digging into you hands...  The small slit allows the breather tube to line up with the boot and just makes it a thousand times easier and still keeps the system sealed and safe. 

Step 7 - Install the new inner tie-rod. I prefer to add a dab of red locktite on the threads of the new inner rod where its going to mate to the rack.  Carefully thread the inner rod onto the rack, and then torque it down to 59 Ft LbsTHIS TORQUE IS CRITICAL!  IF THE INNER JOINT COMES LOOSE FROM THE RACK YOU WILL LOOSE STEERING CONTROL.

Note, just something interesting on the drivers side:

They are the rack teeth of the "Rack and pinion".  Don't worry, your supposed to see grease here, this is not a fluid leak!

Step 8 - Install and line up the new rack boot.  Install the new outer tie-rod onto the new inner one... counting the turns. Don't forget the jamb nut goes onto the inner joint BEFORE you install the outer joint!

Did you install the boot?  Did you install the jamb nut?

Did you?


Go look again.

Step 9 - With all the parts lined up snug down the jamb nut against the outer tie rod end.

Step 10 - Install a new zip tie to both ends of the boot.  Its tricky, but try to get them snug.  Snip off the excess.

Install the lower outer tie-rod nut (the one we removed in step 1), tighten that down to 26 ft lbs.

Reinstall the wheels and torque the wheel bolts to 81 ft lbs.

Review the Pre-alignment tips.

Step 11 - Get a perfect alignment.  And enjoy a car that steers like new again!