How to replace worn tie-rod end ball joints without pain, except to the ball joint.
Saving cash by tackling vehicle repairs can be rewarding. So can learning new skills. One task I have never tried before is replacing worn tie-rod end ball joints. The old Mercedes W123 had too much free play so In I decided to give it a bash … literally. I first took a video from under the front of the car, climbed inside and rocked the steering wheel back and forth. After watching the video I saw that one of the two ball joints on either side had free play. After purchasing a pair from the local spares shop for a few hundred rand, I got stuck in.
THE RIGHT TOOL
There are a number of tools that can be tried to complete this job. We have shown photos of them in my experience the only one I used was the U-shaped splitter. I borrowed these from a friend but to buy one would not cost much. Adendorf machinery mart sells one for a mere R155 (see online).
THE PAINFULL PART
Remove the split pin and castellated nut or the nyloc nut, position the splitter into the crevice of the ball joint and wield your best 4-pound hammer (or larger if possible). It feels wrong to use so much force and it took me about 20 blows before the taper joint dropped. You will need some space to swing the hammer, hence the longish splitter shaft. The second one took only four hefty smacks so don’t give up. The car can handle the punishment.
This is the enjoyable part. Measure the length of the thread to ball joint distance so you can screw in the new joint to the same distance. Remove the old one and screw in the new. Both old and new are shown in one picture. The taper joint is then merely fastened by means of the new nut which will be the newer nyloc type. It would be advisable to get the wheel alignment checked when you get a chance.
In my case I was disappointed that the steering felt the same as before. I put this down to the inherent free play in the re-circulating ball setup used on these elderly Mercedes-Benz cars. Still it was a job well done.