Having to replace the tie rod ends on your PT Cruiser yourself will save you money on labour charges, but it is still recommended to have the vehicle aligned when you're done. Still, most labour charges for tie rods ends are at least an hour for each side. That adds up quickly and can get pretty costly if you consider what the labour charge is at the local repair shop or even the dealership. With some tools in the garage, a little technical savvy and attention to details, this article will show you how to replace the tie rod ends on your PT Cruiser and not compromise the alignment too badly until you can get the car to the alignment shop.
Park the Cruiser on a flat paved or concrete surface. Apply the parking brake. Turn the ignition key on one click to release the steering wheel lock mechanism. This should not be the accessory power position in your ignition that would allow electrical components to work. However, if there are any electrical components that come on, shut them off so you do not drain the battery during the repair process.
Place a wheel chock behind one of the rear tires.
Break the lug nuts loose on the wheel you need to replace the tie rod end on using the breaking bar and a socket. If you're replacing both tie rod ends, break the lug nuts loose on both front tires.
Lift the left front quarter panel with the floor jack and place the jack stand under the front left frame rail. Repeat this step for the right side so the front axle is elevated.
Remove the lug nuts and wheel.
Manipulate the front knuckle by hand to access the tie rod end. You will be able to do this since you left the steering wheel lock unlocked.
Locate the jam nut sleeve partially covering the jam nut on the tie rod end. This sleeve simply protects the jam nut from the elements and is not usually replaced with aftermarket tie rod end options. Manipulate the sleeve towards you (away from the jam nut) using a flathead screwdriver and hammer.
Place an open end wrench onto the jam nut and loosen it. Remember you're working backwards, but them same principles of loosening and tightening nuts and bolts are applied. If the jam nut is stubbornly rusted or seized to the threads in the inner tie rod, light the propane torch (put on safety glasses first) and heat the jam nut and only the jam nut. Try again with the wrench. You only need to back the jam nut 1/2 turn away from the tie rod end and no more with the wrench.
Place a large box end wrench on the tie rod end stud nut that goes through the steering knuckle and a small box end wrench on the stud of the tie rod end. Turn the nut counterclockwise to remove it while holding the stud stationary. This may prove to be quite challenging and hard on the hands, but it's achievable. You might consider using the ratchet and a small socket to hold the stud stationary instead of a small box end wrench.
Remove the tie rod end from the knuckle by striking the knuckle area that surrounds the tie rod end with a hammer until it breaks free from the knuckle. You can also hit the stud of the tie rod end, but be careful not to mushroom the end of the stud so it mashes flat and does not fit through the hole in the knuckle. Remove the tie rod end heat shield.
Make sure the tie rod end has cooled down if you had to apply heat to the jam nut. Unscrew it from the inner tie rod threads turning it counterclockwise.
Spray the threads of the inner tie rod with lubricant spray. Most new tie rod ends come with new jam nuts, but to be honest, you do not need to replace these and most repair stations do not bother. This is where you can try to keep your alignment close to the way it was. If you want to remove your jam nut, measure its place on the inner tie rod threads and place the new one in that area.
Screw the new tie rod end up to the jam nut and allow for the 1/2 turn of the jam nut when you backed it away. Insert the stud of the tie rod end into the knuckle replacing the heat shield if desired. Tighten the tie rod end stud nut using the two wrenches again.
Tighten the jam nut against the back of the tie rod end.
Screw in the small grease fitting if supplied with the new tie rod end using a small box end wrench. These grease fittings may or may not come with new tie rod ends. Some companies manufacturer sealed units with grease supplied inside the rubber boots of the tie rid end while others will need to be screwed on and have grease manually pumped into them using a grease gun. Pump grease in using the grease gun until the boot is full.
Replace the wheel and lug nuts. Tighten the lug nuts snug using the ratchet and a socket.
Replace the other tie rod end if desired following the same procedure.
Lower the front axle of the Cruiser to the ground and torque the lug nuts to 100 foot pounds in an alternate fashion using the torque wrench and a socket.
Remove the wheel chock. Release the parking brake and test drive. It's also recommended to have the alignment checked as soon as possible.