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How to Replace a Rack & Pinion Boot

by Justin Cupler

On power steering-equipped vehicles, there is a component known as a steering rack. This rack has a a boot on either side, known as a bellow, which prevents dirt and debris from getting into the steering rack. With age or due to impact, this boot can become worn out or even break, requiring replacement. Failure to replace a damaged boot can end up causing severe damage to the steering rack.

Loosen, but do not remove, the lug nuts from the wheel with the damaged boot. Raise the front of the vehicle, using a floor jack, and place the jack stands beneath the vehicle. Lower the vehicle until its weight is only on the jack stands. Completely remove the lug nuts and pull the front wheels from the vehicle.

Locate the outer tie rod end, the linkage connecting to the steering knuckle, directly behind the top of the brake rotor. The steering knuckle is the metal component to which the wheel connects. Trace the outer tie rod end until you find where it connects to the inner tie rod end, the thin bar running towards the center of the vehicle. Loosen the nut where the inner and outer tie rod ends meet, known as the locking nut.

Paint a white mark on the inner tie rod end, where the inner and outer tie rod ends connect to each other.

Pull the cotter pin from the outer tie rod end stud, using needle-nose pliers. Loosen and remove the outer tie rod end nut. Remove the outer tie rod end from the steering knuckle, using a ball joint separator. The exact process varies, depending on the type of separator you have, so refer to the instruction manual for specific direction.

Remove the outer tie rod end from the inner tie rod end by turning it counterclockwise by hand. Loosen and remove the locking nut from the inner tie rod end by hand.

Trace the inner tie rod end until you locate the rack boot, the accordion-shaped rubber component. Cut the inner and outer clamps holding the boot to the tie rod end and the rack, using the side-cutting pliers. Pull the boot off the rack and off the inner tie rod end.

Place the small and large clamps, included with the bellow kit, on the new rack boot. Slide the new boot on the inner tie rod end and slide it towards the steering rack until it seats in the groove on the tie rod end. Push the larger end of the boot onto the groove in the rack and tighten both clamps with a ratchet and socket.

Tighten the locking nut back onto the inner tie rod end, making certain the nut goes beyond the white mark you made earlier. Tighten the outer tie rod end onto the inner tie rod end until the outer tie rod end meets the white mark made earlier.

Insert the tie rod end stud into the steering knuckle and tighten the nut to the manufacturer's specification, using a torque wrench and a socket. The specification is listed in the repair manual for your specific vehicle. Insert the cotter pin into the hole in the tie rod end's stud and bend the pin's "legs" in opposite directions to lock it into place.

Place the wheel(s) back on the vehicle and hand-tighten the lug nuts. Raise the vehicle off the jack stands, using a floor jack, and remove the stands from under the vehicle. Lower the vehicle to the ground.

Tighten the lug nuts, in a crisscross pattern, to the manufacturer's required specification, using a torque wrench and a socket. The lug nut torque specification is located in the repair manual for your specific vehicle.

Take the vehicle to an alignment shop to have the alignment set to proper specification.

Items you will need

About the Author

Justin Cupler is a professional writer who has been published on several websites including CarsDirect and Autos.com. Cupler has worked in the professional automotive repair field as a technician and a manager since 2000. He has a certificate in broadcast journalism from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Cupler is currently studying mechanical engineering at Saint Petersburg College.

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