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I have a ball joint and a tie rod end that both have bad boots. The ball joint boot is ripped at the center around the entire circumference. The tie rod end's boot isn't ripped, but it has come up from it's bottom seat and I see a bit of grime has gotten in. There is no play at all in the suspension. There is no pull while driving. There is no irregular wear on the tires. This is a 2006 crv 2wd AT.

The thing is, I believe the standard procedure after replacement is to do an alignment. Yet, I am questioning why that is absolutely necessary. What usually happens is people normally take their stuff in for alignment when they notice a problem (due to worn ball joints/tie rod ends etc) and alignment happens after they get repairs. But in my case, I have no wear, just visibly damaged boots.

For the ball joint, I just don't see why an alignment is necessary. What is the difference old to new that would set the alignment off? Has anyone had similar circumstances where the problem was only at the boot-tear stage where no alignment post repair caused some sort of issue?

With the tie rod end, I suppose I could see an issue if the new tie rod end wasn't threaded onto the rod at the same location as the old. Yet, I would think that if you used a caliper to precisely measure the locations, one could do the r & r without the need for an alignment. Has anyone done these with no post repair alignment successfully?

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3 Answers

If all you are doing is changing the boots (and not removing the tie rod ends), then no, it probably isn't essential to have the alignment done. However, alignment changes over time as various things wear and get damaged by the roads, potholes etc, so I'd get it done anyway.

It is also worth making sure that the grit hasn't worked its way into the balljoint before you fit the new boot, and clean it out properly, otherwise it will destroy the joint in no time...

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Is it possible to simply replace the boot? –  Captain Claptrap Aug 16 '11 at 9:04
    
It is on some older cars, I don't know about modern ones - I suspect they're probably designed to be non-replacable these days to force you to replace the whole unit. –  Nick C Aug 16 '11 at 10:56
    
The problem is that once you got grit or dirt in the grease, you'll probably have some odd wear on the balljoint if you didn't catch it immediately, so it might be prudent to just swap out the whole balljoint anyway. –  Timo Geusch Aug 16 '11 at 15:32
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With the tie rod end, I suppose I could see an issue if the new tie rod end wasn't threaded onto the rod at the same location as the old one...

Just threading the tie-rod the same number of turns as the old one will not always mean you have the same alignment as when you started. For most cars, there are many different tie-rod manufactures that make a part that will fit, but there is no tight control between manufactures as to the dimensions from the end where the tie-rod screws on to the ball.

When I change tie-rods, I usually place a mark on the steering rod and measure to a point that must have the same distance in order to not effect the toe-in. Usually this means the center of the ball on the tie-rod. I then screw the new tie-rod in until that measurement is reached. Doing so should mean that I have the same alignment as I did before I started.

In most cases, I still follow-up with a proper alignment. It's not that I don't trust my work, but more that I know an alignment may change. As other posters mentioned, your alignment may change over time due to everything from aging bushings to hitting something big enough to bend or re-adjust something.

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I would say that, as a general rule, if you touch any of the major suspension parts (Ball Joints, Tie Rod ends, CV Boot or shaft) you should probably get the car re aligned. Worse case scenario, you can put it all back together, drive on it for a week and re check your tire wear. If your alignment is out of whack, you will know.

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