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I have a 2002 Mazda B4000 with 4wd. The front end is getting a bit loose (recently replaced wheel bearings) and I am thinking about replacing the tie rods and related components prior to taking the car in for new tires & alignment.

How difficult is replacing the tie rods? Is this something a fairly competent DIYer can do at home, with a decent set of tools? Will I need any special tools?

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You'll need some basic hand tools along with one or two specialty tools. If you are doing the outers ,you will need a tierod end tool commonly called a pickle fork. Generally they are under $20 however some of the national parts chains have a loaner program. If you are doing the inner tierod ends also, you will need a inner tie rod tool. This looks like a really long socket. They come in two varieties, model specific or a multi vehicle kit. The model specific type can be had for under $25 the multi use one can go for $150 for a complete kit. When you replace the outers measure from the center of the grease fitting to the edge of the jamb nut. Write down the distance for each side as they will be different. I mark it on the frame so I can see it while I screw in the new one. Screw in the new one so you maintain the original length. The inners will require you to remove the bellows from around the the shaft(be careful you will be reusing it) using the inner tierod tool unscrew the tierod from the rack end. You must support the rack end while breaking the nut loose or you can twist the rack. Installation is the opposite of removal. Then get the front end aligned. One other point the wrench sizes of the OEM and the aftermarket tierods may be different, so verify sizes before you start.

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Hi -- what is a bellow ("bellows around the shaft")? –  a coder Oct 2 '12 at 13:30
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It is the accordion like plastic cover that seals the end of the steering rack from the elements and allows the inner tierod end to extend and retract while being covered. –  mikes Oct 2 '12 at 21:37
    
Can I ask a follow-up? Can you list out the parts I would need? I've looked a bit on Ebay and there so many options. I will basically be replacing all of the bushings & "ends" and other bits that wear out over time. I replaced my wheel bearings & brakes a year ago - so everything but that. –  a coder Mar 6 '13 at 2:17
    
Are you refering to the control arm bushings? This is the component that the balljoints mount to. –  mikes Mar 6 '13 at 2:27
    
I want to go ahead and replace all components that can wear out (such that might cause alignment to go sour). I see components like "tie rod ends" and such on Ebay - this looks like a component in the front end. Control arm bushings also sounds like a front end component.. are there others? Is there a standard list of parts I'd need to order to replace it all? –  a coder Mar 6 '13 at 13:30
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