I have a 2000 Ford Taurus and I need to replace the ball joints, and the inner and outer tie rods. Money being tight, I only have enough for one and I'm going to pay to have it done. What should I do first? Does it matter? I need a wheel alignment too, hopefully I can do one and then the other.
If things are really this tight and you really can't do both, replace the tie rods first. It is better to lose a wheel completely (via broken ball joint) than to have a tie rod break and steer the car sharply.
Either way, limit your driving to essential driving only, and if your financial situation does not improve, consider parking or selling the car.
IMO you'd be better getting them all done together, then once done the alignment can be done.
If you really must have everything done separately, perhaps explain your predicament to the garage, just so that your not charged for an alignment check after each component replacement.
Don't cut corners. If the car is unsafe, stop driving it. Your safety is the most important priority. When you've got the money to do all the work, have it done by a reputable shop. Any ball joint or tie rod replacement, makes an alignment necessary. Note: Ask the shop to use ball joints/tie rod ends with grease fittings on them, if they are available for your car.
Sonia- just out of curiosity, how many miles on the Taurus? I also drove a 2000 Taurus (wagon). I previously opted to do the least when it came to the front end and subsequently wore out other parts much faster.
If you've done an outer tie rod replacement before I would do inners and ball joints next (in addition to outers). If you only do the outers while the other front end components need to be replaced, the outers will last only 20K miles before they go bad again. My Taurus blasted through front end parts if everything wasn't all tight.
Remember to align after doing tie rods (ball joints not as important).