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2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid with 204k miles.

When I drive, there is a very light clunk when I turn the wheel past 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock, and sometimes when I break. I jacked up my front end and grabbed the wheel at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions, wiggled it, and there was play. It comes to a definite clunking stop when I wiggle it side to side and you can see the steering wheel move when I do it. The outside of my tires seem to be worn more than the inside of my tires, if that has anything to do with it.

It does this on both sides of the vehicle, so does that mean the inner tie rods on each side of the vehicle are bad, or something completely different? Should I replace the outers too? I can wiggle those around the ball joint by hand. Not sure if that's bad or not.

Also, can a DIY guy like myself do this job if I rent the tools? I've replaced strut assemblies and brakes before, just to give you an idea of my experience.

  • I channeled my inner mechanic but was unable to make a diagnosis. – Alaska Man Aug 16 at 17:16
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You need to visually verify where the movement is occuring. Jacking it up and checking for play is a great first step. What you need to do is actually see where the movement is coming from in order to know which parts need to be replaced. If there is deflection in the outer tie rod end, you'll be able to see the movement. There should be zero deflection between the tie rod and where it attaches to the steering knuckle of the vehicle. It is harder to tell on the inner tie rod on most vehicles, but you'll see where the inner goes through the bellows at the rack side. There may be movement there as well. You need to ensure you're not getting movement through the rack, though. If the steering wheel is locked, you shouldn't see much movement out of the rack, but there might be a bit there. Check both sides of the rack when moving one side. If the input going into one side is the same as the movement coming out the other, it means the inners are probably in good shape. If you're not seeing equal movement, you need to discover which side is bad, though it might be both sides.

Changing out tie rod ends usually isn't too hard. There is a special tool which makes it a lot easier to do this. Not that it is absolutely required to change the inner tie rod, it just makes it a TON easier on both pulling the old and installation of the new. You can find them online in places like Amazon. Just look for "inner tie rod tool set". You may be able to rent it or borrow it from major part store chains as well. The only other thing you'll need to worry about is an alignment. You can get it close by measuring both sides and making them the same length as the old.

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  • If I remember correctly, I could get it to wiggle and clunk the steering wheel when I wiggled the tire or the rotor back and forth from 9 and 3. However I seem to remember that I couldn't get the same reaction when I pulled on the tie rod itself. Could it be the CV Axle? – mang Aug 15 at 16:36
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    @mang - See if this video helps you out. NOTE: This is my video attached to my YouTube channel. It is, however, directly answering a question here. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 15 at 18:58

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