This how-to describes the replacement of the inner tie rod bushings. These bushings (there are one for each tie rod) are located on the steering rack near the firewall (see the first photo below), and they connect the tie rods to the steering rack. The bushings are composed of a metal sleeve that is surrounded by rubber. Over time, the rubber degrades and causes a sloppy feel when the steering wheel is turned. Also, you will hear and feel a "pop" when turning the steering wheel. This is caused by the metal sleeves hitting against the tie rod. I like to work on my car, but this was not one of my most enjoyable fix-it projects. The bushings are difficult to get to and the location requires bending over the fender or sitting on the upper radiator support to get to the back of the engine. It took me more than three hours, and most of that time was spend getting everything lined up for reassembly. But, if your bushings have to be replaced, at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the darn popping will be history. Below are the steps to fix this problem. The repair was carried out on a '95 Intrepid with the 3.3 liter engine. The instructions should hold up fairly well for the 3.5 liter engine, although I think you might have to remove the intake manifold or something like that. Another important note: please don't attempt this repair unless you are very comfortable with your mechanical skills. After all, we are talking about taking apart the very thing that allows you to steer and maintain control of your car!
Here is a drawing from the second generation Intrepid repair manual - there is no difference from 1st to 2nd generation. Note that the inner tie rods meet at the steering rack.
To get to the bushings and have enough room to work, I removed the windshield washer motor assembly. You might have enough room to get to the bushings without doing this, but I doubt it (besides, it is easy to remove the motor assembly). To remove the motor assembly you will have to first take the windshield wiper arms off and then remove the cowl. Remove the wiper arms by pulling the wiper blade up while at the same time pushing the locking tab out with the blade of a regular screwdriver. Then you can wiggle the wiper arm off the base. There is a small plastic piece inside the wiper arm's base that might come loose - check to make sure it stays in place. Be sure to pull apart the wiper fluid line off the arm.
Now, remove the cowl panel by turning the end screws 180 degrees, gently popping free the remaining retaining push bolts (they look like Phillips screws but are actually just plastic push-in bolts. Very annoying!), removing the four trim clips, and removing the small white push-in thingys that attach the weatherstripping seal to the engine compartment.
The next step is the removal of the wiper motor assembly. It is very simple, just remove the bolts, disconnect the electrical connection, and pull the assembly up and out of the engine area.
Now, down to the real work. This picture was taken of the bushing plate, located behind the engine in the middle of the engine compartment.
What's that? You say you can't see crap? Well neither could I - with the wheels straight ahead the bushings are well hidden. You will need to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left (driver's side) to get the bushings into the daylight to work on them. Leave the steering wheel turned all the way to the driver's side until you are completely done with the replacement. Each bushing is held in place with a 3.5 inch long bolt, a plate with the tabs, a bigger bushing plate, and a washer that's behind the tie rod end. The smaller plate has two tabs that bend over each bolt to keep them in place. Put a flat blade screwdriver on the bottom tab and strike the screwdriver with a hammer to bend the tab back. Then use the claw on your hammer to pull the top tab up. The bolts take a 22mm socket wrench to undo them. You will need a breaker bar to loosen the bolts, as they are on very tight. There is a radiator hose that is in the way of getting to the passenger's side bolt. This hose can be disconnected at the engine side and moved out of the way. Be sure to not spin the tie rod ends once you have freed them from the rack, as this will affect the alignment of the wheels.
Here are the bolts, plate and old bushings. See how deteriorated they are? They are supposed to have a rubber flange on each end, and the one on the left side has been chewed down considerably. I have seen pictures of bushings where there wasn't even any rubber left!
Here is the replacement kit. I bought the two-piece kit, because I heard that you need a 50 billion pound press to get the one piece replacements into the tie rod. I have read that some people recommend bushings made of polyurethane, as they are supposed to last longer than rubber. The metal thing at the bottom of the picture is a plate, and I am pretty sure that it goes between the rack and the tie rod ends.
Time to assemble the stuff back together. I burned up a lot of time with this step, as it is difficult to get the bolts and plate back in the tie rod ends and get both tie rod ends back into the rack. Also, there is a bolt guide inside the rubber housing of the rack that likes to move around on you. Grab that sucker, put just a bolt though it, and twist the bolt a couple of turns to hold the bolt guide in place. Then put the other bolt in place in this order (from rack outwards): washer, rubber bushing end, metal sleeve, tie rod end, other rubber bushing end, bushing plate, smaller plate with the tabs that bend, and the bolt. Since I lost the washers and was too lazy to crawl under the car to find them, I substituted the metal plate from the above picture for the washers. Be sure to line the rack rubber housing up with the tie rods, as it is easy for the rubber housing to get pinched and bunched up. Once the first tie rod is in place, then use the same sequence to get the second one on. This may require moving your tires in or out slightly to get the second tie rod end to line up with the bolt and bushing plate. The torque for the bolts is 55-60 foot-pounds. Bend the locking tabs back down over the bolts. Here is the finished look:
Put the radiator hose back on, put the wiper motor back in, and put the cowl and wiper arms back on. Start your beast up, turn the wheels side to side (notice the absence of that *&^# popping? Yeah, Baby!), and go for a test drive to make sure the alignment didn't somehow get out of whack. Last step: congratulate yourself on a job well done!
EDIT: well, crap! I just found out that some hotshot over at allpar.com has already put up a fix-it for the bushings (http://www.allpar.com/fix/intrepid-steering.html
). Fine, Mr. All-My-Pictures-Are-In-Perfect-Focus, but you don't have magenta-colored arrows! :bigsmile::bigsmile::bigsmile: