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Steering tie rod wear & repair

15 December 2008
First, a little bit of background my 1991 manual NSX with now 106K miles has been joy to drive. There has been no suspension work performed on the car ever. Naturally, the non-assisted power steering has a different feel from many other modern passengers due to lack of boost/assist. This past summer while doing some spirited driving, the steering felt unusually loose. Not sloppy loose, but somehow the steering wheel was minimally disconnected from the wheels. All four tires were somewhat worn. Consequently, I replaced all four tires suspecting they were the problem and the feeling was improved but only slightly. I then had the car up on a lift and noticed the outboard steering ball joints were covered in a thick grease below the rubber covers (underside). The rear control arm ball joints appeared the same. The rubber covers of the ball joints did not appear grossly violated, cracked or disrupted in any way, but on their underside was an unusually thick grease. Also, the steering rack itself looks fine and the mounts do not appear worn.

I subsequently attempted to manually turn the wheel from outside the car by holding the wheel at 3 & 9 o'clock positions. When I did this there was an ever so slight "clunk" before the other wheel would turn.

So my questions are:

1) Do you believe the steering ball joints are worn? I don't have a reference to know if there is some inherent "play" that manual racks normally have and maybe that is what I'm experiencing.

2) If they are indeed worn, should I simply replace both inner & outer? Since an alignment is necessary after such work, I would presume it best to simply replace both.

3) As for the rear control arm ball joint (part # 52340SL0000) I don't know how to exam that other than visually. Should that be replaced as well based on mileage, appearance and aforementioned symptoms?