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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all! I'm on my 4th Xterra now, and the latest one I picked up (06 SE Auto 4WD) feels sloppy up front. Steering is vague, tracking stinks, and going over even small highway bumps sends it squirrelly. Everything I've read points towards possible issues with: tie rod ends or sway bar linkages or struts. At about 150k miles on it I'm sure they're all overdue, so the current plan is to just replace all three, plus new coils.

Parts on hand:
Strut/coil spring/mount assy (2x) Monroe 171103

Right Outer Tie Rod End MOOG ES800108

Left Outer Tie Rod End MOOG ES800048

Front Sway Bar Links

Despite doing all my own work on the other ones, I have minimal experience with suspension work... so I could use advice on potential other root causes I might've missed, operation tips, and the while-you're-in-theres I'm not thinking of. Thanks!!
 

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09, lifted, 33's
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271 Posts
For an extra $40, throw new inner tie rods while you have it apart. Keep the old ones as spares. This combined with what you and the other posters suggested will have a complete refresh. (pay for alignment once when done)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
For an extra $40, throw new inner tie rods while you have it apart. Keep the old ones as spares. This combined with what you and the other posters suggested will have a complete refresh. (pay for alignment once when done)
I don't know why I was avoiding the inners, but it doesn't make sense to skip replacing them. So I ordered a pair of inners, but they don't come with boots... are they reusable if they have no tears?
 

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Hey all! I'm on my 4th Xterra now, and the latest one I picked up (06 SE Auto 4WD) feels sloppy up front. Steering is vague, tracking stinks, and going over even small highway bumps sends it squirrelly. Everything I've read points towards possible issues with: tie rod ends or sway bar linkages or struts. At about 150k miles on it I'm sure they're all overdue, so the current plan is to just replace all three, plus new coils.

Parts on hand:
Strut/coil spring/mount assy (2x) Monroe 171103

Right Outer Tie Rod End MOOG ES800108

Left Outer Tie Rod End MOOG ES800048

Front Sway Bar Links

Despite doing all my own work on the other ones, I have minimal experience with suspension work... so I could use advice on potential other root causes I might've missed, operation tips, and the while-you're-in-theres I'm not thinking of. Thanks!!
The way I understand suspension diagnosis is that (I'm sure someone will roast me now) if you have squirreliness after hitting a bump you should check your shocks, bushings and ball joints. Vague steering - check your tie rod ends and rack and pinion/steering box, on a high level to start with.

Suspension may seem overwhelming and confusing but there aren't really that many failure points. You basically just have control arm bushings, ball joints, tie rods, shocks/struts and finally sway bars. In your case, it seems like you're experiencing both - steering and suspension issues. My best recommendation is to spend the money and replace it all - control arms, tie rods, sway bar end links, etc. If you replaced all of this you're looking at well under $1k in parts but would have basically brand new suspension that will last you many years, if you can do the work yourself, which is pretty straightforward and simple. The alignment is likely the only part you can't do yourself. If you can't afford all of that - start cheap. Replace the sway bar end links first - dirt cheap and super easy to replace. If that doesn't fix it, then start looking at strut assemblies, control arm bushings and ball joints. There are a thousand videos on youtube that will walk you through every step of checking these parts and how to diagnose them. That's how I learn 90% of the crap I know.

Doing your own work on suspension shouldn't be that intimidating - when you get down to the details of working on vehicles, it's just nuts and bolts, for the most part. It's just being comfortable doing it that's the issue. Get a manual, surf Youtube, whatever, it's easy to learn about this stuff. Reach out to members for help (I'm always happy to help, but clearly not an expert). Not knocking mechanics in anyway, but it doesn't take a well educated scientist to work on vehicles - it's just knowing the process, not being afraid to jump in and what you're doing. It's basically legos, but on a much higher level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The way I understand suspension diagnosis is that (I'm sure someone will roast me now) if you have squirreliness after hitting a bump you should check your shocks, bushings and ball joints. Vague steering - check your tie rod ends and rack and pinion/steering box, on a high level to start with.

Suspension may seem overwhelming and confusing but there aren't really that many failure points. You basically just have control arm bushings, ball joints, tie rods, shocks/struts and finally sway bars. In your case, it seems like you're experiencing both - steering and suspension issues. My best recommendation is to spend the money and replace it all - control arms, tie rods, sway bar end links, etc. If you replaced all of this you're looking at well under $1k in parts but would have basically brand new suspension that will last you many years, if you can do the work yourself, which is pretty straightforward and simple. The alignment is likely the only part you can't do yourself. If you can't afford all of that - start cheap. Replace the sway bar end links first - dirt cheap and super easy to replace. If that doesn't fix it, then start looking at strut assemblies, control arm bushings and ball joints. There are a thousand videos on youtube that will walk you through every step of checking these parts and how to diagnose them. That's how I learn 90% of the crap I know.

Doing your own work on suspension shouldn't be that intimidating - when you get down to the details of working on vehicles, it's just nuts and bolts, for the most part. It's just being comfortable doing it that's the issue. Get a manual, surf Youtube, whatever, it's easy to learn about this stuff. Reach out to members for help (I'm always happy to help, but clearly not an expert). Not knocking mechanics in anyway, but it doesn't take a well educated scientist to work on vehicles - it's just knowing the process, not being afraid to jump in and what you're doing. It's basically legos, but on a much higher level.
I totally agree. There wasn't a good reason to avoid the inners other than I didn't see it come up as a failure point related to my issues. But that's why I asked about the while I'm in there stuff, and it def makes sense to add it to the list (especially with boyer's good point about avoiding a second alignment.) If I had more time before an upcoming surgery I'm trying to beat (or access to a lift) I'd include the steering, too. As of now, it looks like I'm at: tie rods inner and outer, sway bar links, ball joints upper and lower, and struts plus coils.

Also, very open non-suspension maintenance/replacements that I'd wish I did during this job!
 

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I totally agree. There wasn't a good reason to avoid the inners other than I didn't see it come up as a failure point related to my issues. But that's why I asked about the while I'm in there stuff, and it def makes sense to add it to the list (especially with boyer's good point about avoiding a second alignment.) If I had more time before an upcoming surgery I'm trying to beat (or access to a lift) I'd include the steering, too. As of now, it looks like I'm at: tie rods inner and outer, sway bar links, ball joints upper and lower, and struts plus coils.

Also, very open non-suspension maintenance/replacements that I'd wish I did during this job!
tie rods = steering. It's doubtfull it's your steering gear box. Tie rods are pretty simple to replace, you just have to get the lengths as close as possible, but the alignment will take care of that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
tie rods = steering. It's doubtfull it's your steering gear box. Tie rods are pretty simple to replace, you just have to get the lengths as close as possible, but the alignment will take care of that.
I hope you're right... looking forward to seeing how it goes!
 

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Snag new boots for the inner tie rod. i did these last year, and recalled the 'why aren't these included with the inner rod' situation. I think my local parts store had them; not rock auto.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Snag new boots for the inner tie rod. i did these last year, and recalled the 'why aren't these included with the inner rod' situation. I think my local parts store had them; not rock auto.
I guess reusing the existing boots is out lol
Any opinions on using these in case my my local dealership doesn't have any?
 

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I guess reusing the existing boots is out lol
Any opinions on using these in case my my local dealership doesn't have any?
Unless there's cracks or holes in the boots you have already, replacing them isn't really necessary. I re-used the tie rod boots on mine when I did a Titan swap and have had zero issues. Just get some new hose clamps. Even a quality (metal pawl) zip tie will work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Unless there's cracks or holes in the boots you have already, replacing them isn't really necessary. I re-used the tie rod boots on mine when I did a Titan swap and have had zero issues. Just get some new hose clamps. Even a quality (metal pawl) zip tie will work.
Good to know. The ones I linked are already on their way, so I guess I'll keep them on hand in case the existing ones have any issues. Thanks!
 

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Gonna throw one in there for checking your alignment. I know when I have low caster (like <2) I HATE how it drives. It feels really loose to me and like the steering wheel does nothing. I usually run a caster way over spec to get it to behave how I want.

Prob worth getting one of those free checks before you throw a ton of money/hours on it. But I wouldn't align it if you are planning on swapping stuff out as you'll likely just have to align it again after.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Gonna throw one in there for checking your alignment. I know when I have low caster (like <2) I HATE how it drives. It feels really loose to me and like the steering wheel does nothing. I usually run a caster way over spec to get it to behave how I want.

Prob worth getting one of those free checks before you throw a ton of money/hours on it. But I wouldn't align it if you are planning on swapping stuff out as you'll likely just have to align it again after.
I can feel play in the wheels, so I'm pretty confident there's an issue in at least one (and prob multiple) links of the chain. But I'll keep the caster adjustment in mind... I always get the lifetime alignments deal that my tires place offers, so if it still feels sloppy after the first alignment it'll be easy to play with the settings. Thanks!
 

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I read recently that worn rear leafs over bumps can cause the steering wheel to go squirrley. I've tried replicating it on rough pavement and I think it may be true, but TBH it is tough to tell at 80 kmh whether the steering is reacting to the front or rear hitting the bump.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I read recently that worn rear leafs over bumps can cause the steering wheel to go squirrley. I've tried replicating it on rough pavement and I think it may be true, but TBH it is tough to tell at 80 kmh whether the steering is reacting to the front or rear hitting the bump.
Inching closer to new suspension all around lol
Hopefully the front end takes care of it, but if not I'll keep the leafs in mind... and if I have to do that too I'll be kicking myself in the ass for not skipping straight to an adjustable height system.
 
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