Repairs on a 99 Corolla -- starter, tie rod ends

Hello all,
I was referred to this group and hope one or more of you might have some advice for me. I have a 1999 Corolla LE purchased about six
months ago, 145k miles. Previous owners said that they had done everything mechanic recommended by the car, replaced timing belt at 120k, however their reliability was a little suspect as they thought they were selling me a Camry originally (it was their daughter's car and she'd removed the markings). But I had the car checked out by a local mechanic when I bought it, and the engine is and has been extremely solid.
About a month ago I started noticing a rattle on my right front tire when going over potholes. I did some research and tracked this down to known issues with either the tie rod ends or the strut mount. I called a local dealership service dept and they said they'd check it out for free, and gave me a rough estimate for the cost of replacing either the tie rod ends or the strut mount. I went there yesterday, they did diagnose it, said it was the tie rod ends, wanted double what they'd quoted me over the phone ($450), then tried to charge me a diagnostic fee ($100 -- I didn't pay it). They also recommended changing the sway bar links ($150) and then all of this does require an alignment ($50).
Over the course of yesterday and today my starter has now rapidly started to die. I turn the key and think I can hear the solenoid clicking followed by a soft noise as the car tries to start and doesn't turn over. The battery was replaced last month and all other electrics work fine. The starting is intermittent but rapidly dwindling and I'm pretty sure the starter itself is just nearly dead. Called the dealership again and they do have a starter in stock ($266) and can install it ($133). For all service they offer 1 year warranty, parts and labor.
So I suddenly am looking at the dealer recommending $1000 of work on a car I paid $3500 for six months ago; I've already replaced the battery and both headlights and done a transmission flush, minor stuff but the costs are racking up. I am wondering what the complexity is of doing these repairs on my own.
I've found a rebuilt starter online for $95, 1 year warranty. Tie rod ends $25 for outer and $40 for inner, 1 year warranty each. Have not purchased any of these yet. Based on my research with my abilities I would be comfortable replacing the outer tie rod end, but from what I can find replacing the inner tie rod end is more complicated, and I understand the starter is a pain. I have friends who are willing to help me who aren't especially car experienced but are engineers and are strong and good problem solvers.
What would you all recommend I do? How difficult is it to replace the inner tie rod end? Should I try to install the starter myself? The alternative to going to the dealer is going through my local mechanic, which is also an option, though I suspect he'd find more expensive parts than I would -- but he would probably install the parts I can find for less than the dealership would.
Any advice on making these repairs is very appreciated. Aside of the bother of wasting money I just can't afford $1000 right now and would be putting it on credit if I had to go that route. Obviously the starter issue is the more pressing one since it is very nearly dead, but that problem could be approached separately from fixing the tie rod ends.
Thanks very much, Erin Hoffman
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The next time your car is due for transmission service, change the automatic transmission fluid, do not flush because at higher mileages with unknown service history, a flush can cause problems by dislodging debris and clogging internal passages.
I would not automatically assume that the starter is bad. If the engine turns slowly when cranking, the problem could be a bad battery, poor battery and/or starter connections, or a bad starter. If you are getting a click but the engine does not crank, then check the starter solenoid contacts for wear. The labor to replace the contacts is slightly more than the labor to replace the starter, but the cost of replacement contacts is much less (under $20) than the cost of a replacement starter. If you replace the entire starter, you should get a new solenoid with it. Replacing the starter should not be that big a project.
Regarding the tie rod ends (Toyota calls them rack ends), get an overall package price from a competent independent shop and compare with the price the dealer quoted you.
--

Ray O
(correct punctuation to reply)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thank you all for your advice, it's very helpful.
I am going to spend tomorrow figuring out what to do about the starter -- at this point I don't even have a repair manual for the car, only what I was able to glean online, which is enough to the point where I would be comfortable testing the starter if I could get to it, but on the car I only have the rough summary that it needs to be removed from the bottom, the air filter and connecting hose removed to get to the top bolt, and the bottom bolt from underneath. Which is a text summary and may or may not be enough to make it apparent, we'll see.
If I can't figure it out just from looking underneath the car (how to get to the starter), I'll call a local mechanic I know and ask him to check it out for me, and test it (battery, relay, cables, etc). I found a local parts store that carries the starter and solenoid if they need to be fully replaced. I'll also ask him about the tie rod / rack ends.
Hachiroku, my understanding is it is both inner and outer rack ends on the right front wheel that need to be replaced and that's where the $450 comes from -- and from what I was seeing that's for one wheel, not both in the front. As mentioned from what I've read I would feel comfortable replacing the outer tie rod end myself but am less confident about the inner, but will have some time to study the process. The car is very clean in general with very little rust. Nosampls, I had been looking at Toyota parts for the tie rod ends, and good to know about the sway bar links. I had heard about the tie rod end puller and will get one of those if I wind up making the attempt myself.
If anyone has any thoughts or advice on accessing the starter before I check things out tomorrow afternoon I'd appreciate them. If I had a local mechanic who was specialized in Toyotas I would be there in an instant. The problem is I'm in an area without a lot of Toyotas in general -- if I were in southern California I'd know exactly where to go, but not up here -- so end of story I very much appreciate the advice.
--Erin
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 13 Apr 2007 19:50:01 -0700, Erin wrote:

That probably means they're replacing the entire rack, that is if using a rebuilt one. They run about $225 and an hour or two to install.
Luckily, the bolts that hold them in are usually covered in grease and come out quite easily.
Now, they COULD be replacing both tie rod ends, but at that price, doing the whole rack would actually probably be faster! ESP if the threads in the rack are bad.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Erin wrote:

As long as you have the time and motivation to do it Erin, go ahead and try it. It is not rocket science. The worst that can happen is that you have to call the hook and have someone finish it. Those repairs you mentioned are quite straightforward. Make absolutely certain that when you have to get under the car, that you have it on sturdy jack stands that are placed on a solid, level surface. Don't chance getting under a unsteady or untrusted setup. When you change out the tie rod ends, either count the threads before or as you remove them to replace the new ones to something close to where they were. Use a fork bar to remove them if they are stubborn. You will probably have to have the toe in set in the alignment bay after replacement for an accurate specification. As for the starter, disconnect the battery, remove ignition and battery wiring to the starter, remove the mounting bolts and slide it out of the housing. Save any shims that are between the starter and the housing and follow the directions in the new starter's directions for re installation. If it entails removing exhaust pipes or other accessories to gain access, you will have to deal with that as well. Make sure when re-assembly that all connections are clean and use a dielectric grease on all the connection surfaces (wire ends, terminals, ect.) to stop any corrosion. Be careful, take your time, you should be successful. Good luck.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Erin wrote: said it was the tie rod ends, wanted double what they'd

==Use Toyota parts. Find a tie rod end puller at Harbor Freight for around $12, makes the job very simple. Do use new cotter pins. Sway bar (stabilizer bar) bushings should run around $20 also easy to replace. Genuine Toyota parts are available at discount online, sometimes local parts manager will price match.

==In my humble opinion after market starters can be horrible. Original equipment Denso gear reduction starters tend to be extremely reliable. Most common complaint is eventual wear in the copper contacts in the solenoid which can be purchased and replaced separately for very reasonable parts cost. Just disconnect the battery before working on the starter and removal should be fairly straightforward.
Another alternative could be to find an independent mechanic with experience in working on Toyota and insist they use Toyota parts. Chances are, the overall bill will be much lower.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 13 Apr 2007 09:02:39 -0700, Erin wrote:

YIKES!!!! $225 to replace Tie Rod ends?!?!?!
Look for another mechanic. You can do the TREs in your back yard in about 1/2 an hour! (You have to mark where the old ones were, install the new ones, and that's just good enough to get you to the alignment shop). BTW, $50 is OK for an alignment, but the swap bar links are a little over the top, too. Of course, that depends on how rusty the car is. If you're in the Northeast or so, they may have to overcome rust.
And, that's also assuming Outer TRE's. Inner TRE's are a different story...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.