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Symptoms Of Bad Tie Rod End

What Are The Symptoms Of Bad Tie Rod End?

The ability to turn your front wheels is all down to the tie rod ends which makes them an absolutely crucial part of the steering system. This is why it is important to ensure the tie rod ends work perfectly and actively address any issues before the problem proliferates. By knowing the symptoms of tie rod end failure you can identify issues with the component and replace it immediately. This will preserve the safety and handling performance of your vehicle. 

What Is The Function Of A Tie Rod End?

There are two tie rods: inner and outer. The outer tie rod, more commonly known as the tie rod end, connects the steering knuckle to the steering rack. The inner tie rod forms the connection between the steering rack and the tie rod end. The tie rods help facilitate the movement of the steering knuckle in relation to the steering wheel input via the steering rack assembly. The rotational movement of the steering wheel is converted into linear movement at the steering rack which is transmitted to the tie rods to push and pull the steering knuckle which ultimately moves the wheels in the desired direction. 

The inner tie rod is a metal shaft with a ball joint on one end and an adjustable groove on the other end that facilitates wheel alignment. The outer tie rod has a ball joint on the steering knuckle connection side which is essential for steering knuckle articulation with respect to suspension movement as the vehicle goes over uneven terrain. The most common failure point of the tie rod end is the ball joint which wears out leading to various problems. Without a properly functioning tie rod end, the steering and suspension system are compromised affecting the handling, safety and comfort of the vehicle. 

What Happens When The Tie Rod Ends Fail?

As the tie rod end begins to fail, it starts to shows signs of failure which can range from complete loss of vehicle control to premature tire wear. If you experience these symptoms then make sure you replace the tie rod ends as soon as possible to prevent damage to other suspension and steering components as well as risking safety. 


Vehicle Wandering

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Since tie rods dictate the alignment of the front wheels, a damaged or worn tie rod end will cause misalignment of the front end. This may not be directly apparent to you but you may start to notice vehicle wandering or the vehicle pulling to one side as your drive straight. You may also notice increased vibrations as you take turns and poor handling performance.



Uneven Tire Wear

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Uneven or premature tire wear can indicate issues with the steering and suspension system, particularly the tie rod ends. The alignment of the wheels determines the contact patch of the tire with the ground. If the alignment is off due to any factor, the tire rests at an unusual angle with the ground surface which causes uneven wearing of the tires. A visual inspection can be done to determine if you have uneven tire wear, with one side of the tire worn more than the other. If you notice uneven tire wear then inspect all steering and suspension parts starting with the tie rod ends.  


Front End Noises

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As the ball joint within the tie rods fails, clearances between the ball joint components increase and that creates clunking or squealing noises when the wheels are turned. The ball joints can be inspected to determine their condition. Ripped ball joint boots can introduce contaminants and moisture into the ball joint which increases friction and corrosion within the ball joint leading to failure. If the boot is fine then you can also check for play by shaking or wobbling the tie rod end. If there is play then it means the ball joint is bad and needs replacement. 


Steering Wheel Vibrations And Play

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The tie rod ends connect the steering assembly to the wheels and so any abnormalities faced in the steering wheels can be linked to bad tie rod ends. Excessive play in the sterling wheels or unresponsive steering feedback can be an indication that the tie rods have failed. This is usually accompanied by a clunking or shaky steering wheel or may be felt as vibrations when driving or turning the wheels. 


Complete Tie Rod Failure

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The absolute worst sign of tie rod failure is if the rod breaks during vehicle movement. This can happen if the above signs are ignored for too long. A broken tie rod severs the connection between the steering wheels and the tires which results in complete loss of vehicle control and poses a serious safety concern. Always inspect the steering system and tie rods regularly to avoid such risky situations. 


Since the tie rods are such an integral part of the steering system, it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of tie rod failure and carry out a replacement in time to prevent safety hazards. Once you replace your tie rods make sure to follow these maintenance tips for tie rods to extend their life and avoid premature failure of it and other components. 



FAQs

Q) How To Replace Tie Rod Ends?

Tie rod end replacement is fairly straightforward, however, it does require some level of expertise and the right tools. Luckily we’re here to provide both. Refer to this tie rod installation guide to learn all about the process as well as the tools required. 


Q) Do I Need An Alignment After Replacing Tie Rods?

Yes. Tie rods are critical steering components that dictate the alignment of the wheels particularly the toe-in and toe-out angles as well as limiting the camber. When the tie rods are replaced, the alignment is lost no matter how precisely you may install the new tie rods. Therefore, wheel alignment after tie rod end is important. 


Q) Is It Ok To Drive With A Bad Tie Rod End?

It is not safe to drive with bad tie rod ends as it can cause serious driveability issues especially while turning at higher speeds. In the worst-case scenario, the tie rod end can snap off completely which means the wheels are no longer connected to the steering wheel and are not under the driver’s control. This is a serious life-threatening situation as the driver has no control over the vehicle’s movements. If you notice the above symptoms then get yourself to a mechanic and have your tie rods replaced.