Tie rods are essential for precise steering on all vehicles. A functional tie rod connects the suspension and steering system to the front wheels on the ground through several joints, so that the wheels turn precisely when the steering wheel is turned. This system allows the driver to use minimal force to turn the vehicle.
But like everything in a vehicle, ball joints age over time. They will also wear and damage faster if you regularly drive over potholes or uneven roads.
Such conditions may cause tie rod ends to malfunction within a few years, but those on other vehicles can last for many years without being replaced. Bad crankshaft symptoms can present themselves in several ways.
What is a tie rod end?
The tie rods, consisting of inner tie rods and outer tie rods, connect the front wheels to the steering wheel. Both have greased ball joints to allow rotational forces to be transmitted through the system.
The outer end of the tie rod is protected by a rubber boot to keep out grease and dirt, but this rubber can crack over time and allow moisture to enter the joint and cause corrosion.
See also: 4 signs of a bad kneecap
Faulty tie rod end signs
You’re probably wondering how you know if a tie rod end is bad. Well, there are some very notable signs that you can pay attention to. Below are some common symptoms of a bad tie rod end.
#1 – Steering wheel vibration or jerk
The tie rod keeps the suspension components strong and firm. If the tie rod end deteriorates and becomes loose, the suspension parts also become loose and create vibrations and shakes that can be felt in the steering wheel when the vehicle is moving.
This steering wheel vibration gets worse as the car accelerates and when cornering.
#2 – Front End Misalignment
The tie rod helps keep the front of the vehicle aligned, and a damaged or worn tie rod will result in loose parts. This will cause the front end to be misaligned and have poor tracking.
This misalignment is noticeable while driving the vehicle, as it will begin to lean left or right when moving forward. This is easy to see if you take your hands off the wheel briefly after turning directly while driving. A properly aligned vehicle must maintain a straight line.
#3 – The steering wheel feels loose
A defective tie rod can cause the steering wheel to become loose or have excessive play. This is a dangerous condition, as it can lead to a complete lack of direction. Take the car to the garage immediately if you notice a loose steering wheel.
See also: Causes of difficulty turning the steering wheel
#4 – Unusual sounds
Any squeaking or grinding noise while the vehicle is moving may indicate unwanted metal-to-metal contact. A high-pitched squealing noise while driving the vehicle, especially when cornering, may indicate that the rubber boot at the end of the connecting rod has cracked, causing a loss of lubrication.
Rattles or clanking noises may also be heard from the front of the car. Since strange noises don’t automatically indicate that a connecting rod end is failing, you’ll want to see if there are any other signs on this page.
#5 – Use an unusual tire
Tire wear is normal and should be even on both sides. One or more tires may have uneven wear. Poor traction will cause the inner or outer edges of a tire to wear faster than the rest of the tire.
You can check for abnormal tire wear by standing in front of the vehicle and looking at the inside and outside edges of the front tires.
Uneven tire wear could have other causes, such as misalignment, incorrect tire pressure, or outdated tires, so it’s a good idea to have the car checked by a mechanic.
#6 – The vehicle vibrates
Once the tires begin to wear unevenly, the entire vehicle can begin to vibrate. These vibrations intensify with acceleration, making comfortable driving difficult. Comfort, however, maybe the least of your worries.
Almost complete failure of the tie bars can cause vibrations in the vehicle, which is very dangerous. In this case, the tires are loose and wobble on their own, and you may lose direction. Have the vehicle repaired immediately.
Tie Rod End Replacement Cost
On average, the cost of replacing a tie rod end is the same From $100 to $400, depending on the vehicle, the quality of the parts used, and the difficulty of reaching the end of the link.
As for parts cost, a tie rod end can cost anywhere from $20 to $100, regardless of whether it is the inner or outer tie rod. External tie rod ends are pretty simple to replace, so expect to pay around $80-$100 for labor as most mechanics charge a minimum per hour. Inner Tie Rod Ends try a little harder to find around $150 to $300 labor.
Since at least 50% of the total cost is labor, it makes sense to purchase OEM or high-quality parts to get your money’s worth. Don’t forget to include the initial alignment in the cost estimate, as this is necessary after the repair is completed.
Shop around to compare labor rates at each of your local auto shops to keep your total cost as low as possible. Of course, the lowest labor rate is everything, but you can often find a reputable independent shop that charges half of what a dealership would. Taxes and other fees may also be added to the final price.
Check that the strap ends yourself.
It is a good idea to have the vehicle checked by a mechanic if you notice any of the above symptoms.
However, you can first check to see if your seat stays are loose by grabbing one front wheel on the sides while simultaneously pushing with one hand and pulling with the other to see if there is any play in the wheel.
The tie rod can also be pinched and shaken to check for looseness. Excessive mobility is abnormal and will require immediate repairs.