5 Symptoms of Bad Tie Rod Ends

The tie rod end is an integral part of the steering system that promotes the smooth handling of your vehicle.

It is a pivot joint that connects the steering and suspension parts and also transfers force that enables the wheel to turn.

However, once the tie rod ends are bad, controlling your vehicle’s movement using the steering wheel becomes difficult and nearly impossible. It is also a high-risk mechanical problem as the driver may lose vehicle control when driving.

This article examines the signs and consequences of a bad tie rod end in a vehicle. We will also discuss the cost breakdown of replacing bad tie rod ends.

symptoms of bad inner tie rod

Types of Tie rod end

There are two types of tie rod end in a vehicle: The Inner tie rod end and the Outer tie rod end.

The inner tie rod can be found connected to the steering gearbox assembly or steering rack. It creates a link between the outer tie rod and the steering gear. Furthermore, the inner tie rod comprises a more significant part of your wheel alignment and helps create a steady and controlled movement.

In contrast, the outer tie rod end can be found linked to each front wheel spindle. It turns the front wheels in whichever direction the driver steers the wheel.

These two tie rods play a vital role in the entire steering system. In addition, they transfer power from the rack and pinion to the wheel with the help of the power steering box.

Also, the tie rod ends provide smooth handling and turning when needed. It allows the wheels to turn left and right in response to steering commands by the driver. 

Common Symptoms of Bad Tie Rod End

The following are symptoms your vehicle has a bad tie rod end:

symptoms of bad outer tie rod

1. Delayed or no steering responsiveness

One primary symptom of a bad tie rod is delayed steering responsiveness or steering wheel free play. It is when your wheel does not respond immediately to steering commands when driving.

A significant reason for this is due to space created in the sockets of both the inner and outer tie rods due to wear and tear. You must pay attention to your steering wheel responsiveness, as this symptom is easy to notice.

2. Uneven tire wear

By inspecting your tires, you will notice that one side is experiencing more significant wear when compared to the rest of the tire tread. It could be due to tie rod end issues and the damage it must have caused to the vehicle’s alignment.

When the tie rod end is worn out, the wheel becomes less firm and can wobble. It allows the vehicle to place more weight on one side of the tire when driving due to the unstable condition of the wheel.

A condition like this answers the question, “Can bad tie rods cause wobble?” The worn-out tie rod will move from left to right in its socket, causing your vehicle to wobble as the tire wear worsens.

3. Noises when steering

If you have a loose tie rod end problem, you may experience disturbing noise when driving. It could be a clunking, knocking, or squealing sound. These sounds will be more significant anytime you turn the steering. 

The noises are caused by a loose tie rod end due to wear. As you turn your vehicle’s steering, the joint of the tie rod makes noises as they collide with the socket. Also, debris that finds its way into the space in the tie rod joint contributes to the noise. 

4. Front end out of alignment

The tie rods are connected to the front wheel and can cause it to misalign when worn out. Tie rods ensure that when you steer your vehicle, it racks straight.

When it becomes loose, the front part of your vehicle will no longer rack straight, causing a misalignment. At this moment, you will begin to experience lousy handling, and this is when you need to get the problem fixed.

5. Steering wheel vibration

Sometimes you may experience vibration on the steering wheel when you have a bad tie rod end. It is majorly felt when driving through a rough road or turning your steering at a lower speed.

Above are the signs of a bad tie rod or ball joint. However, it could be challenging to differentiate between the symptoms of a bad outer tie rod and the symptoms of a bad inner tie rod. It is majorly because they both have similar symptoms when bad. After all, they work as one.

To better understand which type of tie rod end is bad, you may need to inspect them physically.

Also, you need to understand that other factors could cause some of these symptoms, so you need a proper diagnosis before fixing the problem. 

What will happen if you don’t change the bad tie rod in time?

Driving with a bad tie rod exposes your vehicle to complete tie rod failure. It means your wheel will completely break free from the steering assembly, causing disastrous accidents. You could immediately lose control of your vehicle.

The tie rod is vital in connecting the steering to the wheels, allowing full control of vehicle movements. Unfortunately, the tie rod end is prone to wear and has a limited usage time.

Once worn out, it becomes loose in the socket, creating extreme movement. It also gives out a lot of signs mentioned previously. If ignored, the tie rod will eventually break.

Furthermore, once the tie rod breaks or disconnects from the wheels, you can no longer control them when driving. The wheels will no longer respond to steering commands. 

If you wonder, “How long can you drive with bad tie rods,” you should not drive more than 10 to 20 miles. Avoid driving with a bad tie rod, and ensure the problem is fixed immediately.

sign of bad tie rod ends

How much does it cost to replace the tie rod end?

New tie rod parts would cost from $40 to $150, excluding the cost of labor. Hiring a professional to help with the replacement may cost you between $100 and $200, depending on the professional you hire.

Depending on certain factors, a tie replacement cost could run from $150 to $350. If you have good mechanical knowledge and you will have the repair done yourself, it will cost a lot less.

Conclusion

We understand that having a bad tie rod comes with some obvious signs. Once you notice these signs in your vehicle, please do not ignore them. The tie rod end is essential in the car; once it cannot perform that role, your vehicle is useless until fixed. Also, having a failed tie rod end while driving could be dangerous.

Akindayini Temiloluwa

I am passionate about everything automotive. Right from when I got my first toy car as a kid, I developed an interest in the inner workings of vehicles. As I grew up, my love for mechanical stuff became more substantial enough for me to pursue a career in it. My goal as an automotive content writer is to simplify the most challenging concepts for my readers, help them self-diagnose what may be wrong with their vehicles and offer real value for their time.

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