Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Tie rod — What is a tie rod?

What does a tie rod do and what are the symptoms of a worn tie rod?

What a tie rod does

A tie rod is a metal shaft that connects the steering gear to the steering knuckle. A vehicle with a rack and pinion style steering gear has two tie rods and each tie rod has a

tie rod end

Tie rod end ball and socket design

flexible ball-and-socket joint at each end that allows the tie rod to move up and down and side-to-side when turning. A vehicle with a traditional recirculating ball style steering gear has several connecting rods before the final connection to the actual tie rods.

tie rod

Location of tie rods and tie rod ends in a rack and pinion steering system

Tie rod for rack and pinion steering

Tie rods for rack and pinion steering have a flexible ball-and-socket joint on the inner end where the tie rod connects to the rack, and threads on the outer end where the “tie rod end” connect.

Tie rods and connecting rods for conventional steering gear

Depending on the configuration, traditional steering gears my use a drag link, center link, idler arm, tie rods and a pitman arm.

tie rod

Location of tie rods and tie rod ends in a conventional steering system

What causes a tie rod to go bad?

Since a ball-and-socket designs is used in all tie rod ends, the ball and

tie rod end

Example of a worn tie rod end that’s rusted and causing sloppy steering

socket can wear over time. When new, the ball-and-socket joints are filled with grease and protected by a rubber boot. However, the boot can age and crack, leaking grease and allowing water and road grit to enter which accelerates wear.

What are the symptoms of a worn tie rod?

• Play in the steering wheel is the most common sign of tie rod wear. You’ll find yourself constantly correcting your steering just to stay within your own land.

• Uneven and excessive tire wear. Since the tie rod is responsible for keeping your tires pointing straight ahead when driving straight, tie rod wear can cause the tires to move left or right when the vehicle is moving straight. That causes tread “feathering”.

• Noise. In extreme wear cases, a worn ball-and-socket can make a creaking sound when turning.

• Catastrophic failure. An extremely worn flexible ball-and-socket joint can separate while driving, preventing you from steering. The lack of input to the wheel can cause the wheel to turn to it’s maximum angle, causing a crash and serious injury.

Tie rod replacement cost

Tie rod replacement cost varies widely depending on the type of steering system (rack and pinion versus traditional recirculating ball). Tie rod ends generally cost about $50 and usually install in less than a half hour. But an inner tie rod for a rack and pinion gear can cost more and take more than an hour to install. Anytime a steering component is replacement, you must perform an alignment, which adds about $100 to the repair.

©, 2018 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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