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How To Tell If You Have A Bad Tie Rod: Symptoms & Causes

July 31, 2022

If your steering wheel shakes when you turn your car, or your vehicle veers to one side even if your steering is straight, you might have a malfunctioning tie rod. And if that isn’t scary enough, you might hear strange noises too. 

What is a tie rod, and what does it have to do with steering wheel shakes?
How can you tell if you have a bad tie rod?

We’ll answer all these questions in this article. We’ll tell you what a tie rod is and does, what are bad tie rod symptoms, and also what causes tie rod failure, and how tie rod functionality is checked.

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Let’s get started!

What Is A Tie Rod?

The tie rod is a crucial component in your vehicle’s steering system.

Typically, a tie rod assembly consists of an outer tie rod end that connects to the steering knuckle or wheel assembly and an inner tie rod end attached to the steering gear or steering rack. 

Each end of these tie rods has a ball joint, which is a part of the suspension system — allowing for controlled movement while the wheel turns or moves up and down. 

The thread that attaches the inner and outer tie rods is used to adjust the car’s front wheel alignment.

Now that you know the workings of a tie rod, let’s explore the symptoms of a worn tie rod. 

5 Bad Tie Rod Symptoms

A failing tie rod will exhibit some obvious signs. 
Here’s how you know you might need a tie rod replacement:

1. Shaky Steering

As the tie rod wears down, your vehicle’s steering mechanism becomes shaky or loose, especially when turning the wheel. You’ll also need to adjust the steering wheel while driving forward.

This happens because the steering mechanism is losing control of your vehicle’s wheels, eventually leading to a complete loss of steering.

2. Excessive Vibrations

As the steering system becomes loose, the tires will start to move randomly and cause the vehicle to shake or vibrate. These vibrations will intensify when you accelerate, turn corners, or slow down due to a bad tie rod end.

3. Bad Vehicle Alignment

A properly functioning tie rod helps maintain the vehicle’s front-end alignment. So, when damaged or worn out, bad tie rods become loose and misaligned.

This misalignment is most evident when driving, as the vehicle starts veering left or right when driving forward. In comparison, a properly aligned vehicle will maintain a straight path, even if your hands are off the steering gear.

4. Uneven Tire Wear 

Due to the misalignment, the front tires start to toe out or toe in, causing the inside or outsides of each tire to wear down faster. 

Uneven wear is a prominent indicator of misalignment. This is especially true for SUV tires and RV tires since these vehicles are heavy and prone to tie rod problems. 

But to be sure, it’s best to have a mechanic verify the cause of tire wear. 

Note: If the tire wear is due to other issues, you can ask your mechanic for tire care tips while availing tire services.

5. Abnormal Sounds

Another sign is a high-pitched squeaking noise that occurs while driving, especially around corners. It indicates a loss of lubrication, which happens when the inner tie rod end dust boot has cracked. You may also hear rattling or knocking noises from the car’s front end.

But since these noises aren’t direct indicators of a malfunctioning tie rod, it’s helpful to look for other symptoms before seeking a tie rod replacement. 

Overall, if you notice any of the above symptoms, you should have a mechanic check it out to verify if you have a bad tie rod.

But to give you a better understanding, let’s go through the causes behind a damaged tie rod.

What Causes Tie Rod Failure?

Tie rod failure can be caused by several issues, including:

So, it could help to have the tie rod checked anytime you have any wheel service, oil change, or overall vehicle maintenance. If you’re curious, we’ll see how it’s done, next.

How To Check Tie Rod Functionality?

Here’s what your auto repair expert would do to check for bad tie rod symptoms and narrow down the root cause:

Both these checks require professional equipment and knowledge. But it’s important not to delay the inspection of this car part if you suspect something is wrong.

Final Words

The tie rod is an important piece in your steering mechanism. A faulty tie rod can become a safety hazard while driving. So, it’s best to get professional assistance as soon as possible. 

For that, you have RepairSmith.  

We’re an accessible mobile auto repair service available 24/7. 

With us, you also get:

Get in touch, and rest easy knowing your car will be in good hands.