Diagnosing Faulty Tie Rods

Are you experiencing vibration in your steering wheel, abnormal noises from your suspension area, or uneven tire wear? There could be numerous reasons causing these issues however one of the culprits contributing to these signs are faulty tie rods.


What is a Tie Rod and How Will I know When They Go Bad?

Car suspension can be quite a complicated system with many components including shocks, struts, coil springs, and linkages all working together to provide a smooth and enjoyable ride for your vehicle. One part that many people do not know about is the tie rod. In many vehicles, the tie rod connects the steering rack to the steering knuckle on each of the front wheels. Whenever you turn the steering wheel, it translates that movement through numerous components allowing the tie rods to push or pull the wheels and make them turn.


Inner and Outer Tie Rod Ends; What’s the Difference?

Inner Tie Rod: This tie rod attaches directly to the steering rack and is usually covered up by a rubber dust boot. Featuring an in-line ball joint, it allows the force transmitted to the steering rack to reach the outer tie rod and then the wheel.

Outer Tie Rod: Unlike the inner tie rod, this tie rod has a 90 degree-angled ball joint on one end that attaches to the steering knuckle, allowing the wheels to be turned.


How Do Tie Rods Go Bad?

Like any moving part of a vehicle, over time tie rod ends can and will wear out. Older vehicles have tie rod ends that include grease fittings that without regular maintenance can cause serious ramifications. When you notice the symptoms below, it’s best to bring in your vehicle as soon as possible to avoid additional damage or potential accidents that could occur due to faulty tie rod ends.


Symptoms Your Tie Rods Ends are Failing

Once you know the signs, bad or worn tie rod ends can be simple to detect. Many drivers choose to ignore mild symptoms, but it is best to take any symptoms very seriously. 

Vibration in the Steering Wheel – Tie rod ends are responsible for linking the whole steering system to the front wheels, that includes the steering wheel. Once they start to go bad and begin to loosen, you could notice the steering wheel vibrate the more you increase speed or corner.

Steering Has Become Loose – Just like the steering wheel vibration, worn tie rods could lead to the steering wheel having a lot of play when driving.

Abnormal Noises – When the rubber dust boot covering the tie rods becomes damaged or cracked, the lubricant inside that greases the tie rod can leak out. This will lead to the components to grind together making a squeaking noise, especially when making turns. 

Wheel Alignment Off – When a tie rod goes bad, it can throw off the geometry of the affected wheel and can mess your vehicles alignment up. This can lead to several problems like your car pulling to one side or the other when in motion.

Uneven Tire Wear – If you start to notice one of your tires wearing faster than the others that means you have an issue. This can most likely be due to the wheel alignment being off, caused by a failing tie rod as mentioned above.


Always have an ASE certified mechanic inspect your vehicle if you suspect an issue. A faulty part can cause damage to other components which will cost you more down the road. Safety should always be a priority and a peace of mind is priceless.


Complete Car Parts offer different brands of inner and outer tie rods for most vehicles that meet or exceed OE specifications for exact fit and function. If you need assistance with fitment, installation or if you simply have an inquiry, simply contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.