How To Recognize Signs that the Tie Rod is Going Bad on a Car

A vehicle’s tie rod is a slim structural rod that is a component of its steering mechanism. It is a metal bar that connects the wheels to the steering gear. Worn out or defective ends of a tie rod can negatively affect the vehicles alignment and result to undue tire wear. You will notice that the front wheels are getting worn out much faster than the ones at the back. It can also lead to erratic steering and front suspension troubles. Being able to recognize the signs that your car’s tie rod has already gone bad and immediately replacing it can save your life and the car’s as well. This guide will tell you what to look out for when assessing the soundness of your vehicle’s tie rod.

  • Go for a drive and observe if you can feel a degree of vibration or hear any clunking sound during turns. Tie rods that are already becoming loose will allow for space that will enable the tire to shake on the tire’s axis. You will be able to actually feel the wobbling as you hold the steering wheel. Take note that the wobbling only occurs when you are stepping on the gas pedal. Should you feel the vibration when you are braking, the damage could be on your brake rotors. Hearing a clunking sound, while taking sharp turns, could mean a loose connection between the knuckle and the tie rod end.
  • Place a hand on the connection of the tie rods and try to move the wheel. For this step, you will need to raise the vehicle by lifting it with a jack. Make sure that you secure the jack under the car before performing any checks. First, move the steering arm and observe if the tie rod moves backwards and forwards evenly. If the knuckle or arm moves but the tie rod remains in place, it is time to replace that component. Next, ask for assistance as you try to feel if the tie rod will move. Hold the wheel in the 3 and 9 o’clock position and twist the wheels. Check if you feel any play. This means that you can actually feel and see the wheel move back and forth. You can also insert a long, sturdy bar or rod, like the handle of a broom, into the spokes and wiggle it again. If you perceive that the component is moving too much, it could indicate that the tie rod has already gone bad.
  • Your next option would be to draw a line connecting the steering knuckle and the tie rod. Using a chalk, make a mark on the tie rod and the assembly of the steering knuckle. Grab the tire with your hands and move it forward and backwards. If you observe that the lines do not move together or stay together the whole way, it is a sign that your tie rod is completely worn out and should be replaced.

Another way to find out if the tie rod is bad is to push on the rods directly. Remove the vehicle’s tire, hold the tire rod and use a lever on its end. If you notice any excessive movement, it is time to replace it. Don’t forget to check both front wheels.


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