Your front suspension contains many control arms and other important suspension parts; the tie rod end is one of them.
Because of the stress the tie rod end always experience, since it has to hold the wheels steady, they sometimes get worn out.
This article will teach you the most common symptoms, the location, and the replacement cost of the tie rod ends. Let’s begin with a quick look at the signs to look for:
The most common symptom of a bad tie rod end is a distorted front wheel alignment. You may notice that your steering wheel is not straight anymore and you can often see uneven tire wear if you inspect your tires.
The tie rod end is not digitally connected to a car, so you will not see warning signs flashing on your dashboard. However, you will see other symptoms if you keep a close eye out for them.
Here is a more detailed list of the 5 most common symptoms of bad tie rod ends.
5 Bad Tie Rod End Symptoms
1. Front Wheel Alignment is Distorted
The tie rod should keep your car straight and aligned. But even though other suspension components such as the sway bar, struts, shocks, and stabilizers play a major role in determining wheel alignment, any change in the performance of the tie rod can really distort your front wheel alignment.
If you feel that your car is moving unnecessarily to the left or right when braking or driving, the tie rods could probably be badly worn. The good thing about suspension components is that you can feel their performance right up to the steering wheel.
So if a component like a tie rod is underperforming, you can feel it in your hands.
2. Jittery Steering Wheel
The tie rod is directly connected to the steering housing, which means that every movement you make with your hands is imitated by the tie rod at the bottom and makes the car steer. So if you feel that your steering is not responding or is jittery, the tie rod may have a problem.
You may feel the steering wheel bouncing or shaking violently at high speeds, which happens when a tie rod is worn.
This can easily lead to a problem with another suspension part such as the control arm bushings, so it is best to have it checked by a mechanic.
3. Uneven Tire wear
When the alignment is out of balance due to a loose tie rod, the tires feel the greatest effect. At the end of the day, it is the tires that take all the friction from the road. So if, after some time, you notice that a certain area of the tire is worn out, there is something wrong with the suspension components and the tie rod is probably the main cause.
The uneven tread depth is a telltale sign of this type of problem. When the tire wear is bad on both the inside and the outside, it might be caused by a bad tie rod end – but a bad wheel alignment can also cause it.
4. Strange noise on bumps
The tie rod end often has a plastic bushing filled with grease inside of it. If this play gets too high, you can experience noise from the tie rod end when driving on bumpy roads or while you are turning.
Usually, you won’t hear this from the inside of the car if you are not very skilled, but it is noticeable if it has gone terribly bad.
5. Play in the wheel
If you lift the car with a floor jack and rock the wheel side to side and feel a play in the wheel, there is a big chance that the tie rod end is bad.
Carefully check behind the wheel while you are rocking it since a play can also be in the inner tie rod or a bad wheel bearing.
Function of the Tie Rod End
The tie rod end is a suspension part of a car. It is a small joint that connects the wheel to the rack and supports the car when turning the steering wheel.
You have one on each side of the front tires. When you drive a car, you expect the car to drive straight as an arrow unless you tell it to turn left or right. The tie rod controls this. It restricts the movement of the car and, at the same time, facilitates it.
Usually, the rubber bushings in a tie rod need to be replaced (older cars, newer ones need to be replaced), but since the whole system is in constant operation, the tie rod can be heavily stressed and fail. When this happens, you will notice some major changes in the way your car is driven. It would be best to know when these changes happen so that you can resolve them before any major mishap occurs.
Tie rod end Location
The tie rod ends are located between the front wheel hub spindle and the steering rack. They control the turning of the front wheels.
They are fitted with bolts on the wheel hub spindle, and the other end is installed on the inner tie rod, which is connected to the steering rack.
One fun thing you maybe didn’t know is that some sports cars like Nissan skyline, have 4 wheel steering which means they actually have tie rod ends on the rear wheels also.
Tie rod end Replacement Cost
The average tie rod end replacement cost is between $70 and $250, without the cost of a wheel alignment included. A tie rod end costs $20 – $50 while the labor cost is between $80 to $100.
After a tie rod end replacement, you need to make a wheel alignment, which can cost around $80 to $100.
That is why it can be a good idea to replace both of the tie rods ends at once, so that you will not replace one – make a wheel alignment, and the next month you have to do it again.
If you have a 4WD car, I strongly recommend making a four wheel alignment.