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What Do Tie Rods Do?

What are tie rod ends?

Although there are various types of steering systems, such as rack and pinion steering and recirculating ball steering, they all share a common component that enables them to steer properly - the tie rod end. Engaged every time you turn your steering wheel, tie rods are found on each front wheel and connect the steering gear to the steering knuckle. Simply put, you can’t steer your car without tie rods.


How do tie rods work?

Serving as the pivot point between the steering rack, steering arm and steering wheel, tie rods not only help move your wheels when you steer but they make turning possible.

While the rack and pinion system and recirculating ball system each operate differently, both systems use a tie rod to connect the steering rack to the steering arm, which is connected to the steering wheel.


How are tie rods designed?

Made of high-strength steel, a tie rod is a slender cylindrical structure with two sections. Consisting of an inner tie rod and an outer tie rod end, they work together to give you optimum wheel control. The inner tie rod is made up of an inline ball joint and connects to the steering rack while the outer tie rod connects to the steering knuckle. 


What are the signs of a bad tie rod?

Since tie rods are used every time you steer your vehicle, they are susceptible to damage and wear. Normal wear and tear can cause a tie rod to break down but driving hazards like poor road conditions, potholes and accidents can also cause tie rod damage or failure.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is imperative that you make an appointment with your technician for proper diagnosis. 


Uneven tire wear 

Look at the inside and outside edges; if the tires are excessively worn on one side but have minimal wear on the other, it could be an issue with the tie rods.


Front end out of alignment

Worn tie rods can cause issues with the alignment of the front end. Since bad tie rods aren’t the only cause of front end misalignment, it is important to take your vehicle to your technician if something seems off.


Vibration or looseness in steering wheel

Pay attention to how your steering wheel feels. A loose tie rod end can cause them to have an excessive amount of play and it can also shake or vibrate.


Knocking sound when turning at low speeds

Knocking or other unusual sounds while turning can be a sign of worn tie rods. A trip to your technician will confirm the diagnosis and make the proper repair.

How long do tie rods last?

Tie rods can last for several years. In fact, you may never have to replace your tie rods. The conditions you drive in play a large role in the lifespan of tie rods.

What happens if a tie rod fails?

If a tie rod fails, the effects can range from the mild (like premature tire wear) to the extreme (a total loss of control of your vehicle). A failing tie rod can go from bad to worse in a matter of miles.

Can I drive with a damaged tie rod?

Driving with a bad tie rod can have a large impact on the steering and handling of your vehicle. You may find that you steering wanders, leaving you with little control making the vehicle turn in the direction you want. If you suspect that you have a problem with a tie rod, don’t delay in making an appointment with technician for the proper repair.

Learn more about premium steering and suspension parts, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content in this article is for informational purposes only. You should consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have questions relating to any of the topics covered herein. Tenneco will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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