An inner or outer tie rod plays an important role in the suspension system. The inner and outer tie rod controls the left and right movement of your wheels. You can not pass a safety inspection with a bad inner or outer tie rod. So, is it safe to drive with a bad inner and outer tie rod?
”It is not safe to drive with a bad inner and outer tie rod because if your inner and outer tie rod are severely worn out your vehicle can start to wander on the road and you will not have control over the direction of the wheels. A bad inner and outer tie rod starts with an excessive steering wheel free play and over time you will completely lose control over steering.”
What Does a Tie Rod Do?
The suspension and steering systems are very complex systems built out of many components. Each of those components plays a key role. When we say suspension or steering, most people think about the shock absorbers or steering wheel. But, the truth is, there is more to it. One of the most important components of the suspension and steering system is the inner and outer tie rod.
”The inner and outer tie rods are components of the suspension and steering system that connects the steering rack to the steering knuckle on both front wheels. The inner and outer tie rod are the parts that are enabling your wheels to turn left and right. When an alignment is done on your vehicle, the mechanic is actually adjusting the inner and outer tie rods.”
Although it might look like a simple and not so expensive part, the inner and outer tie rod have a very important role. A bad inner and outer tie rod can be more of a safety issue than a performance issue. If your tie rod is bad, your vehicle can start to wander on the road. If your left tie rod is bad, when you turn your steering wheel, the left wheel will stay straight. You can imagine how hard it is to steer with only one obeying wheel.
Most Common Signs Of a Bad Inner and Outer Tie Rod
The inner and outer tie rod doesn’t have a specific lifespan expectancy. Like any other part, it can prematurely fail. It all depends on how and where you drive your vehicle. However, a bad inner and outer tie rod can be a safety issue. It is important that you catch the failing signs and symptoms in the early stages. Here are the 4 most common signs of a bad inner and outer tie rod.
1. Excessive steering wheel free play
When the inner and outer tie rod starts to fail, there will be excessive free play in the steering wheel. The steering wheel will feel loose and your vehicle will shake while driving. If your inner and outer tie rod are severely worn, your vehicle might start to wander on the road. It will be very difficult to drive it in a straight line. Also, a worn tie rod will throw the alignment off and your tires will wear out quicker and unevenly. The tire that has been worn out unevenly is usually the side that has a worn tie rod. You can use this to diagnose and pinpoint the bad tie rod.
2. Abnormal noise coming from the wheels and excessive vibration
When the tie rod goes bad, there will be an excessive slack that can cause the suspension components to become slightly loose. When components like tie rod become worn, they can cause a knocking or clunking noise and you can hear them while turning the steering wheel. This is usually because of the free play in the steering wheel also caused by a bad tie rod.
3. Tie rod leaking grease
If your tie rod is leaking grease, it is a clear indication that the tie rod is worn. Apart from leaking grease, the second bad thing is that dirt will start to accumulate on the places where the tie rod is leaking grease causing a buildup. This can cause the tie rod to fail prematurely. The purpose of the grease is to allow the tie rod to move freely while reducing friction. If you have a leaking tie rod, you should have it replaced.
4. Visual inspection to determine the condition of the tie rod
It is always a great idea to perform a visual inspection to determine which tie rod is worn out. Here is how to perform the visual inspection and what to look for.
- Lift the front end of the vehicle and place it on jack stands.
- Then, go ahead and remove both front tires.
- Once you locate the outer tie rod, rock it from side to side to see if it’s loose. If the outer rod is loose, make sure to replace it. Now, if you are going to remove the worn out tie rod by yourself, make sure to use a tie rod puller. If you do not have a tie rod puller, use a hammer and bang on the steering knuckle where the tie rod is mounted. Do not hit the ball joint or the tie rod itself, because you can damage the rack and pinion.
- Then go ahead and inspect the inner tie rod.
- If you find it worn out, replace it. If you are replacing the tie rod by yourself, make sure to count the number of turns. Then, with the same number of turns, install the new inner tie rod.
- After you have replaced the inner and outer tie rod, make sure to get an alignment.
Are Tie Rod Ends Supposed To Move
The tie rod ends are not supposed to move. So, if you are suspecting that your tie rods are going bad and you are doing a visual inspection, excessive free play in tie rod ends is a clear sign that you need to replace the tie rod ends.
When To Replace Tie Rod Ends
Inner and outer tie rod does not have a specific lifespan expectancy. How long the tie rod will last depends on your vehicle model, where, and how you drive it. You should replace your tie rods only when you hear a clunking and knocking noise coming from the front wheels, or your vehicle starts to wander.