Should I Replace Both Inner and Outer Tie Rods? (Answered!)


One of the most important – but often overlooked – aspects of car maintenance is keeping the tie rods in good condition. Inner and outer tie rods help keep your car steered in the right direction. So, it’s important to make sure they’re both functioning properly. However, not all inner and outer tie rods go bad at the same time. This is why many car owners wonder if they should replace both inner and outer tie rods at the same time.

In this article, I am going to talk about what is an inner and outer tie rod and should you replace both inner and outer tie rods at the same time.

What Is An Inner And Outer Tie Rod?

Should I Replace Both Inner and Outer Tie Rods

An inner tie rod is a part of your vehicle’s steering system. It connects the steering rack to the steering knuckle on each side of the car. The outer tie rod does the same thing, but it is located on the outer end of the steering knuckle. Together, these two parts work to keep your car going straight down the road.

The inner tie rod is attached to the power steering rack body and the outer tie rod is attached to the wheel hub. The purpose of the inner and outer tie rod is to form a connection between the steering wheel and the wheels of the car. The power steering system turns in a circular motion (rotating the wheel back and forth) to a linear motion of the wheels turning left and right.

What a lot of car owners don’t know about inner and outer tie rods is the fact that wheel alignment is done by adjusting these two. As you rotate the tie rod in or out, it changes how much the front of the wheel points outward or inward.

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Wheel alignment is a critical part of vehicle maintenance. Incorrect wheel alignment can cause premature tire wear, uneven brake wear, and poor handling. Wheel alignment is the process of setting the wheels of a vehicle so that they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.

Usually, when an inner or outer tie rod starts to go bad, you won’t hear any noise. The first and best tell-tale sign is when you hit a bump or a pothole, the steering wheel is going to shake more than usual. Another common sign of a bad inner and outer tie rod is uneven wear of the tires due to the car not being aligned properly.

Should I Replace Both Inner and Outer Tie Rods?

Should I Replace Both Inner and Outer Tie Rods

The inner and outer tie rods work together to keep the wheels of the vehicle pointed in the right direction at the right angle. Since they are connected, there is a great chance that both inner and outer tie rods will go bad at the same time. However, even if you verify that only the inner or the outer tie rod is bad, it is still recommended that you replace both inner and outer tie rods.

An inner and outer tie rod costs about $45 and just the inner or the outer tie rod costs about half of that. However, if you replace only the inner or the outer tie rod, you will save money but you will have to get an alignment that costs about $50-$100. Now, if you only changed the inner or outer tie rod, this means that the part that you didn’t change will go bad soon after. Then, again, you have to get an alignment.

Replacing both the inner and outer tie rods at the same time is economically justified because then you will only need to get a wheel alignment once and will last you for several years. On the contrary, replacing only the inner or the outer tie rod will not guarantee that the part that was not replaced will last for a few years.

To further provide a better answer, I called some of my former colleague’s mechanics. I asked them what is their practice and how they move forward with this issue. Four out of five mechanics told me that they suggest replacing both the inner and outer tie rods at the same time.

How Often Do Inner Tie Rods Need To Be Replaced?

Should I Replace Both Inner and Outer Tie Rods

How often inner tie rods need to be replaced depends on your car, driving habits, and road conditions. However, most mechanics agree that inner tie rods should be replaced when they go bad which is about every 50,000 miles.

The purpose of inner tie rods in vehicles is to connect the steering wheel to the road. Inner tie rods are what give your car its turning power. They are located between the outer tie rod and the steering knuckle. The ends of the inner tie rod are attached to a sleeve, which attaches to the outer tie rod. When you turn your steering wheel, the inner tie rod pushes or pulls on the outer tie rod, which turns your wheels. This system is what allows you to steer your vehicle.

There are two types of inner tie rods: ball joint type and tapered type. Ball joint type inner tie rods have a ball-and-socket joint at each end, while tapered type inner tie rods have a tapered end that fits into a tapered hole in the outer tie rod. Ball joint-type inner tie rods are more common, as they allow for smoother steering. Tapered type inner tie rods are less common, but they offer a tighter turning radius.

If you’re not sure whether or not your inner tie rods need to be replaced, consult with a professional. They will be able to inspect your vehicle and give you a more accurate estimate. In the meantime, here are a few signs that your inner tie rods may need to be replaced:

  • Excessive play on the steering wheel
  • A loud clicking noise when turning the steering wheel
  • Uneven tire wear

How Do You Tell If Your Tie Rods Are Going Bad?

Tie rods are an important part of the vehicle’s suspension. Like all parts, they also have a tendency to go bad at some point. But, how do you tell if your tie rods are going bad?

1. Uneven or premature tire wear

The purpose of the tie rods is to connect the steering wheel with the tire and to make sure that the tires are pointing in the right direction at the correct angle. When the tie rods get bad, the angle at which the tires are pointing can intensify.

Alignment on vehicles refers to the angle of the wheels in relation to the body of the car. This is important for several reasons. First, it affects how smoothly the car drives. Second, it can impact fuel economy. Third, improper alignment can cause wear and tear on tires and suspension components. Finally, alignment can influence how a vehicle handles emergency situations.

Every vehicle manufacturer has a different toe, camber, or caster angle factory set on their vehicles. These angles define how the vehicle drives, how it gets into corners, fuel economy, and more. But, when the tie rods get bad, the angle at which the tires are set only increases.

Let’s say that you get a vehicle that has a slight camber angle set by the manufacturer. The positive camber angle is when the tire is slightly pointing outwards. When the tie rod gets bad, the angle increases. At this point, the camber angle can be even visible with the eyes.

So, driving with an excessive positive camber angle will cause uneven and premature wear on the tire on the outward side. This is why it is important to replace your inner and outer tie rods and get an alignment.

2. Looseness in the steering wheel

One of the first signs that your tie rods may be going bad is if your steering feels loose. If it takes more effort to turn the wheel or you feel like the car is pulling to one side, this could be a sign that your tie rods need to be replaced.

If you notice your steering wheel starting to feel loose, it could be a sign that your tie rods need to be replaced. When tie rods become worn out, they can no longer provide the necessary support to keep your wheels aligned. This can cause your steering wheel to shake or vibrate, making it difficult to control your vehicle. Most of the time, when the tie rods go bad, they cause a sort of delay in the steering.

Tie rods don’t go bad all of the sudden. They will show some symptoms before they go bad completely. One of these signs is looseness in the steering wheel. Being the link between the steering wheel and the actual tire means that as soon as you turn the steering wheel, the tire needs to move in the right direction.

However, when the tie rod gets bad, there will be free play. This results in a sensation of looseness in the steering wheel. Meaning, that when you turn the steering wheel slightly, the tire with the bad tie rod will not respond.

3. Clicking noises when turning

If your car is making clicking noises when you turn, it’s likely due to bad tie rods. Tie rods are an important part of your suspension system. If they’re not working properly, it can cause a variety of problems. If you’re hearing clicking noises when you turn, it’s important to have your tie rods checked as soon as possible.

If you hear a knocking sound when turning or driving over bumps, this could also be a sign that your tie rods are damaged.

The clicking noises when turning comes when the tie rods are bad and have metal-on-metal contact with the knuckle. Usually, tie rods go bad due to hitting too many potholes and bumps. However, the average lifespan of a tie rod is about 50,000 miles.

4. Unaligned front end

Tie rods are one of the most important parts of a vehicle’s suspension. They play a big role in how well a car handles. If tie rods are worn out or damaged, it can cause the vehicle to pull to one side. This will make it difficult to keep control of the car.

Alignment is done by adjusting the tie rods. The tie rods are part of the steering system and are responsible for transferring the force from the steering wheel to the wheels, as well as setting the tires at the proper angle.

Alignment is the process of setting the tie rods so that the vehicle’s wheels are pointing in the correct direction and at the proper angle. This includes setting the toe, camber, and caster angles. If your tie rods are going bad, the vehicle might get a toe, camber, or caster angle. This will affect the way the vehicle drives.

There are three main types of wheel alignment: toe, caster, and camber. Toe is the simplest type of alignment and only involves adjusting the angle of the wheels so that they point slightly inward or outward. Caster involves adjusting the steering axis so that it is perpendicular to the ground. Camber involves adjusting the angle of the wheels so that they are tilted slightly inward or outward.

Each type of alignment has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, wheel alignment can improve fuel economy but may cause the car to handle poorly in emergency situations. Caster alignment can improve handling but may cause tire wear. Toe alignment can reduce tire wear but may impact fuel economy.

5. Wheel not responding to the steering wheel

Tie rods are the link between the steering wheel and the wheel. When you turn the steering wheel, that force gets transferred through the rack and pinion into the tie rods. They respond by turning the wheel in the desired direction. The tie rods have to be in good condition in order to successfully transfer this force into the wheel.

When the tie rods go bad, there is a lot of free play. This means that you can turn your vehicle but the wheels will not respond immediately. In some cases, you will need to turn the wheel halfway in order for the wheel to start moving. The worst scenario is that the tie rod gets completely detached from the knuckle of the wheel. In this case, no matter how much you turn the steering wheel, the tire will not respond.

FAQ Section

Can I replace only one inner tie rod?

If only one inner tie rod is bad on your vehicle, then you can replace only that part. However, you need to keep in mind that after replacing the inner tie rod, or any part of the suspension, you need to get your vehicle aligned. Then, there is no guarantee how long will your outer tie rod go before needing to be replaced. This is why most mechanics suggest that you replace both the inner and outer tie rods at the same time.

How expensive is it to replace a tie rod?

Inner and outer tie rods cost around $45 and an additional $50-$60 for labor costs. So, if you replace your tie rods by yourself, it is going to cost you around $45. However, replacing your inner and outer tie rods at the shop, will cost you around $100.

How long does it take to replace one tie rod?

It takes about an hour for a skilled mechanic to replace one tie rod. However, if you are a DIY car enthusiast, it can take you up to three hours to replace one tie rod. This can be due to inexperience and the lack of tools for the job.

Can a tie rod break while driving?

Yes. A tie rod can definitely break while driving. This usually happens when you hit a large pothole or a bump. Also, if your tie rod has been going bad for some time and you continued to drive your vehicle for over 1000 miles, the tie rod can break while driving at any time.

What does a broken tie rod sound like?

A broken tie rod usually clicks and clunks when you turn the steering wheel. This can be definitely heard if you turn your steering wheel all the way to the left or right while parked.

How many inner tie rods are on a car?

Vehicles have one inner tie rod and one outer tie rod per wheel. So, if your vehicle has four wheels, then you have four inner tie rods and four outer tie rods.

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Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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