6 Symptoms of a Bad Tie Rod End

Tie rods are vital for precise steering in all vehicles. A functional tie rod connects the suspension and steering system to the front wheels on the ground by several joints so that the wheels turn accurately as the steering wheel is turned. Such a system allows the driver to use minimal force to turn the vehicle.
But like everything in a vehicle, the tie rod ends will age over time. They will also endure faster wear and damage if you regularly drive over bumps or rough roads. Such conditions may cause the tie rod ends to malfunction within a few years, but those on other vehicles may last many years without replacement. Bad tie rod end symptoms can present themselves in various ways.

6 Symptoms of a Bad Tie Rod End

You’re probably wondering how do you know if a tie rod end is bad? Well, there are several very noticeable symptoms that you can watch out for. Below are some common symptoms of a faulty tie rod end.

Steering Wheel Vibrates or Shakes

The tie rod keeps the components of the suspension solid and tight. If the tie rod end goes bad and loosens, the parts of the suspension will also loosen and cause vibrations and shakes which can be felt in the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion. These steering wheel vibrations worsen as the car accelerates and when turning corners.

Poor Front End Alignment

The tie rod helps sustain the alignment of your vehicle’s front end, and a damaged or worn tie rod end causes loosening of the parts. This will cause the front end to become misaligned and track poorly. 
This misalignment is noticed while driving the vehicle because it will start veering to the left or right as it’s pointed forward. This is easy to see if you briefly remove your hands from the steering wheel after directing it straight while driving. A properly-aligned vehicle should maintain a straight path. 

Steering Wheel Feels Loose 

A bad tie rod end can also cause the steering wheel to feel loose or have excessive play. This is a dangerous condition, as it can lead to a complete lack of steering. Take the car to the auto shop at once if you notice a loose steering wheel.

Abnormal Sounds

Any squeaking or squealing while the vehicle is in motion can indicate undesirable metal-on-metal contact. A high-pitched squeaking sound while driving the vehicle, especially around corners, can indicate a tie rod end rubber boot that has cracked, allowing for a loss of lubrication.
Clunking or rattling can also be heard from the front end of the car. Since strange noises don’t automatically imply a failing tie rod end, you’ll want to see if any other symptoms on this page exist.

Abnormal Tire Wear 

Tire wear is a normal occurrence and should be even on both sides. Uneven wear on one or more tires can indicate a problem. A bad tie rod will cause the inner or outer edges of a tire to wear faster than the rest of the tire. 

You can check for abnormal tire wear by standing in front of the vehicle and looking at the inside and outside edges of the front tires. Uneven tire wear can also have other causes such as bad alignment, improper tire pressure, or unbalanced tires so it is a good idea to have the car examined by a mechanic. 

Vehicle Vibrates

Once the tires begin to wear unevenly, the entire vehicle can start to vibrate. These vibrations intensify with acceleration, which makes it difficult to drive comfortably. Comfort may be the least of your worries, though.

Vehicle vibration can also be caused by the nearly complete failure of the tie rods, which is a very dangerous situation. In this case, the tires are loose and shaking on their own, and you may be close to losing steering. Has the vehicle repaired immediately? 

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