10 Signs of Bad Tie Rods & How Long You Can Drive on Them

Understanding how a car works are challenging enough if you’re not a mechanic. Every car owner faces difficulty comprehending the mechanism when something breaks down. It is necessary and inevitable. If you hear clomping sounds or vibrations from under your car’s wheels when you move it around, that means you may have a faulty tie rod. It is important to proceed with the examination so the car will not break down completely. 

Bravada tie rod ends

However, the clunking sounds are not the only symptoms of bad tie rods. To diagnose it right, you should have quality information that should be clear and comprehensive. Here you’d find the list of 10 signs of bad tie rods and any other information you need to know about that functional entity of your car. So keep reading!

What are tie rods on a car, and what do they do?

Mazda tie rod end

Every car has a steering system. To put it simply, it is a mechanism attached to the wheels. When you move around the vehicle, it steers the car in whatever direction you want. Tie rods are part of the steering system. They are connected to the wheels and consist of an inner part, an outer part, and tie rod ends. 

At the ends of both inner and outer rods are ball joints. Those steering rod ends transfer the rotational power to other parts of the system. They are protected from dirt and moisture from the road with rubber boots. With time, the rubber boot becomes looser and requires replacement.

Your car can have either rack-and-pinion or mechanical steering systems. The latest one is more complicated than the rack-and-pinion system. Every time you turn the car, the pinion gear moves down the steering rack, which turns the wheels. The tie rod connects the pinion and steering gears with the vehicle wheel. Its function here is to transmit the power to the steering rack and steering arm. It is connected to both those parts. 

tie rods

The mechanical steering system involves unique parts that the rack-and-pinion one does not have. It is a gearbox. The gears in it move the pitman arm every time you steer. The Pitman’s arm is connected to the steering rack. Every time gears start working, they set in motion all the mechanisms. That’s how steering happens. In the case of mechanical systems, tie rods here also transmit the power to other parts and are indispensable for the whole process.

Most modern cars have rack-and-pinion systems because of their simplicity and efficiency. Fewer fragments not only reduce weight but also make repair easier. When you start to suspect the damage, having a rack-and-pinion system should make your mood more positive.

The checklist of a good suspension system

Frame bracket mounts Arm bushingsKing pin play Tie rod castle nutsDrained air kitTires wearing evenly
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Bad tie rod symptoms

stage 3 tie rod ends

Tie rods are made of high-strengthened steel, but that does not mean they will last forever. They become worn out with time. The time for their replacement will come even quicker if you often ride through poor roads with holes. If you notice any of the following symptoms, do not hesitate to replace them. Without replacement, they can worsen the state of your tires or even cause an accident.

  1. Steering wheel issues

Tie rods connect your steering wheel to the front wheels. If you notice that it becomes difficult to steer your wheel while driving, that is the first sign that they may be in poor condition. Your steering wheel can vibrate or shake when you’re turning it on its side. If it feels more loose than usual, it’s also a symptom of damage. Do not hesitate to call for technical support from professionals.

  1. Clunking noise from the front of your car

Irritating sounds coming out of your car are often the symptoms of damage. If you hear clunking or knocking noises coming from the front area of your car, it is a sign that it has become loose. When it happens, the tie rods hit the surrounding objects, and you hear the sound.

  1. Your car vibrates while driving.

If you feel that your entire vehicle vibrates during acceleration and driving, that means you have bad tie rods. Vibration can also be a sign of them failing completely. If you feel your car is vibrating, examine it more to find other symptoms.

tie rod ends for Suburban
  1. Your tires are uneven.

It’s not only steering those tie rods do. They have more complex purposes. One of their functional advantages is that they protect tires from wearing. Maybe you often drive through bumpy terrain or the roads in your city are full of holes. Keep in mind that you would have changed tires more frequently without tie rods.

That is why the condition of your tires will eloquently point out issues within the steering system. Look at your tires. If they are uneven and one has less wear than the other, you should check your tie rods for damage. On the other hand, even tires are a good sign of the absence of breakage.

  1. You cannot steer your car.

The complete inability to steer is the latest stage of damage. Before that happens, you will probably notice some of the other symptoms. Don’t put off the repair so you won’t face the unfortunate consequences. The breakage can get you while driving, which is a dangerous situation to deal with. To avoid that, pay attention to the early symptoms and repair your vehicle as soon as possible.

  1. The front of your car is misaligned.

Tie rods are directly connected to the wheels. This can cause all sorts of misalignments. Not only will tires wear off unevenly, but the front position won’t match the back of the car. If you notice this type of unevenness, it’s time to visit an auto service.

  1. Loose wheels

To check if your wheels are loose:

  1. Jack the car up.
  2. Put your hands on the wheel and try to shake it up and down.
  3. Try shaking it from side to side as well. If the only movement that the wheel makes is rotation, then you can be relieved.

You probably have a bad tie rod if it moves easily from side to side or up and down.

  1. Vehicle shakes over 60 mph.

Does your car shake when you go over 60 mph? If it does, your tires are unevenly worn. Faulty tie rods make vehicle tires dissimilar, and that affects the driving. When you ride slowly, it isn’t noticeable. When you exceed the speed of over 60 mph, that’s when you’ll feel like being on a swing. Check your car for other symptoms when it is shaky.

  1. Your car experiences death wobbles.

Death wobbles happen when the steering wheel rotates quickly to the extent that it starts moving from side to side. It can happen when you move over 40 mph. Death wobbles indicate that there is a problem with the steering system. One of many issues that can cause death wobbles is bad tie rods.

tie rod ends
  1. You hear grinding noise. 

The noise can also come from a broken boot that supports the rod. In the case of that, you’ll hear a grinding noise. That will mean not only a broken boot but also that the dirt and debris have entered the system. Be aware that unusual sounds from behind the front of your car point straight away to the damage.

To sum it up:

  • Watch out for grinding noise
  • Vehicle shaking over 60mph
  • Can’t steer your car
  • Wheels are not aligned
  • Uneven tires
  • Clunking noise from engine
  • Death wobbles

Tie rod end replacement cost

The unfortunate outcome of finding a malfunction in your steering rod ends is that you’ll need to replace them as quickly as possible. Luckily, they are not that expensive compared to other elements of your vehicle. The cost will vary insignificantly depending on what kind of vehicle you have. 

No matter if you have a two hundred dollar Lamborghini or a thirty thousand dollar Honda, the price for tie rod end replacement will be relatively similar. On average, you’ll spend around $90 to $300. The labor will cost approximately $85 and last about an hour.

It is also possible to do the repair on your own by following a step-by-step guide. You can order a suspension kit for your model if you have a Honda. For Honda Civic 2006-2011, you can buy a kit of inner and outer tie ends and then use a manual to install it. 

Ordering online is the simplest and most convenient way to choose and pay for brand new parts for your car on your own. You can also purchase a fully equipped suspension kit for the Honda Accord that consists of both inner and outer parts. If you need them separately, this option is possible as well.

Honda Suspension Kit

100% Assembly consistency Easy to installPre-greasedCertified technology
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How can you tell if a tie rod is bad?

Luckily, any damage to your car is always followed by symptoms that clearly state what is wrong. When the tie rod is bad, you will face issues with your car’s steering system. You have more reasons to be concerned if you’ve been driving on hilly terrain or bumpy roads. 

The first thing for you to notice is your vehicle’s lack of response while you try to move it in a certain direction. Suppose you hear unusual noises coming from it while steering. There is an issue within the tie rods. As well, pay attention to the turning wheel because it is directly connected to the tie rods. Jerking to the sides and vibration is not something that it’ll do when the steering system is healthy.

In short, keep an out for:

  • Lack of response
  • Wheel turning issues
  • Jerking to sides
  • Vibrating car

Should I replace both inner and outer tie rods?

The best option is to replace both parts at once. Inner and outer elements constitute the system and are matched to each other. If you replace only one element, you are at risk of getting a mismatch. The kit with both pieces is not very expensive. However, you’ll pay a double price when mismatched parts cause more trouble.

Common problems after tie rod replacement

After steering rod replacement, you naturally expect that there are going to be fewer problems to resolve. Sometimes the replacement is the thing that causes additional issues. With tie rods, it is often the case. You might need to return for another set of repairs. 

A bad toe angle is one of the problems you may face right after leaving auto service. The reason why it happens is that the length of new ones is poorly matched. If you keep using your car after noticing the problem, there is a great chance you will damage the suspension and bump steer. 

Maybe you are driving on an even road and your steering wheel suddenly pulls to the left or right. It your city are full of holes, keepmeans your vehicle has an alignment issue. It happens when the tie rods are not properly installed. In that case, the car will respond slowly to steering wheel movements.

After the repair, you expect not to hear any annoying noises, especially right before you. If you feel that the steering wheel is still vibrating, bad tie rods were changed incorrectly. In that case, reinstallation is needed. Maybe you still hear it during acceleration despite all your efforts to get rid of squealing. The problem of unevenly worn tires is still relevant due to the wrong repair. 

If you notice that the car is consuming more gas than before, it’s a sign of uneven wheels. After replacing the tie rods, you should also do a wheel alignment. Moreover, this procedure is obligatory after any steering system repair. That is because changing any of the rods into new ones causes a change in wheel angles. If you don’t align your wheels, more expensive damage will follow.

Loose steering is something you can experience after changing the inner rod. The steering wheel will be too sloppy if the joint that connects the inner part to the outer part is not attached correctly during replacement. This unpleasant behavior can also be a symptom of a worn-out rod end. 

When you change an element of the suspension system due to its age, it’s better to substitute all the constituencies with new ones. When some part wears out, it means most of the other ones are probably in bad condition. That’s why you should also change the steering rod end during the inner one replacement.

You should also consider switching ball joints for different ones. Even if they are not directly connected to tie rods, they can still cause a steering wheel lock. The same story is with the tie-rod boot. When worn out, it can damage your brand-new rods. They become faulty on their own when facing water or filth from roads. 

Check your wheel bearings, brake rotors, and breaking pads as well. Wheel bearings grant the steering wheel a smooth and uninterrupted movement. If it’s faulty, you won’t experience easiness while driving. The same is with brake rotors and breaking pads, which are connected to the steering system and affect it. Once they break down, the surrounding elements suffer too.

Maybe you don’t want to face all of the additional trouble after replacing elements of the steering system. Do not forget to do the alignment as well. If you did the replacement on your own, take it to a professional mechanic for this one. Do not forget to choose tie rods suitable for your vehicle. Not every type will fit your car. Use the proper torque during repair and lubricate the parts to prevent unwanted friction. 

If you feel a steering wheel after a recent auto service visit, that can signify premature wear out of tie rods. That is why you remember to check other parts for damage right after you spot them. More serious issues will follow if you don’t repair your vehicle as soon as possible.

FAQ

What happens when a tie rod breaks?

Faulty rods cause small inconveniences like clunking and grinding noises from your car’s front. They can also cause more serious issues like:
– loose steering wheels
– misaligned cars
– vehicle shakes
– uneven tires
– and more.
If you notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to repair them. If you do, the following thing will happen steering system failure.

Can you drive with a broken tie rod – if so, how long? 

Driving with any faulty part of your vehicle is not safe. When it comes to driving with broken tie rods, it is possible. However, you should prepare yourself for the consequences. You will pay for a postponement when the whole suspension system breaks down. 

It depends if you don’t have time for repairs and wonder how long you can drive on them. You may be able to drive with a faulty part for a month or just a few days. It all depends on road conditions and the state of the damage.

If that happens on the road, you must tow your vehicle right to auto service. Moreover, driving with a bad tie rod can cause a car accident. That’s why the moment you notice any of the first symptoms, do not hesitate to repair them.

How long do tie rods last?

You may never experience faulty tie rods or need to change them every year. Generally, they can last for several years. How long the one in your vehicle will stay in good shape depends on the conditions of the roads you drive. The more potholes they have, the more likely you will need to change them regularly.