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4 Signs of Bad Tie Rod Ends

Bad Tie Rod
Virtually all cars produced today contain rack-and-pinion steering systems, which translate the motion of your steering wheel into the related movement of your wheels. A key component of this system goes by the name of tie rod. The tie rod transmits force from the steering rack to the knuckle, thus triggering the wheel to turn.

Over time, the end of the tie rod wears down as the result of friction and stress. Eventually, a tie rod end becomes so worn that the performance of your car is affected. Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize the signs of faulty tie rod ends. This article takes a closer look at four common signs that you may be dealing with this issue.

1. Poor Alignment

Automotive alignment refers to the position of your wheels relative to one another. The most common alignment problem involves improper toe angles. Ideally, all four wheels should remain perfectly parallel when in their straight-ahead position. A mechanic adjusts the toe angle by making the appropriate change to the position of the tie rod.

All cars need to have their alignment adjusted from time to time. Yet if your car comes out of alignment more frequently than it should, you may have a problem with your tie rod ends. Poor alignment manifests in numerous ways. You may notice that your steering wheel sits at an angle or that your car consistently pulls to one side.

Poor alignment also leads to uneven tire wear. Pay attention to which parts of your tire show the most signs of wear. Ideally, the tread should wear down evenly across the surface of the tire. If you notice that wear seems to concentrate on the inner or outer edge, you may have an alignment problem caused by bad tie rod ends.

2. Sagging Suspension

The tie rods do not just control the in-out orientation of your wheels. They also control your wheels' updown orientation. In this regard, the tie rods help your vehicle respond to bumps, potholes, and uneven road heights. A tie rod in good condition remains responsive yet firm, always keeping your wheel at the proper orientation.

As tie rod ends wear, however, they lose their ability to maintain a proper up-down position. As a result, you may notice that your car's suspension has begun to sag. Likewise, your wheels may exhibit poor camber alignment. In other words, the wheels may tilt inward or outward, instead of remaining perfectly perpendicular to the ground.

3. Excessive Vibration

When a tie rod end becomes excessively worn, it no longer exerts constant pressure on the wheel. As a result, the wheel can move more freely than it should, often jostling around. This unintended movement often manifests as vibrations that can travel right back up your steering column and into the car. As the wear grows greater, the vibrations will become more severe.

4. Wandering Steering

As discussed above, worn tie rod ends often lead to poor alignment, which in turn causes your steering to pull in one direction or the other. Worn tie rod ends can also lead to more general steering problems. The looseness created as tie rod ends wear down gives your wheels room to wander randomly in this direction and that.

Even when you hold your steering wheel in a fixed, straight position, you may find that your car shows a tendency to wander off course in one direction or another. While a loose rack housing may also cause this problem, worn tie rod ends often make up the largest contributor.

The tie rods play a vital role in your steering and suspension system. For more information about how to ensure that your tie rods remain in good working order, contact the automotive repair experts at Frankie & Dylan's Complete Collision & Custom Repair Center.