8 Symptoms Of A Bad Tie Rod And Replacement Cost

Today’s topic is tie rods, including tie rod replacement costs.

If you’re like most drivers, you probably don’t know much about tie rods. A lot of people only become familiar with them when something goes wrong, and they need to get them replaced. But it’s important to have a basic understanding of what they are and what they do as they are of great importance for safe driving.

What is a Tie Rod End?

So what is a tie rod end? Simply put, it is a component that connects the steering system to the wheels. They play an essential role in converting rotational motion into linear motion, which is what turns the car’s wheels. And because they perform such an important function, they must always be in good condition.

Tie rods have an inner and outer end. An adjusting sleeve connects the outer rod. It makes it possible to adjust the tie rod length to set the vehicle’s alignment angle. Many modern cars and other vehicles today use a rack-and-pinion steering system. Using the rack-and-pinion system, drivers can turn their vehicles with the assistance of the steering rack.

Mechanic fixing the steering system.

When you activate the steering wheel with force powerful enough to turn it, tie rods on the ends of the steering rack will push and pull the front tires. A tie rod can be threaded or fitted with an end cap. The tie rods are a vital part of a car that aids in steering and alignment control.

Despite their modest size compared to other steering components like tires, wheels, and rims, you will not be able to turn the vehicle at your normal speed without correctly working tie rods.

When they start to wear down, it can cause problems with your car’s steering and alignment. Driving with bad tie rods can damage other components on your vehicle, so it’s always best to replace them as soon as possible.

The Principle Behind Tie Rods

Assume you’re turning the steering wheel to the left. Both tires must turn in the same direction for the car to turn left. It is when tie rods come in handy. The rack and pinion system will apply tension to the left wheel. Because this force is applied via the tie rods, the tie rods will push the wheel outwards. Meanwhile, the right wheel’s tie rods will pull it inwards.

The tie rod, as the name implies, is in charge of connecting two components. When the tie rods connect these components they begin to move in unison.

The Reasons Why Tie Rods Fail

Tie rods are designed to withstand the pounding that comes with driving around. Some drivers rarely need to replace their tie rods. The engine often fails before the tie rod. However, some drivers require replacement every few years.

Because tie rods are an essential steering system component, you must be aware when they fail. After all, the steering wheel is the only way to control your vehicle. A properly operating steering wheel can mean the difference between life and death.

Tie rods are not just tubes. They are composed of several small parts that help them operate. We don’t always mean that the tubes snap in half when talking about tie rod failure. Instead, the issue could be a smaller component linked to the tie rod. When these components fail, the tie rod also fails.

Let’s look at some parts that connect the tie rod to the steering system.


Bushings protect the tie rod from moisture and impurities like dirt and dust, so it doesn’t cause any damage. The bushings also absorb and spread impacts that the tie rod may experience when driving on bumpy roads.

Ball Joints

Ball joints are bearings found on both ends of tie rods. These joints withstand a great deal of pressure from the tie rods. They also help to minimize vibrations you feel when driving.

Stress is the primary cause of ball joint failure. When driving on paved roads, they will not experience a lot of stress. However, if you frequently drive through rough terrain, your ball joints are put under much strain; it is the main reason they fail.


Lubricant is not a tie rod component but is required for them to work. Grease is what you use to lubricate tie rods. They eliminate friction between elements and keep the tie rod moving as smoothly as possible. They protect the tie rod from wear and damage.

These are the primary components that help your tie rod to function. Any of these components could cause a tie rod to fail.

8 Symptoms of a Bad Tie Rod End

It’s unsafe to drive around with a bad tie rod, but when should you replace them? Fortunately, some signs will give you a hint if your tie rods are bad.

1.     Vibrating or Shaking Steering Wheel

You may have a damaged tie rod end if you have trouble turning the steering wheel or your steering wheel is shaking. Occasionally, tie rod ends wear out and you need to replace them because they are exposed to a lot of stress.

If you are experiencing vibration or shaking from the steering wheel, it might be a symptom of a damaged tie rod. It is because if the tie rods are loose, it means the car will vibrate more as you drive. The vibrations tend to worsen when driving at speed and in corners.

Tie rods are easy to replace on many vehicles, so this might be something you want to consider if you are currently experiencing these symptoms.

2.     Poor Front End Alignment

Because tie rods help keep the wheels in place, a broken tie rod will immediately impact the wheels’ alignment. A few symptoms can indicate poor front-end alignment on your car. A properly-aligned car should maintain a straight path when removing your hands from the steering wheel after directing it straight while driving.

If you find that it pulls to the side as soon as you remove your hands from the steering wheel, there is likely an issue with your front-end alignment, and you should take it to a service.

3.     The Steering Wheel Feels Loose

Symptoms of a damaged tie rod end include your steering wheel pulling in one direction and feeling loose as you turn corners. If the tie rod ends are no longer holding firm, there will be an excessive play on the steering wheel. Sometimes it can feel like the steering wheel wants to move on its own.

Keep in mind that a lack of feedback and input is an indication that something’s amiss in the steering system – and it may not necessarily be due to problems with the tie rods themselves.

A hand holding a steering wheel.

4.     Odd Sounds

There are a few different things that can cause odd sounds when you’re turning your car. One of them is a failure in the tie rod. A tie rod failure may be due to a cracked boot or grease fitting. When this happens, you might hear scraping noises as the metal rubs against the metal on the car wheels.

A squeak or squeal can indicate a tie rod end boot that has cracked, causing loss of lubrication. It can also be a symptom of damaged ball joints or low power steering fluid. The front-end components could cause clunking and rattling noises. If you hear any unusual sounds coming from your car, you should have it looked at by a mechanic.

5.     Uneven Tire Wear

Another thing to check is that if your car’s treads are wearing unevenly, it might be a symptom of faulty tie rods. Driving with a faulty tie rod can lead to tire wear and uneven or extreme edge wear, and shaking and vibration through the steering wheel.

Tire wear is normal, but it can indicate a problem if one or both tires wear unevenly. Uneven or abnormal tire wear can be caused by bad tie rod ends.

6.     Car Pulling Left And Right When Driving

Maintaining control of your car requires you to constantly turn the steering wheel from side to side, even when driving straight ahead. If you’ve been experiencing a car veering left and right while driving, it might indicate that your tie rods need replacement.

Tie rods maintain a car’s steering and alignment; if they’re near the end of their life, they can loosen the alignment of your front end. Additionally, tie rods are linked to suspension components such as shocks and stabilizers. So if they’re wearing out, it can cause your car to move undesirable when braking or driving, You can often feel an underperforming tie rod from the steering wheel.

7.     Doesn’t Respond to Alignment Changes

Almost immediately after having alignment service performed on your car, it returns to having poor alignment.

8.     Vehicle Vibrates

You may also notice that the entire vehicle is shaking. It is because tie rods are linked to the suspension. If the tie rods become loose, the suspension elements will become loose. The entire vehicle will vibrate as a result of this.

Scared young woman driving a car.

When your car begins to vibrate due to a damaged tie rod, it usually signifies that your tie rods have failed almost completely. When you lose your tie rods, you lose your steering. So, if you suspect that the extreme vibrations are because of malfunctioning tie rods, you should have it checked right away.

Tie Rod End Replacement Cost

Regarding car repairs, the cost of tie rod ends often varies greatly. The price can range from as little as $100 to as much as $400. Typically, your car will also need an alignment after a tie rod replacement adding another $65 to $100 to the total cost.

Expert Tip: It’s important to remember that the labor costs are the biggest part of the total bill. So, if you’re looking for ways to save money on this repair, compare labor rates at different auto repair shops in your area. That way, you’ll get the best possible deal without sacrificing quality.

How to Replace a Tie Rod?

The mechanic will do a few things when you go in for a tie rod replacement. They’ll remove the wheel to get to the tie rods and then use specialized wrenches to remove and replace them with new ones.

After installing new tie rods, they’ll use a torque wrench to ensure they’re installed correctly, then grease them so they can rotate easily. Finally, they’ll re-examine other steering system components to ensure everything is working correctly before returning you to the road.

Can You Drive With A Broken Tie Rod?

You might be tempted to drive your car for as long as possible if you discover that your tie rod is damaged. If you don’t push your car too hard, you might actually get away with driving it. The problem is that driving a vehicle with a damaged tie rod threatens your safety and that of your passengers and other drivers.

Best-case scenario, your car’s tires will wear out earlier than expected due to a damaged tie rod. You could blow out one or more of your car’s tires while driving if you don’t notice. Even worse, you could lose control of your vehicle if your tie rod breaks while driving at high speed. If you neglect to replace a damaged tie rod, you may have a severe accident.


Tie rods are a vital part of a vehicle; it is not without reason that we have chosen to dedicate an entire article to one car part.

I hope you have learned a lot about tie rods and what they mean for driving comfort and safety. It is better to prevent than repair; it applies to people and vehicles. It is therefore important that you detect bad tie rods in time before it becomes critical for safety (and your wallet).

If you drive sensibly and on proper roads, they can last the entire life of your vehicle, so you avoid tie rod replacement costs. If you have further questions about this topic, feel free to comment in the section below.

That was all, I hope you got some value from the article and found the information you sought.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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