Tie-rods are an important part of cars’ steering. Modern cars are designed with rack and pinion steering systems that incorporate tie rods. These tie-rods are responsible for connecting the steering gear to the wheel through the utilization of a ball-in-socket mechanism. The tie-rods let the driver control the movement of the wheels by turning the steering wheel.
Because tie rods are very important to the wheels’ movements, a bad or faulty tie rod will surely cause a significant impact that affects the car’s total performance and may even pose safety concerns in the long run. Any tie-rod related issues should be addressed and repaired as soon as the symptoms appear.
If your car is having problems, and you suspect the tie rod installation to be the culprit, there are a few key ways that you can tell.
Table of Contents
- Symptoms Of A Bad Tie Rod Installation
- Reasons Why A Replacement Tie Rod Might Cause Problems
- How Long Do Tie-Rods Last?
- Cost To Replace Tie Rods
- In Sum
Symptoms Of A Bad Tie Rod Installation
When something is amiss in the steering department of your vehicle the signs will be noticeable, and if you’ve recently replaced a tie-rod you’ll be familiar with some of these symptoms.
Inability To Turn
A poorly installed tie rod affects the steering mechanism of the car, obviously. So the first thing you’ll notice is the way you steer the car will be impacted.
The ability to turn the car is highly important, it’s the fundamentals of driving. Driving a car that has no ability to steer or turn is just straight-up dangerous and you shouldn’t try to if you experience this. Have your car towed if you need to move it.
Car Pulling To One Side
A bad tie-rod can result in the improper alignment of the wheels. When the wheels come out of alignment, it can cause the car to pull significantly to one side. This is noticeable when your steering wheel or the entire front of your car creates a pulling sensation to either the left or right. It’s easiest to notice on a flat road, without accelerating.
This makes driving relatively difficult and uncomfortable. Wheels out of alignment can lead to other problems like uneven tire wear.
Excessive Tire Wear
Having a bad tie-rod can promote excessive, uneven, and faster wear on the inner or outer edges of the steering tires. Tires that have excessive tire wear can be dangerous to drive with, as we discussed in the dangers of low tread tires.
Tire wear is an inevitable part of driving cars, but as drivers, you should try and make sure that the wear is even on all the wheels. Driving a car with a wheel that has excessive wear in comparison to the other wheels can result in vibration, and rigid wheel movement. It can also cause tire blowouts.
Vibration In Steering
Vibration in any machine is often caused by loose components. The same holds true for cars. Tie-rods keep the suspension components tight and stable. When the tie-rods go bad, these components will loosen up and develop vibrations and shaking. These vibrations become very evident in the steering wheel whenever the car is moving and worse vibrations can be felt as the car turns corners or accelerates.
Don’t forget that vehicle vibration affects the comfort of the driver, you, directly. It is considered one of the major symptoms of an improperly installed tie rod and may also pose a threat to losing steering or control while driving.
Excessive Decrease In MPG
When bad tie rods cause misalignment issues to the wheels, the mpg is also very likely to be affected. Misaligned wheels decrease the gas mileage by up to 10 % according to alignment center AK. That is about 31 cents more for every gallon at today’s prices.
Grinding Sounds When Turning
If your tie-rod is loose it can create a grinding sound when turning at low speeds. This noise will be higher and more noticeable as your speed increases. You shouldn’t drive your vehicle like this, and if you must, get to a safe location. Grinding means components are rubbing against each other and have the possibility of breaking. You don’t want to lose the ability to steer while driving.
Reasons Why A Replacement Tie Rod Might Cause Problems
Careless and improper installs are the general cause of tie-rod replacement problems. An improper installation can happen for a number of reasons, from inexperienced mechanics or even a bad DIY.
Tie rods are one of the most used car components so always double-check your work if installing it yourself. If you choose a mechanic pick one you trust or one with solid verifiable reviews.
A good mechanic may charge a little more upfront but can save you thousands in the long run.
A lot of places replace tie rods just by counting the number of turns it takes to remove the old one and reversing it with the new one. Although, this might work an alignment is necessary to ensure that you don’t have any issues, and a lot of people skip this step.
Tie rods enable the car to steer and run straight when the steering wheel is centered. When aligning the car’s wheels the tie-rods are adjusted by turning the nut on the threads. If this is done improperly or not at all after getting a tie-rod replaced, you’ll likely have one or more of the symptoms mentioned above.
Replacement Tie-Rod Failed
Although parts are supposed to be designed to last that isn’t always the case and sometimes things just break. That may be the case with your replacement tie-rod. Aftermarket parts don’t have the same quality control as OEM so it isn’t unheard of to have even new parts break once in a while.
How Long Do Tie-Rods Last?
Tie rods are durable parts that are supposed to last the life of the vehicle. However, just like any car part, their longevity depends on several factors, more specifically, driving conditions. Driving on rough roads, over potholes, or getting into accidents (basically the equivalent of living in an urban environment like NYC). These things will wear out your parts faster.
Despite being known for their durability and longevity, it is best to always have tie rods checked regularly to avoid developing major car problems.
Cost To Replace Tie Rods
The cost to replace tie rods is based on different factors like vehicle type, parts quality, and how difficult it is to access the parts. As a rough estimate, costs can range from $100 to $400 plus additional fees and taxes.
Inner or outer rods cost around $20 to $100 depending on the quality. If your outer rod is the problem, then labor can cost you around $50 to $100+. Inner tie rods are more expensive to replace. A mechanic can charge you from $100 to $300 as a labor fee.
Just know labor rates are highly dependent on the local market and what type of vehicle you drive. High-end vehicles usually involve more work and therefore more labor.
You can try to replace the outer rods by yourself to save some money. Outer tie-rods are easier to replace compared to inner rods.
If you experience steering problems and you’ve just had a tie rod replaced, chances are it was installed wrong and needs to be done again. On the low end, it might be just an alignment issue, but if you experience grinding or other noises, a closer look is needed.