What Is a Tie Rod on a Car? Signs of a Failing Tie Rod, Repair Costs, & More

Whether your tie rod ends are wearing out, and you’re considering a replacement, or your mechanic recently told you that a repair is mandatory, it’s essential to understand what a tie rod on a car is, and the signs that yours might be failing. Depending on the nature of the malfunction, it can be simple to resolve a tie rod malfunction, or the issue could turn out to be a severe problem.

Car manufacturers like General Motors were forced to recall several of 2014-2015 Chevy Cruze models a few years ago due to tie rod problems. From new car prices to critical specs, a comprehensive car finder tool will help you stay informed and safe before you get behind the wheel of any vehicle.

Keep reading for an in-depth look into what is a tie rod on a car, signs of tie rod failure to watch for, average repair costs, and more.

What’s a Tie Rod?

A tie rod is a device that links your car’s steering knuckle to the steering rack on the front wheel. The out and inner ends of the tie rid surround an adjusting sleeve. When you rotate your steering wheel, it activates movement throughout the mechanism. The rods pull or push the wheel and make it turn. Since you’ll find it virtually impossible to drive your vehicle if you can’t turn the steering wheel, it doesn’t take long to realize just how vital the maintenance of your tie rods can be.

The critical components of tie rods include:

●   The rounded area which contains multiple bearings that provide you with the ability to steer even when you operate your vehicle on bumpy terrain

●   The body of the shaft that transmits movements into the ball stud when you drive

●   Most tie rods also feature a grease fitting so the bearings can rotate with ease

●   The tie rod features bushing to shield the internal devices from debris and grit

●   The inside tie rod body links to the bearing casing, which is all encased in a rubber dust boot

●   The tie rod connects to the steering knuckle via a threaded bolt

Signs of a Failing Tie Rod

What are the signs to look for that your car might have failing tie rods? First, keep a watchful eye on the wear and tear to your tires. If the tread on your front wheels seems to be wearing out faster than the remainder of your tread, this could mean that your wheel camber is off kilter.

Another sign of a failing tie rod is if your wheel makes a squeaking or squealing noise in the front when you turn the wheel. The sound is high-pitched and hard to miss. While the noise could potentially be from a faulty ball joint, it’s worth a look to rule out a malfunctioning tie rod just the same.

If your vehicle’s tie rod fails altogether, you could lose your steering capabilities altogether. When this happens, the potential for an accident is an immediate danger, which is why companies like GM recalled some of their Chevy Cruze models when they detected that the factory hadn't tightened the tie rods correctly.

Similarly, if you find that your steering capabilities seemed weak or shaky, like a loss in the connection between turning the steering wheel and the tires moving, this is another vital sign that your tie rod is dying.

What Happens if Your Tie Rod Breaks?

You wouldn’t leave the house without insurance on your vehicle. Likewise, you should never try to operate your car with a broken tie rod. The good news is, you can do a quick test to see if your tie rods are failing to ensure you don’t end up stranded on the road with a failing tie rod.

You will need to jack the front of your car up. Once you have elevated the wheel correctly, position your hands at nine and three o'clock, and press left and right on either side. If you sense any slop or play, you’ll want to take a second look. If you still have the wheel jacked up, take it off and check beneath it.

You should be able to locate the tie rod at the back of the hub and brake rotor so you can perform a visual inspection for damage. Torn bushing should indicate that something like road debris or grit gathered and corroded it, which would require a full replacement. If the bushing looks good, take hold of the outside tie rod and shake it to see if it moves. If the tie rod sways between sides, you need to replace it.

The Repair Costs To Fix a Tie Rod

It won’t take very long for a skilled mechanic to replace your tie rods, but the final costs will depend on the parts required and other factors such as the make and model of your vehicle. You can expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $200 for the entire costs of labor and replacement parts.

Your mechanic will start by examining to pinpoint the source of the issue. Your car may indicate a tie rod problem, but sometimes the malfunction lies elsewhere. Provided the mechanic confirms that your tie rods are the source of the problem, they will remove the road wheel and rods before installing new ones.

How to Prevent Tie Rod Issues

The proper maintenance on your vehicle is vital, so tie rod issues won't take you by surprise. When you change your oil, make sure you clean off and grease the ends of the tie rods to remove debris and extend their longevity.

The likelihood that you will need to replace your tie rods at some point throughout your car ownership is high. However, if you practice maintenance habits now by regularly cleaning and lubricating the tie rods on your vehicle, you can not only prevent road emergencies but help make these components last much longer.

In general, you can also find used car values by body style or manufacturer, along with reviews and ratings, safety, etc. to own a car that will be durable. This way, you'd save upfront on the purchase price, but as well as possible repair costs. 

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