What is a tie rod end replacement?

For this service, a mechanic will inspect your tie rods to determine whether the rod ends are at fault, and replace them if necessary.
Tie rod ends are connected between the track rod of your car’s steering assembly and the steering knuckle, serving to help accommodate movement of the wheels when steering or driving over irregular terrain.
Most cars have four tie rod ends total, sporting two per side: an outer tie rod end and an inner tie rod end. These are adjustable components whose positioning is crucial for proper wheel alignment and steering.

How to replace a tie rod end

A tie rod end replacement may take a while. Here are the steps a mechanic will go through in the process:
  • Raise and support the vehicle on steel safety stands.
  • Remove the tire and wheel assembly.
  • Measure and record the length of the existing tie rod (if possible). This helps in the alignment process later on.
  • Loosen the tie rod end adjusting lock nut.
  • Use a tie rod end removal tool to separate the tie rod ball stud from the steering knuckle.
  • Unthread the tie rod from the inner tie rod end.
  • Install the new tie rod ends with all fasteners and the adjusting lock nut tightened to the appropriate OEM torque value (this is where the recorded length of the old tie rod is used).
Unless your mechanic has portable equipment, you will have to finish the process by taking your car to an alignment shop, where they will measure and adjust the vehicle’s alignment as needed.

How do I know if my tie rod end needs to be replaced?

You will know your tie rod ends need to be replaced if you notice any (or all) of the following:
  • Clunking noises and a lack of smooth steering. If your steering wheel binds when turning it or if the suspension makes noise during turns, your tie rod ends may be at fault.
  • Vehicle pulling, wandering, or prematurely worn tires. If the tie rod ends have loosened, your car will have difficulty tracking straight ahead, and may “pull” to the left or right. Excessive wear on the front tires is another indicator of this.
  • Obvious looseness in any of the tie rod end components. If the ball stud portion of the tie rod end has any discernible “play” or movement, the entire tie rod end will need to be replaced.
  • A leaking, damaged, or missing rubber boot or bellows. The grease in your outer tie rod ends is contained by a rubber seal. If it fails, grease can leak out and the joint will accumulate and be worn down by road dirt. Inner tie rod ends are protected by bellows. If one of these tears, only it needs to be replaced.

How important is it that I replace the tie rod end?

Incredibly important. You should not drive with a tie rod end problem, as they are a critical component of the steering system. Continued use of a defective tie rod end could result in the breakage of the tie rod itself, which can result in the total loss of steering control—putting you and other drivers at high risk of injury or death. Regular inspection of tie rod ends is necessary to ensure they are in good condition.

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