Wondering if you can drive with a bad tie rod?
Let’s dig deeper into why you should avoid driving with a bad tie rod, how to confirm if it’s worn out, and how much you could end up spending to fix it.
This Article Contains:
- Can You Drive with a Bad Tie Rod?
- How to Confirm You Have a Bad Tie Rod?
- How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Bad Tie Rod?
- 3 FAQs on Tie Rods
Can You Drive with a Bad Tie Rod?
You should avoid driving with a bad tie rod as it negatively impacts your control over the vehicle – placing you in significant danger. And, if you have a completely broken tie rod, you won’t have any steering control.
So, how does a tie rod work?
The outer tie rod connects to the wheel assembly via the steering knuckle (near the wheel bearing), and the inner tie rod connects to the steering gear.
The tie rod is an essential part of a car’s steering mechanism – when you turn the steering wheel, the tie rod translates this motion to move the wheels.
A failing tie rod results in:
- Damage to under-chassis components: Loose tie rods allow debris into the system’s joints and links – increasing friction and wear. This can also cause rusting, which spreads to other suspension components.
- Less agility: The inner tie rod translates movement from the steering rack to the outer rod, turning the wheels through the steering knuckle. If the tie rod is bad, this movement doesn’t transfer properly, and the steering mechanism is compromised.
- Less traction: Bad tie rods can cause uneven tire wear, resulting in irregular contact points with the road surface. This reduces the amount of traction your tires generate.
Now that you know about some of the consequences, let’s explore the diagnostic symptoms of a damaged tie rod.
How to Confirm You Have a Bad Tie Rod?
Here are four telltale signs of a tie rod failure:
1. Poor Wheel Alignment
As the outer tie rod connects to the vehicle’s front-end wheels, it helps maintain alignment. However, wear and tear, as well as harsh road conditions, can cause a loose tie rod. This means the wheels and steering wheel don’t connect precisely. As a result, the wheels don’t properly respond to the steering movements, causing alignment issues and uneven wear.
2. Uneven Tire Wear
It’s common for a failing tie rod to cause uneven tire wear because it holds the tire in place.
If the wheel alignment is off, the tires will either face inwards or outwards. Essentially, they won’t be in line with the vehicle’s forward direction. This causes excessive wear on one side of the tire.
Additionally, a loose tie rod allows excessive wheel play – resulting in irregular movement and increasing tire wear.
3. Unresponsive Steering
Since the tie rod connects the steering wheel to the front wheels, problems with the tie rod can cause unresponsive steering.
A loose tie rod won’t translate the motion from the steering wheel to the tires properly. Your steering wheel will feel loose and sluggish, especially during quick or sudden turns.
4. Clunking Noises and Shaking
If your tie rod end is faulty or its rubber boot cracks, it exposes the internal components, including the ball joint, to external elements. The lubricating grease may also break down or be displaced, leading to increased friction. As a result, you may notice a high-pitched noise when steering caused by the metal-on-metal contact in the ball joint of the rod end.
Likewise, as the outer tie rod wears and becomes loose, it allows excessive wheel play. Essentially, the wheels have more uncontrolled “wiggle room” – the source of your vehicle vibrating.
After confirming these bad tie rod symptoms, you’ll need to get a repair.
Let’s look at the costs a worn tie rod incurs for a car owner.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Bad Tie Rod?
You’ll usually need to pay between $200-$500 for the replacement and labor time. A mechanic will charge an hourly rate, and replacing the rod end will usually take around three hours.
The exact cost depends on whether you need a new tie rod or if only part of the tie rod needs replacing:
Here are some related repair cost estimates:
- Dust boot: $4 to $12
- Tie rod end: $30-$100
- New tie rod: $100 or more
Generally, replacing a bad inner tie rod end is more expensive than an outer tie rod end as it requires specialized tools. Additionally, replacing tie rods in pairs is also recommended – if one wears out, the other will likely follow suit.
We’ve covered the essentials of addressing a faulty tie rod.
Next, let’s tie up any loose ends.
3 FAQs on Tie Rods
Here are some other important details concerning bad tie rods:
1. What Causes a Bad Tie Rod?
There are several reasons for a broken tie rod, including:
- Harsh road conditions: Severe impact through hitting a curb or driving into a pothole can cause a faulty tie rod. It could also cause a problem with another suspension component.
- Normal wear and tear: Repetitive impact, exposure to debris, and the corroding effects of moisture can degrade the tie rod over time.
- Lack of lubrication: There’s a moveable joint that comprises each tie rod end. This joint requires proper lubrication for the tie rod to pivot. Insufficient lubrication leads to increased friction, causing damage to the joint.
- Broken dust boot: If the rubber boot breaks, debris can enter the tie rod socket joint. It can mix with the lubricant, increase friction, and cause a worn tie rod.
- Problematic suspension and steering components: If steering system components like the ball joints, control arms, or struts fail, it can place more stress on the tie rods, causing excessive wear.
2. What Should You Do if Your Tie Rod Breaks While Driving?
Stopping safely is crucial to prevent accidents and further damage to your vehicle. However, if you experience a tie rod failure while driving, you likely won’t have much steering control.
Here are some steps to follow:
- Disengage the accelerator and brake gently: If your car is turning or veering to one side, sharp braking could cause the vehicle to roll.
- Maintain control and pull over: Attempt to guide the car safely off the road if possible.
- Turn on your hazard lights: This ensures your vehicle is visible to other drivers.
3. How to Make Tie Rods Last Longer?
The lifespan of a tie rod depends on the driving conditions it faces. However, they’ll usually last around 100,000 miles.
To extend the longevity of your tie rods, you should:
- Lubricate the ball joints: This ensures they operate smoothly with minimal friction.
- Clean the tie rods: This typically involves using a degreaser to clean dirt and grime from the exterior. However, you’ll need a mechanic to clean the ball joint as it’s challenging to access.
- Replace the dust boots: The rubber boot helps prevent debris from entering the ball joints at the rod end.
- Drive carefully: Hard impact forces will likely cause a bent tie rod, so avoid rough roads, driving into potholes, and other obstructions.
As a responsible car owner, you should take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic regularly for inspection and maintenance. They’ll diagnose a damaged tie rod, ensure your steering system works optimally, and evaluate the suspension.
Steer Clear of Bad Tie Rods with AutoNation Mobile Service
Your tie rods are essential for steering and vehicle control. As a bad tie rod severely impacts your safety, you should avoid driving if you suspect your vehicle has one.
So why not ensure your safety by contacting a mobile mechanic?
A qualified mechanic from AutoNation Mobile Service can fix the bad tie rod in your driveway.
We offer online booking, seven days per week availability, and a 12-month | 12-000 mile warranty on all repairs.
Contact us to address any steering issues, a problematic suspension component, or other repair and maintenance requirements.