Home Suspension & Steering Outer Tie Rod: How To Maintain Your Car’s Steering

Outer Tie Rod: How To Maintain Your Car’s Steering

by Kelvin Yates

Outer tie rod ends are very important when it comes to precise steering. It is important in all vehicles. The outer tie rods are responsible for making the front wheels of your vehicle turn back and forth when the steering wheel is being turned around by the driver. These tie rods pivot left, right, up, and down when you are maneuvering your vehicle. It does this while enduring extreme amounts of pressure, and still providing you with responsive and smooth steering.

As you can now tell, they are a very integral part of the steering system of a vehicle. However, you need to keep in mind that with all these stress and movements, they will gradually start to wear out beyond their limit. If you run an inspection and it shows that you have a worn-out tie rod, then you can replace it by yourself. Keep on reading to find out how!

What Is An Outer Tie Rod?

Before we get into how to inspect any problems with the outer tie rod, or even how to replace it yourself, we should first take a look at what exactly an outer tie rod is.

Tie rods are just simple mechanical parts that connect the steering knuckle on each of the front wheels with the steering rack. They are a big part of the wheels of your vehicle turning around. There is also an adjusting sleeve that sits in between both the inner as well as outer tie rod ends.

When you are turning the steering wheel, it makes the whole steering system react through the racks and pinions. This then tells the outer tie rod ends to either pull or push the wheel to make the wheels turn. Both the tie rods come with ball joints that are greased at their ends so that the rotational forces from the tie rods can be transmitted through the system.

Outer Tie Rod

There is a rubber boot protecting the outer tie rod end so that the dirt and the grease are kept out, however, moisture can still get inside of the joints and cause corrosion since the rubber is prone to cracking as time passes.

Being able to turn corners is a very important thing. You can now see why tie rod ends are a big part of the safety of every vehicle.

If your tie rod has failed then it could easily cause you to lose control completely or even have the wheels breaking free from the vehicle when you’re driving. Both of these situations are just as dangerous and they can easily be avoided with proper maintenance of your vehicle.

Bad Outer Tie Rod Symptoms

Now that you have more of an idea about what tie rod ends are and the function they serve, we can now take a look at a few symptoms. More specifically, symptoms that will allow you to diagnose and tell when the tie rod ends in your vehicle have gone bad.

You don’t have to worry too much because there are quite a few very common and noticeable symptoms that you can keep an eye out for. These bad outer tie rod symptoms are all listed below.

1. Front End Alignment Is Bad

One of the things that tie rods help you out with is maintaining the alignment of the front end of your vehicle. When your tie rod is worn out or damaged, the parts in the system start to loosen up. This will eventually cause the front end of your vehicle to track poorly and be misaligned.

You will notice this misalignment when you are driving your vehicle as it will steer off to the left or right even when it is pointed straight forward. You can test it out easily when you are driving if you just direct your vehicle straight and just let go of the steering wheel for a short period.

If your vehicle is aligned properly, it should be maintaining a straight path even when you let go of the steering wheel.

2. Steering Wheel Is Shaking Or Vibrating

Something else that a tie rod does is that it keeps the parts of the suspension tight and solid. If the tie rod end of your vehicle has gone bad and loosens up, then the components of the suspension will also loosen up. This will cause you to feel shakes and vibrations in the steering wheel when you are driving.

You will also notice that as you are turning corners or accelerating your vehicle, the vibrations from your steering wheel are also getting worse.

3. Steering Wheel Is Loose

If your tie rod has gone bad then you will feel that the steering wheel in your vehicle has an excessive amount of play or is just feeling loose. This is something important to look out for as it can be very dangerous. This can be very bad for you since it can easily turn into a complete lack of steering.

4. Abnormal Wear On The Tires

Tire wear is a common occurrence, and it should be mostly the same on both sides. When there is uneven wear on one or even more tires, most of the time it means that there is a problem. You will notice that the inner or the outer edges of your tire are wearing out faster compared to the rest of the tire if you have a bad tie rod.

Running a simple visual inspection on your tires is enough to check this. All you need to do is stand in front of your vehicle and take a look at the inside and the outside edges of the tire.

However, something you should keep in mind is that there could be other causes for uneven tires as well. It could be something like unbalanced tires, bad alignment, or even your tire pressure being improper. If you are not so experienced with cars, it would be a better idea to have your car examined by a professional mechanic.

5. Abnormal Sounds

If you are hearing any squealing or squeaking noises coming from your vehicle when you are driving it usually means there is some bad metal on metal-on-metal going on inside. Especially when you are driving and turning corners, if you are hearing squeaking noises it could mean that a rubber boot on your tie rod end has been cracked and is allowing for the lubrication to be lost.

You might also hear some type of rattling or clunking noises coming from the front end of your vehicle. Of course, it does, not mean that just because you are hearing unusual noises from your vehicle, it means that your tie rod end is failing. This is why you should also check for any other symptoms mentioned on this list apart from the strange sounds.

6. Vehicle Vibrating

When you start to see that the tires on your vehicle are wearing out unevenly, you will also notice that the whole car is starting to vibrate. These vibrations will normally become more intense as you accelerate your vehicle. This makes it harder for you to have a comfortable ride. However, that should be the least of your worries right now.

The vibrations in your vehicle can also be caused by tie rods that are not functioning right anymore. Now, this can dangerous thing. What most likely is happening is that the tires of your vehicle are coming loose, causing them to shake on their own.

It could also be that you are close to losing the steering of your vehicle. If you notice any of these things, then you need to get your vehicle repaired as soon as possible and have it checked by a professional mechanic.

7. Failure Of The Tie Rods

This is of course the most obvious as well as the most dangerous sign that you could get. This is when your tie rods are completely broken. You need to get your vehicle into a car repair shop immediately and have it repaired by professionals. It is very dangerous to be driving your vehicle in this condition.

A broken tie rod is able canoes of steering, and this can lead up to an accident. This is also another reason why car manufacturers take these things so seriously, and they even go as far as recalling their vehicle if it was somehow misassembled at the factory during production.

Inner And Outer Tie Rod Replacement Cost

When it comes to replacing the tie rod ends of your vehicle, several things influence the cost of it. The inner and outer tie rod replacement costs can be expensive. It mostly depends on things such as the quality of components that are used, your vehicle itself, and of course how hard it is to access the outer tie rod end.

However, it is generally seen that this repair costs around $100 to about $400. If you are looking at the costs of just the parts, you can find a tie rod end ranging anywhere from $20 to around $100. This goes for both the inner and outer tie rod.

Outer Tie Rod

While most outer tie rods are easier to replace, you will find yourself paying around $80 to $100 since most mechanics will charge for an hour at the least. Comparatively the inner tie rods are harder to get into and require quite some more effort. What this means for you is that you are looking at burning more money through your pocket, at least around $150 to up to$300 just for labor.

As you can already tell from the pricings that more than half of the money that you would spend to replace your tie rod ends is mostly spent on labor. This is why you should just go for buying high high-quality parts if you want to get your money’s worth.

Make sure that you do not forget to include the cost of a front in front and when you are estimating the total outer tie rod replacement cost. If you look at the inner and outer tie rod diagram carefully, you’ll have a better idea. It will be necessary when you are done with the repair.

How To Know If Your Tie Rod Ends Are Bad

Luckily for you, there is quite an easier way for you to check if the tie rod ends of your vehicle have gone bad. All you need are some rated jack stands and an appropriate weight jack. Jack the front of your vehicle up, and once you have the wheels completely off the ground, you need to check for play.

You can do that by placing your hands at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, or the midpoints of both the left and right sides of your tire. You need to press with the right, and then with the left so that you can alternate a push and pull movement on each of the sides.

If you notice any slop or play, it is you should look more. Since the front end of your vehicle is already jacked up, you can just take the wheel off and just check underneath. You should be able to find the tie rod end right behind the brake hub and rotor. Check for any damages there.

If you notice that the brush is torn, this would mean that road grit has stored up inside and torn it. This means your tie rod end needs to be replaced. If you see that the brush is in good shape, then you need to reach up in there and firmly grab the outer tie rod to give it a proper shake. You will know that it is time to replace it if it is moving from side to side too easily.

How Do You Replace The Outer Tie Rod End?

Here Is How You Can Replace The Outer Tie End Yourself

Step 1: Safety First

First thing’s first, you need to consider your safety. Make sure you have your vehicle parked on a dry and flat surface. Install the wheel chokers. Don’t forget to wear the proper gloves as well as safety goggles. Lift the vehicle, and ace it on the jack stands. For easier access, remove the wheels.

Step 2: Look For The Outer Tie Rod End

The ball you see with the locking nuts and stud is attached to the steering knuckle which is next to the tire. If you have any penetrating oil on you, it is a good idea to spray the jam threads and nuts. Do this for the castle nut as well since these tend to get corroded easily.

You will find the outer tie rod end connected to one of the sides of the steering knuckle with a cotter pin and castle nut, this keeps it from loosening up. The other side of the tie rod should be threaded. It should connect to an inner tie rod, a drink, or center link, or even an adjusting sleeve.

Step 3: Remove The Stud Nut From The Tie Rod And Separate

As we mentioned before, there is a tapered nut and stud on each side that connects the tie rod to the steering knuckle of your vehicle. Generally, this nut is a castle nut with a cotter pin. However, it can also be a Nylock nut.

In case of the a castle nut, you need to first remove the cotter pin. Many times these can be a pain to remove since they tend to get corroded easily. Make sure that you use a lot of penetrating oil on the nut when doing this. Now use a pickle fork or a tie rod separator to the tapered stud from the bore.

You need to put the fork in between the knuckle and tie rod. Then you just keep on hammering till the tie rod just drops and separates. Some tie rods tend to be quite stubborn, so this process might take a bit of time.

Step 4: Adjust The Sleeve Nut Or Loosen The Jam Nut

For The Center Link Type:

The outer tie rod end is screwed into the adjusting sleeve of the tie rod. You need to loosen up the locking clamp for the adjusting sleeve as well as the nut holding the outer tie rod end. Make sure to loosen the locking nut for the inner tie rod. You might also need to put on some penetrating oil to the threads of the outer tie rod ends and the adjusting sleeve as well.

While you perform the next steps, let it soak. Use some paint to mark the end position of the tie rod ends. This needs to be done so that you have an idea of how far you need to thread your new tie rod end into your adjusting sleeve.

Something to keep in mind is that most tie rod ends either have a right hand or a left hand. This means that you might be loosening the rod when you turn it right.

For R&P Type:

A great thing about rack and pinion (R&P) outer tie rods is that most of the time you can just remove them from your vehicle without messing with the alignment specs. The threads from the outer tie end go into the inner tie rod end, and it is all securely held into place by a jam nut.

Make sure that the threads behind the nuts are also clean. You should look out that the loosening pressure is not putting too much pressure on the inner tie rod of the R&P. Jam nuts tend to mostly loosen with the right or left than the left hand. This is why turning the nut right might just loosen it.

Back away the nut and then use a small amount of paint to mark the outer tie rod end position. This will help you out when you need to identify how far you are required to thread the new tie rod end into the inner tie rod end. You can now go ahead and unthread your tie rod end.

When turning the tie rod out, you might need to use a wrench or a pair of locking pliers. Compare the length of the new old tie rod to the new one, and look at the mark that you made. This will show you exactly where the jam nut was threaded. You can now transfer that over to the new tie rod.

Just check for the measurements from the center centerline mark of the tapered stud. This allows you to ensure that both the marks are the same.

Get Your New Tie Rod End Installed

Now you need to thread your new tie rod end into the tie rod adjusting sleeve or onto the inner tie rod end. Position them as close as you possibly can to the original tie rods. When you get the new rubber grease boot in place, you need to insert the ball stud that’s threaded into the mounting hole of the steering knuckle.

Put the new cotter pin and the locking nut on. Tighten the adjusting sleeve nut or the jam nut firmly. You can use a grease lube gun to fill up the new tie rod end with some chassis lubricant. Make sure to not overdo it.

Install The Wheels And Check The Steering

Outer Tie Rod

Install the wheels as well as the wheel nuts. Torque the wheel nuts according to the specifications on the manual. Remove the tire jacks and then check the tire pressure. Make sure to also check your steering to ensure it’s operating smoothly. You should be able to turn the steering wheel without any catchings or bindings. You might find your steering wheel to be off-centered.

Get An Alignment

You often need to get an alignment with most tie rod end installations. It’s always recommended to get it done. Just take your vehicle to your trusted auto repair shop and make sure they do alignment work.

Facts about Tie Rods: Signs of Failure and the Importance of Getting Them Fixed

  1. Tie rods are a critical component of a vehicle’s steering system that connects the steering rack to the steering knuckle.
  2. Tie rods are necessary to steer a vehicle and make turning possible.
  3. Tie rods are susceptible to damage and wear due to normal use, driving hazards like potholes, and accidents.
  4. Failing tie rods can cause mild symptoms like premature tire wear or extreme symptoms like loss of vehicle control.
  5. Uneven or excessive tire wear can be a sign of a failing tie rod.
  6. A worn tie rod can cause the front end of the vehicle to become misaligned, leading to poor handling.
  7. A loose or damaged tie rod can cause vibration, looseness, or excessive play in the steering wheel.
  8. Knocking or clunking sounds from the front of the vehicle when turning at low speeds can be a symptom of bad tie rods.
  9. It is crucial to consult a qualified technician if any of the above symptoms occur to ensure the safe operation of your vehicle.
  10. Failing to fix tie rods promptly can compromise your safety and the safety of your passengers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about tie rod ends.

How To Replace The Outer Tie Rod

Replacing the outer tie rod end of your vehicle is not as hard as you’d think. It is fairly easy and can be done if you have a bit of knowledge of what’s under the hood of your vehicle. All you require are some outer tie rod removal tools. After that, you just need to follow the steps that we mentioned above carefully and make sure you know whether or not you’re working with a Center Link type or an R&P type.

How To Remove The Outer Tie Rod

There are some specific steps you need to follow for you to be able to properly remove the outer tie rod. Make sure you carefully carry them out. Start by removing the stud nut and separating the tie rod, and then loosen up the jam nut or adjust the sleeve nut. Just get your outer tie rod out after this and put in your new one.

How To Change The Outer Tie Rod

As we already mentioned all the steps in detail above, when it comes to changing your outer tie rod end, you will save a lot by doing it yourself. Once you have followed through with the steps properly, you will need to get your vehicle an alignment since it will most likely be misaligned.

How To Tell If The Inner Or Outer Tie Rod Is Bad

There are several symptoms to look out for when you suspect that your tie rod ends might be going bad. For starters, be wary of shakes and vibrations in the steering wheel, or if it feels loose. Also, double-check to make sure that front wheel alignment isn’t bad. Be mindful if there are any unusual sounds when you accelerate, or if the entire car shakes.

Final Words

You can now tell why it is important that you fix your tie rod ends when you come across any such symptoms. Keep an eye out for any of the symptoms mentioned above since tie rod ends tend to wear out over time anyway. Get your outer tie rod replaced to maintain your safety and also the safety of your vehicle.

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