What Are the Causes of Tie Rod End Wear?

by Jeff Barron

They are not the most glamorous parts of a vehicle, like a powerful engine or those beautiful leather seats. But tie rod ends are vital to ensuring safe performance. They are an integral part of the steering system and must be inspected regularly to make sure they in good working order. Tie rod end wear is a dangerous condition that can lead to poor steering response.

Function

Tie rod ends help keep your vehicle's front wheels stable. They are a ball-in-socket mechanism that allows the wheels to move up and down and side to side. That is important as the vehicle navigates different types of road surfaces, bumps, potholes and the like. Tie rod ends are found in recirculating ball and rack-and-pinion steering systems, according to Valvoline.com. They are also important in setting the wheel's toe adjustment, or angle in which the front wheels turn from the vehicle.

Causes of Wear

The biggest cause of tie rod end wear is the lack of lubrication. Road hazards like potholes, bumps in the road or hitting the curb too hard can shorten the life of tie rod ends. That's because has these hazards can damage them and cause the lubrication to leak out. Once that happens, the tie rod end can loosen and bind up, which makes it unsafe to drive the vehicle.

Symptoms

It is easy to determine if the tie rod ends on your vehicle are worn and in need of replacement. Simply jack up the car and feel for play in the front wheels. Your vehicle may also have bad tie rod ends if you experience loose steering while driving. Bad tire rod ends also cause excessive tire wear, although other problems like worn shocks or bad wheel bearings can also cause tire wear.

Prevention/Solution

A good way to prevent tie rod end wear is to keep them lubricated. Have your mechanic check the tie rod ends on a regular basis and lubricate them if necessary. Also visit the mechanic if you notice any symptoms of tie rod end wear. Once the tie rod ends are damaged they must be replaced. But don't just replace the side that is worn. Repair Pal says to replace the tie rod ends on both wheels.

Last Step

After noticing signs of tie rod end wear, you've visited the mechanic and now have a pair of brand new tie rod ends. You're finished, right? Well, not quite. Repair Pal recommends having your vehicle's front end aligned after replacing the tie rod ends. That's because new tie rod ends will affect the vehicle's steering and handling, which in turn will affect its alignment. An alignment adjustment will keep the suspension in proper working order.

About the Author

Jeff Barron is is a 12-year newspaper veteran. He wrote for the Ocean County Observer in Toms River, N.J., the Ocean County Reporter, and the Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times. Barron won an Ohio Associated Press award for investigative reporting in 2004. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shawnee State University in Ohio.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera section of car image by pixelcarpenter from Fotolia.com