How Do I Tell If the Inner Tie Rod Is Bad or the Outer Is Bad?

by Jeffery Keilholtz
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Inner and outer tie rod connections operate in harmony and are responsible for the overall maneuvering of a car. Tie rods are greased on the ends when they are installed or replaced; grease lubricates the tie rod as it sits within the joints and sockets of the underbelly of the car. As lubrication decreases and/or as the car racks up usage and mileage, the tie rods risk breakage and throwing the car out of alignment.

Step 1

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Start your car. Put the car into drive and pull into a wide, open area, such as a parking lot. Drive forward slowly and turn the wheel to the left. Listen for a “clunk” sound. Repeat this process by turning your car to the right. Keep the car on and in park and turn the steering wheel to the left and right, listening for the same sound. The “clunk” sound is a prime indicator of a bad outer tie rod. Pulling into a parking lot will allow you to drive at the slow speed necessary to check for tie rod damage.

Step 2

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Put the car into park. Exit the car. Press down firmly a few times on the end of the car where you heard the “clunk.” If you heard the “clunk” sound in the car, you should hear it more distinctly now. The “clunk” sound is indicative of an outer tie rod improperly connected to the end ball joint.

Step 3

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Load your car with people. Get back into the car and drive. Steer the car to the right and left. Notice the looseness or tightness of the steering. Loose steering is a clear indicator of an inner tie rod malfunction. A “clunk” sound may also be associated with this problem. However, loose steering and a “clunk” sound together are usually indicative of an inner tie rod that is lacking in proper lubrication.

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