So What’s a Tie Rod and When Does It Need Replacing?

Do they have anything to do with Half-Windsors?

Cars are wondrous machines, simple and yet complex. Even among EVs in which the mechanical bits are reduced, there are hundreds of parts that all work in conjunction with one another to create a beautiful ballet. One of the most interesting aspects of this dance is in your car’s steering system, a part known as a tie rod that brings it all together. 

Tie rods are crucial components to your car’s two-step coordination. And when they go bad, they go bad hard and in a seriously dangerous way. But don’t fret, Car Bibles’ editors are here to explain what happens, what to look out for, and how much replacing bad tie rods costs. Let’s get to it.

What Is a Tie Rod?

A tie rod is a part of your vehicle’s steering system. Tie rods connect your steering gear, which is connected through a shaft to the steering wheel, and the steering knuckle, which turns the car. 

How Does a Tie Rod Work?

As you turn the steering wheel, the steering rack behind the car’s firewall turns in concert. That rack is connected to the steering knuckle below, which is connected via a tie rod. The tie rod can be adjusted using its threaded design to align your steering system. 

So What’s a Tie Rod and When Does It Need Replacing?

When Does a Tie Rod Need To Be Replaced?

Tie rods aren’t your average maintenance items. They’re designed to last the life of a vehicle, though external factors such as extreme weather, poor maintenance, and impacts and accidents, can affect their life cycles. 

To determine if you need to replace your tie rods, you’ll need to first suspect there’s something amiss with your car’s steering, and then jack up your car. From there, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward process. Let’s elaborate. 

The Symptoms of a Failing Tie Rod

Here are a few symptoms you might encounter when your tie rod fails.

Wheel Feels Loose When Lifted

If you lift up your car on a jack and can wiggle the wheel (not in the direction of the steering)you likely have a bad set of tie rods. 

Uneven Tire Wear

And given that you likely can wiggle your tire, imagine that while driving. As such, you’ll likely see uneven tire wear due to that slack in the system. 

Uneven Alignment

Just as the top two indicate, that slack will cause uneven alignment. Without proper alignment, your car will not track straight.

Sloppy Steering

With such slack, you’ll also feel it in the steering wheel. Your cornering won’t be as precise. 

Noise and/or Vibration

The bad tie rod might also be clanking and vibrating through the steering wheel. 

The Job: How To Replace Tie Rods

If you want to know how to replace your vehicle’s tie-rods, you can check out our friends at The Drive’s awesome how-to

The Car Bibles Tie Rod Glossary

Welcome to Bible school! 

Shock

A shock is a hydraulic or pneumatic compression absorber that doesn’t feature an external spring. 

Strut

A strut is a hydraulic or pneumatic compression absorber that features an external spring and is used as a pivot point. 

Double Wishbone

A double-wishbone suspension uses two control arms, one at the top and the other at the bottom. They connect to the wheel knuckle and provide increased possibility of tuning. 

Lower Control Arm

The lower control arm allows the suspension to move up and down in a stable fashion.

Ball Joint

A ball joint is a spherical bearing that connects the steering knuckle to the control arms.

Sway Bar

A sway bar, or anti-torison bar, connects the two sides of the car via the top of the suspension. This increases the car’s torsional rigidity. 

The Questionnaire

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions.

Q: How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Tie Rod?

A: If you do it yourself, you’re looking at anywhere between $40-$150, depending on on the car. If you have a certified mechanic, take on another $100-$200 for labor.

Q: Is It Dangerous To Drive With Bad Tie Rods?

A: As our friends in Minnesota like to say, “You betcha.” At best, it reduces your ability to steer properly. At worst, it can separate the wheel from the rest of the car. Now, do you want that?

Q: Can I Replace Tie Rods Myself?

A: You can! Just make sure you don’t need your car the following day. Any time when you’re working on a part that ensures safe travel, give yourself the proper time to do it right.

Video on Tie Rods

Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how to replace your inner and outer tie rods. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.

Comments Are Open, Come Speak Your Piece

It’s easy to make an account and we really do want to chat! Writers (and other readers) will answer questions and comments whenever they can!

You can buy tools for swapping out your tie rods at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. Why not just listen to us? Such as these Wrenches or these Torque Wrenches?

Disclosure: Carbibles.com is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Programs, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Pages on this site may include affiliate links to Amazon and its affiliate sites on which the owner of this website will make a referral commission.

Jonathon Klein

Jonathon KleinJonathon has jumped Aston Martins for Automobile Magazine, clocked 200 mph in a McLaren 720S for Playboy, and sampled his best life behind the wheel of a Ferrari Dino Evo for Road & Track. He’s hopelessly addicted to the strongest coffee he can brew. Please send him more. Contact the author here.