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Symptoms of a Bad Tie Rod End and How to Replace it

Nov 21, 2023Nov 21, 2023

Steer clear of a failing suspension with this easy DIY job.



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Depending on who you are, how quickly your car can make it from a standstill to a quarter-mile straight ahead might be all that really matters in this world. But staying in line has never really been our thing, as we’ve always preferred to veer off the path in search of our own ideas of fun. When it comes to cars, that means turning, hard, and a lot on the snakiest roads we can find.

A steering wheel puts the power to turn into the driver's hands, but it's a bunch of linkages, gears, and arms that do the work underneath. Tie rods are a crucial component of a vehicle's steering system, and when they start to go bad, you’ll feel the difference. Bad tie rods should be addressed immediately, and luckily, it's not a super difficult job!

The apex-loving editors at The Drive have dealt with countless steering jobs, and we’d like to impart that knowledge and experience onto our readers. Learn how to remove and replace your tie rod ends with our guide below.

A tie rod is a mechanical part that connects your steering gear to your steering knuckle. They consist of two parts, inner and outer ends, that are connected and can be adjusted at the middle. Each end has a ball joint, so each tie rod has two ball joints.

Each tie rod has two ends, one inner and one outer. The inner tie rod end connects to the steering, while the outer tie rod end connects to the steering knuckle.

Here are a few symptoms you may be experiencing.

An inspection will be easiest with your wheel still on the car. With the wheel lifted up, use both hands on each side of the wheel to rock it back and forth. If you notice a popping or clunking sound, it might be tie rods. Use a friend and a flashlight to inspect closer and pinpoint the source of the noises, as other failing parts might produce similar noises and symptoms.

Estimated Time Needed: Hours

Skill Level : Intermediate

Vehicle System : Steering

Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here's exactly what you’ll need to ensure you don't die, get maimed, or lose a finger and that you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless—hopefully.

We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here's exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.

Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don't have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that's also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren't getting your ride out of the clink.

Pretend we’re removing the front driver's side tie rod. Let's do this!

When installing the new parts, there are a few things you should be aware of.

As much as The Drive loves to put the "you" in do-it-yourself, we know that not everyone has the proper tools, a safe workspace, the spare time, or the confidence to tackle major automotive repairs. Sometimes, you just need quality repair work performed by professionals you can trust like our partners, the certified mechanics at Goodyear Tire & Service.

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

A. In this context, ball joints are part of the suspension system, and tie rods are part of the steering system.

A. It can be, so we do not recommend driving with a bad tie rod end.

A. Any components that are attached to a vehicle's wheels are dealing with a ton of movement, and relentless beatings. Over time, these impacts wear down on the tie rod ends and cause them to go bad. Contamination can further this along.

A. Tie rod ends vary greatly in price depending on the vehicle. Some singular outer tie rod ends could cost $10-15, while others could cost triple digits. Yours will likely be cheap, though, so even if the tie rods are just old and worn, but not fully bad, it can't hurt to replace them.

A. It will typically make a popping, clanking, or knocking sound.

We’re here to be expert guides in everything How-To related. Use us, compliment us, yell at us. Comment below and let's talk! You can also shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, here are our profiles.

Jonathon Klein: Twitter (@jonathon.klein), Instagram (@jonathon_klein)

Tony Markovich: Twitter (@T_Marko), Instagram (@t_marko)

Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)

ARES Front End Service Set for Tie Rods and Ball Joints

OEM Tools Master Inner Tie Rod Tool Set

Powerbuilt Inner Tie Rod Kit

Orion Motor Tech 5-Piece Pickle Fork Tool Set

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: [email protected]

Estimated Time Needed: Skill Level : Vehicle System : adapt the length to fit correctly torque wrench manufacturer-specified torque thread sealer A. A. A. A. A.