Most modern vehicles use a steering system called rack and pinion, which incorporates tie rods to help move the wheels. Tie rods are attached on both ends of the steering rack and as the pinion rolls over the slotted rack, they help push and pull the front tires as the steering wheel is turned. Tie rods offer an important function to a vehicle's steering and therefore a car's overall safety. But how long do tie rods typically last?
Like most automotive parts, tie rods don't simply go bad because they were manufactured on a specific date and their time has merely expired; they go bad because of normal wear and tear. Tie rods can last for years and years and some car owners may never have to replace them at all, but their longevity can be affected by certain driving conditions. Driving obstacles like potholes, poor road conditions or even minor accidents can cause tie rods to work incorrectly. Because of their importance and high usage, some people recommend having the tie rods inspected regularly.
If you don't get your tie rods inspected on a regular basis, there are some warning signs to watch (and listen) for. If your vehicle pulls to one side while driving, or when braking, it's possible that bad tie rods may be the culprit. Your vehicle's tires will also show uneven wear on the inside and outside edge of the tire when there's a tire rod issue. However, one of the most noticeable signs of tie rods going bad will be a knocking sound coming from the front end of the vehicle when you turn into a parking space, or some other low speed, tight turning situation.
If the tie rods on your vehicle do need to be replaced, it's recommend that both right and left sets of tie rods be replaced at the same time, and that a full four-wheel vehicle alignment be done once they've been changed. If you suspect your tie rods might be bad, there are a few simple checks that mechanics can make to see if there's any excess movement in the tie rods where there shouldn't be. If your vehicle has encountered any extreme road conditions or unusual contact with the front wheels (like striking a curb, for instance), it may be a good idea to get the tie rods inspected as well.
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- Advanced Auto Parts. "Tie Rod Ends." (Aug. 14, 2010) http://corp.advanceautoparts.com/english/youcan/pdfs/edub/90004233_b27_%20TIE-ROD%20ENDS.pdf
- Markel, Andrew. "Why Do Automotive Ball Joints, Tie Rods and Suspension Links Wear Out?" Brake and Front End Magazine. July 23, 2009. (Aug. 14, 2010) http://www.brakeandfrontend.com/Article/61081/ why_do_automotive_ball_joints_tie_rods_and_suspension_links_wear_out.aspx
- RepairPal. "Tie Rod End." (Aug. 14, 2010) http://repairpal.com/tie-rod-end
- RepairPal. "Tie Rod End Replacement." (Aug. 14, 2010) http://repairpal.com/tie-rod-end-replacement