A bent tie rod is usually something that can’t be ignored. When driving your vehicle, it would be pretty hard to not at least notice something is wrong in your front suspension or with your steering.
But how do you identify if the issue is with your tie rod? In this article, we’ll go over what signs to look out for when driving, and tire wear signs that can let you know you have a bent tie rod.
Bent Tie Rod Symptoms
Tie rods are one of the most important parts of your front suspension. Without them, you would not be able to steer. When a tie rod bends, you’ll notice that your vehicle can be hard to steer, it won’t drive straight, produces vibrations in the steering wheel, and more. Don’t overlook these symptoms, as they’ll only get worse.
If your vehicle’s front-end steering seems to be all out of whack, there’s a great chance it’s a tie rod. If you’d like to learn the symptoms and signs of a problematic tie rod, keep reading for more facts!
What Are the Most Common Signs Of a Bad Tie Rod?
1. Uneven Tire Wear
None of your tires should have uneven tire wear, but a bent tie rod can cause this to happen. It means your front tires are not aligned with each other, and it could be the tie rod that is causing the problem.
2. A Knocking Or Clunking Sound From The Front End
When you’re driving, you shouldn’t hear any loud clunking or knocking noises coming from the front end.
If it’s your tie rod that is causing this issue, you’ll probably hear this sound and feel the clunks down by your feet, especially when you’re going over bumps.
3. Front End Out Of Alignment
A lot of vehicles need a front-end alignment from time to time, but if your tie-rod gets bent, you’ll notice a front-end alignment problem right away.
Your vehicle will not drive straight, but will instead pull off in one direction if you don’t handle the steering wheel tight.
4. Vibrations Or Wobbling In The Steering Wheel
Any type of vibrations or wobbling in the steering wheel can be a direct sign of a bent tie rod. If you feel like your vehicle is rattling apart when you drive, you probably have a bent tie rod.
5. Car Pulling To One Side Especially When Braking
When your car pulls to one side (especially when braking or accelerating hard) you might have a bent tie rod that is causing your vehicle to pull while under the stress of torque.
6. A Squealing Sound When You Turn
Although a squealing sound coming from your front end when you make a turn could be caused by a couple of different things, it’s a safe bet that the tie rod has something to do with it.
What Happens When You Bend A Tie Rod?
When you bend a tie rod, the worst thing you can do is try to backyard fix it. Adjusting the tie rod out to fix the problem or bending the tie rod back into place is a horrible idea.
Once a tie rod is compromised, there is no fixing it. Fixing a tie rod that has been bent is a huge safety issue and will most likely hurt the rest of your suspension parts until you have to buy a whole new suspension instead of just a tie rod.
What Does It Feel Like When Your Tie Rods Are Bad?
A bent tie rod can vibrate your steering wheel when your vehicle is in motion. A badly bent tie rod could possibly shake your whole front end while your vehicle is in motion.
Do Tie Rods Affect Alignment?
Tie rods don’t directly affect your vehicle’s alignment when they’re not bent, but a bent tie rod can cause your alignment to go bad.
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to get your alignment fixed with a bent tie rod, as it won’t work.
Do You Need A Front End Alignment After Replacing A Tire Rod?
Tie rods control steering angles, and once a tie rod is loose and taken off, there’s no longer any alignment. When the tie rod gets reconnected, the alignment is redone, there is no possible way of just eye-balling it or guess-checking the alignment.
When your tie rod
Can A Bad Tie Rod Cause A Wobble?
is bent or bad, its rotational ability is off-center, causing what some people call a death wobble.
This is called a death wobble because your vehicle will wobble and vibrate so intensely when it’s in motion that it will feel like your vehicle is falling apart.
Can You Drive With A Loose Tie Rod?
It’s possible to drive with a loose tie rod, but you shouldn’t drive for too long. A tie rod can come loose from it being bent, and once it’s loose, it will just keep working itself loose until unattaching itself.
An unattached tie rod means you’ll have absolutely no control of your vehicle’s steering abilities. So, a loose or bent tie rod is definitely a safety concern.
Can I Replace Just One Tie Rod?
Replacing one tie rod is not recommended by most mechanics, but you can replace just one tie rod if you’d like.
However, note that the rest of the tie rods will likely be in the same boat as the one you’re replacing, meaning they’ll need a replacement shortly as well.
The only time you will benefit from replacing just one tie rod is if all of your other tie rods are pretty new, and the one that needs to be replaced was part of some accident like hitting a huge pot hole or running into a curb.
Are Tie Rods Supposed To Have Play In Them?
You don’t want to have any vertical or side-to-side play in your tie rod. A nice tight tie rod will have less room to bounce around and cause damage to the joints.
The more play you have in the tie rods, the more vibration you’ll feel in your steering, the more the vehicle will want to pull from side-to-side, and the harder the wheel will be to control.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Bent Tie Rod?
Tie rods are not extremely hard to replace for a skilled auto technician, so between parts and labor, you could pay somewhere around $70 to $200. However, if you plan on doing the job yourself, expect to pay about $30 to $100 for the tie rod you need.
What Causes Tie Rods To Go Bad?
Tie rods are one of those parts that don’t last forever, because when your vehicle is in motion, so are your tie rods. They work hard all the time, which means they will eventually have to be replaced.
Most tie rods will need to be replaced from normal wear and tear, but they can go bad a lot quicker when they’re subject to rougher driving terrain and lack of lubrication.
How Long Should A Tie Rod End Last?
If you drive in normal everyday traffic, a tie rod end can last you several years, in fact, if you don’t treat your vehicle harshly, you might never have to replace a tie rod end.
But if you plan on having a vehicle for more than 2-5 years, then you will probably have to do some kind of general maintenance to your front end and that might be your tie rods.
Are Tie Rods The Same On Both Sides?
Tie rod ends have different treads on them for alignment purposes. When you order a set or just one individual tie rod, each one should come labeled. This also means you have to make sure to order them correctly.
How Many Tie Rods Are On A Car?
For most conventional vehicles, there will be two tie rods on each side of your front end, an inner and outer tie rod. The inner tie rod is usually covered by a rubber boot and the outer tie rod will be exposed and connected to the steering knuckler.
To know more about tires and wheels, you can also see our posts on overinflated tires symptoms, unbalanced tires symptoms, wheel alignment symptoms, wheel balancing symptoms, and what are wheel spacers.
When experiencing a bent tie rod, in most cases, you won’t be able to miss the signs. A wobbling steering wheel, a violently vibrating front suspension, uneven tire wear, and your vehicle pulling to one side for no reason are just a few symptoms.
Like all symptoms of all bad automotive parts, the symptoms won’t get better, they will get worse. And even worse, the longer you go without attending to them, the more likely you will be damaging other parts of your vehicle.