Steering is an important part of any vehicle. If you can’t steer, chances are you aren’t going to get very far. That’s because every time you use your steering wheel, you’re engaging the tie rods on your car or truck. Whether you’re turning left, right, or going straight, the tie rods help you stay in control of your vehicle. Here are some tips to help you keep an eye (and ear) on your vehicle’s tie rod ends.
Tie Rod Basics
In many vehicles, tie rods connect your steering gear to the steering knuckle. Tie rods are an integral part of your vehicle’s steering system that if worn can cause tire wear and handling problems. That’s why a visual inspection can be worthwhile.
Symptoms Your Tie Rods are Failing
Before your tie rods wear out, you’ll likely see, feel, or hear some of these symptoms.
- Steering wheel wandering. You might notice some ‘play’ in your steering wheel. In other words, if you feel a bit out of control, you may want to have your front-end parts checked, including your tie rod ends.
- Unusual and uneven tire wear. Look at the tread of your tires for uneven wear. This could simply mean your vehicle is out of alignment but could also indicate loose tie rods that should be addressed before doing an alignment.
- Strange sounds. In some cases, if you hear quick, sharp sounds or thuds from your front wheels as you turn, you might consider having things checked out.
Can a bad tie rod cause shaking?
Yes, excessively worn tie rod ends cause a looseness in the steering. This might result in shaking in the front end that comes and goes at certain speeds. This problem is especially common in older SUVs and pickup trucks with a recirculating-ball steering system. A weak steering damper makes the problem worse.
Does the vehicle need the wheel alignment after replacing a tie rod end?
Yes, tie rods control steering angles. In fact, the tread or clamp connecting inner and outer tie rods is used to adjust steering angles. This means that after the replacement of any of the tie rod ends, the vehicle will need the wheel alignment to bring the steering and suspension angles back to within specifications.