A tie rod end (sometimes referred to as an “outer tie rod end”) is a component of the steering system in a vehicle.
Your vehicle comes equipped with either a traditional steering gear box or a rack and pinion (a more common type of gearbox used on late model passenger vehicles) that is designed to transfer the movement of the steering wheel to the actual wheels on the ground.
When you turn the steering wheel, you are actually turning a shaft that reaches through the vehicle body. The steering shaft moves gears in the gearbox or the “steering rack” that, in turn, actuate a set of metal rods, the “tie rods”, to the left or right. A tie rod end is screwed onto the outermost part of each tie rod and connects the tie rod to the steering knuckle to which the wheel hub and wheel are bolted.
At the point at which a tie rod end connects to the steering knuckle is a ball-and-socket joint that accommodates the movement of the steering and suspension systems. Where it attaches to the tie rod, it is screwed on, making it adjustable so that a technician can adjust and align the wheels and tires.
Tie rods are susceptible to bending when a vehicle suffers an impact, such as with a pothole or a curb. Tie rod ends, on the other hand, are pretty sturdy and less prone to bending. The ball-and-socket joint on the tie rod end, however, is prone to damage and wear. If the protective rubber boot on the joint is cracked or ruptured, the grease that lubricates the joint can leak out or allow dirt and debris to enter. This leads to premature wear. A loose or broken joint in the tie rod end can result. When this happens, you might notice one or more of the following symptoms:
It is common for a technician to replace both the left and right tie rod ends as a pair. In fact, it is generally recommended to do so. To replace a tie rod end, a technician must first raise and support your vehicle in the air for access. With the tire and wheel removed, the technician will carefully mark the location of the tie rod end on the tie rod (the length of the tie rod) so that the new component can be installed in the same position as the old one. From there, a technician will perform the following steps: