A tie rod 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 to the left or right.
The arrangement of these rods depends on the type of gearbox used. For instance, connected to a gearbox is a lever called a Pitman arm. The Pitman arm moves back and forth to actuate a long center link (or “drag link”). Attached to the ends of the drag link are the inner and outer tie rod ends.
With a rack and pinion system, the inner and outer tie rod ends are attached directly to the steering rack.
In either case, each tie rod is connected at the outer end to the steering knuckle to which the wheel hub and wheel are bolted.
Because the tie rods are a direct link between the steering gear box or steering rack, they are essential to the safe operation of your vehicle. Wear and tear over time and the effects of corrosion can cause a tie rod to fail. Tie rods are also susceptible to bending when a vehicle suffers an impact, such as with a pothole or a curb. While some of the signs of a bad tie rod are really problems with the ball and socket of the outer tie rod end, there are symptoms related to the tie rod itself. These include the following:
The procedure to replace a tie rod depends on the type of steering system used in your vehicle. Since the rack and pinion system is most commonly found in late model passenger vehicles, this description relates to the tie rods used with a steering rack, where both the inner and outer tie rod ends comprise the tie rod assembly.
It is common for a technician to replace both the left and right tie rods as a pair. In fact, it is generally recommended to do so. To replace a tie rod, 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: