How to Diagnose and Fix a Bad Inner Tie Rod
The inner and outer tie rods are an important part of your vehicle’s suspension and steering system. They are the pivot point between the steering wheel, steering arm, and steering rack. Whether you’re going straight or making a turn, they help you stay in control. Sometimes, a bad inner tie rod can cause too much play where it connects to the steering rack. If you notice a loose steering wheel, vibration, or squealing when driving, our 1A Auto expert mechanics will review the symptoms and how to diagnose a bad inner tie rod.
What Does a Tie Rod Do?
The outer tie rod assembly connects to the wheel while the inner tie rod assembly connects to the steering rack. Both are connected to each other by an adjustment sleeve that has two jam nuts. When you’re working on your alignment, you adjust the nuts to move the wheel closer to the vehicle or farther away from it. This helps to keep you moving straight down the road.
Symptoms of a Bad Inner Tie Rod
1. Vague and Loose Steering Wheel
One of the first things you’ll notice when driving a vehicle that has a bad inner tie rod is that the steering wheel feels like it’s loose or vague. You may feel slightly out of control or that there some ‘play’ in the steering wheel.
In situations where there’s too much movement between the inner tie road and the steering rack, you may feel some vibrations as you drive. This may be accompanied by a shaky or clunky feeling in the steering wheel. It’s normally caused by a slight disconnect between the steering wheel and the tire’s movement.
3. Squealing Noise When You Turn
A bad tie rod can sometimes produce a squealing sound. It’s normally high-pitched and brief. It could be caused by a failing ball joint. The sound is different from the groan/squeal that comes from the power steering when it’s low on fluid.
4. Excessive and Uneven Tire Wear
A tie rod that needs to be replaced also causes uneven and excessive tire wear. If you check the inside and outside of your tires and notice that the edges on either side are worn out disproportionately, it could be a sign that your inner tie rod needs replacement.
How to Diagnose a Bad Inner Tie Rod with a Loose Steering Wheel Or Not
- Have the Vehicle Raised and Supported
To find out if your inner tie rods are bad, you’ll need to have the vehicle raised and supported.
- See If You Can Look Through the Rim
Start by wiggling the tire back and forth while holding it on both sides at the 3 and 9 o’clock position with your hands. You’ll feel excessive play and even see it if you can look through the rim.
- Look at the Boot Located at the Ball Joint and the Socket Joint
You’ll need to first take a look at the boot that’s located at the ball and socket joint where the inner tie rod connects to the steering rack. When the boot rips or tears, it allows all the grease to come out and causes water intrusion. This then leads to corrosion that causes excess play at the ball and socket joint.
- Replace the Inner Tie Rod
If the inner tie rod is corroded you’ll need to replace it.
Prevent Your Inner Tie Rod from Failing
To prevent your tie rods from failing too soon, you must have the ends greased at every oil change. You can use a grease gun which helps to push out the old grease and put in the new. It also works well to remove any road grit and contaminants that may have accumulated. This simple maintenance task helps to delay a bad tie rod replacement and makes sure yours is working for a long time.