Whether a vehicle has a rack and pinion or steering box system, both have outer tie rods that connect with inner tie rods to transmit steering force to the steering knuckle and make the wheels turn. If a tie rod end fails completely, a driver will lose the ability to steer the vehicle.
Outer tie rod ends have a ball joint to provide a pivot point that enables it to articulate through the steering system movement. Some tie rod ends are sealed and do not require lubrication over the part’s life. Others may have a grease fitting that should be lubricated at every oil change.
OUTER AND INNER TIE RODS WORK TOGETHER
Outer and inner tie rods are threaded together to produce an assembly. The outer tie rod end connects to the front wheel spindle. The inner tie rod end connects to the steering rack or steering gear box. This threaded-together outer/inner tie rod assembly can have its length adjusted to set the toe setting during wheel alignment.
RACK AND PINION OUTER TIE RODS
Outer tie rods are the link between inner tie rods and the wheel’s steering knuckle, and they provide the final pivot point when the steering system moves. The connection to the steering knuckle is commonly made with a right-angled ball joint with a tapered stud and protected by a dust boot.
STEERING BOX OUTER TIE RODS
Steering box outer tie rods are comprised of a threaded rod and a right-angled ball joint with a tapered stud and protected by a dust boot. Worn tie rod ends negatively affect wheel alignment, leading to excessive tire wear and front suspension problems. Like all steering and suspension parts, tie rods are subject to damage and wear over time and should be inspected at every oil change.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF BAD/FAILING OUTER TIE RODS
• Steering wheel or vehicle vibration
• Slack steering or excessive play
• Unusual noise
• Uneven or excessive tire wear