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Play in a tie rod-is it dangerous?
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Play in a tie rod-is it dangerous?

My car was in the shop last week and the mechanic said sometime in the next 6-8 months I should have one of the tie rods replaced because it has some play, but isn't bad. What does the tie rod control? What's its importance, and what could happen if it fails while I'm driving? I have a big trip planned this May (450 miles each way), and want to know if I should have it seen to before I go. Thanks.







Essex Dan
Rating
Replacing a worn tie rod is important because it is part of your steering system. In simplistic terms your steering system is just two rods at 90 degree angles to each other. Rod number one is the steering column. The steering column has the steering wheel at one end and a meshing gear at the the other end. The gear at the bottom of the steering column meets another gear at the bottom. That gear is called the steering rack. The rack is not a "gear" in the sense that it is round. It's just a long rod with teeth in it that meshes with the gear at the bottom of the steering column. When you have your steering wheel centered the gear at the bottom of the column is right in the middle of the steering rack. Turning the steering wheel one way or the other makes the rod inside the steering rack move to the left or right. If you turn the steering wheel enough times you get to the end of the rack and you can't turn any more. It's sort of like the mechanism with the crank handle that opens the umbrella over the table on your backyard patio. Tie rods are just the pieces that connect the tips of the steering rack to the actual wheels. Tie rods wear over time so they are made as separate inexpensive pieces so they can be replaced without replacing the whole steering rack. Replacing a steering rack on some vehicles can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Catastrophic failure of a tie rod can result in one of the front wheels immediately turning in whatever direction has the least resistance. Essentially this failure is disconnecting the wheel from the steering. Thus one of your tires can be instantly pointed in a different direction from the other three. This can result in a loss of control and a crash. Replacing a tie rod should not a particularly expensive repair. Most outer tie rods cost about $40 or so and can be installed in under an hour. You will almost always need an alignment afterward though. Clarify with the mechanic whether you need an outer tie rod, an inner tie rod, or both. On some vehicles the inner tie rod is only available by purchasing the entire steering rack assembly. You don't want to find that out half-way through the repair. On most vehicles it is still a separate part though.


UCANTCME
Rating
The inner and outer tie rod ends on a car connect the steering rack or steering linkage to the knuckles on the front axle. Tie rods are designed to allow limited flexibility, allowing the knuckle to turn back and forth with a tire moving forward or backward on it. When the tie rod connection to the steering rack or to the knuckle becomes compromised, it can lead to erratic steering and damage other components so yes get it replaced before the trip.......


.
Rating
The tie rods connect your steering to the wheels. A small bit of play is an indicator that they have started to wear. If it were my car, I'd have them replaced before the trip.







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