Paul, My friend was involved in an accident when his Toyota Prado TX 1999 lost steering and veered off the road. His mechanic says it was a broken tie rod end. How can tie rods cause such an accident and how can I avoid it as I drive the same kind of vehicle. Kabugo Henry.
Hello Henry, tie rods are components that connect the steering rack (gearing) to the steering knuckle on each front wheel of any vehicle. When they fail, you lose steering which can cause an accident. When you turn your steering wheel, it transfers that movement through several steering components till the tie rod ends push or pull the wheels to make them turn.
The inner tie rod end is attached to the bearing housing while the outer tie rod end has the ball joint which uses bearings to allow steering movement on bumpy rods.
You can avoid an accident caused by tie rod ends by looking out for symptoms of failure during maintenance checks.
Signs of failing tie rod ends include uneven front tyre wear on the inside and outside, squealing sound from tie rod ball joint when turning and loose steering feeling with a disconnect between movement of the steering and the wheel.
Outright tie rod failure when it breaks will lead to steering loss and possibly a fatal accident.
A good mechanic can tell that tie rod ends are bad during routine inspection by jacking up the front axle and shaking the wheel while holding it at nine and three o’clock positions.
If excessive play is detected, then the tie rod ends should be detached from the knuckle for closer scrutiny of the ball joint. Frontal accidents can also deform or damage tie rod ends.
can maintain old tie rod ends by replacing the grease using a special tool or out rightly replacing them with new ones. See below showing how the inner and outer tie rod ends connect the steering rack to the wheel knuckle.