Imagine yourself driving on your favorite road on a Sunday afternoon. The weather is nice and you are feeling great. Suddenly, you start feeling some vibrations in your steering wheel. Next, you start hearing a knocking sound coming from your front end. Don’t panic, the problem might just be your inner tie rods. The inner tie rod is part of the steering mechanism, and it is not very hard to replace.
Article updated on 08/17/21. Original publishing date 09/25/18
What are Inner Tie Rods, and What Purpose Do They Serve?
Together with the tie rod end, the inner tie rod transmits the movement it receives from the steering system to the tires. It is located between the steering rack and the tie rod end. It is made of steel, and it is usually a very durable part.
The role of the inner tie rod is very important for the vehicle’s whole steering system. The steering rack moves as soon as you start to turn the steering wheel. The shafts of the steering rack press on the tie rod. The tie rod pulls the wheels to the right and left, allowing the wheels of the vehicle to turn to either side.
What Causes Inner Tie Rod Failure?
The inner tie rod accommodates both vertical and horizontal movements, so it can wear out over time and reduce grip. It is located very close to your tires in a mostly uncovered area, which makes it prone to rusting and oxidation. Not to mention the fact that your inner tie rods are exposed to impact damage from loose road debris.
Potholes and bumps are the main enemies for your inner tie rods. Harsh road conditions will make quick work of inner tie rods unless you pay extra attention.
How to Diagnose Inner Tie Rod Failure?
Diagnosing an inner tie rod failure is easy if you are an attentive driver. Your car will usually give you several clear signs before the tie rods are so far gone that they become dangerous to drive with.
Knocks, Clicks, and Vibrations
If your vehicle starts to make knocking sounds on the front end while passing through small potholes, it may mean it’s time to replace your inner tie rods. Sounds will usually be accompanied by a light vibration. If you hear clicking noises when turning the steering wheel, the inner tie rods may be responsible.
Uneven Tire Wear
When everything is right in the suspension and steering system, the weight of the vehicle should be evenly distributed on all four wheels. In this way, all four wheels of your vehicle will wear out in the same way. However, one of the most common signs of inner tie rod failure is uneven tire wear. You may suspect a tie rod failure, especially if the insides of your tires are wearing more than the outside.
Car Pulling Right or Left
The tie rod allows your vehicle’s steering wheel to go straight when centered. However, when it malfunctions, it may cause your vehicle to pull to one side as the wheel alignments drops out of spec. You’ll notice that something is wrong if when going in a straight line becomes a struggle between you and the car.
Delayed Steering Response
The steering of today’s cars is often electrically assisted. The most important advantage of this is its quick response to maneuvers. Defective tie rod ends will cause the steering wheel to loosen and increase idle travel in the system. Some gaps are normal, but it should not exceed 5 inches. If the wheels turn much later when you turn the steering wheel, it is a tie rod failure.
One of the most common symptoms of inner tie rod failure is wheel wobble. Lift the car up and grab the wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock position. Then, shake it and look for any movement. The wheel shouldn’t move at all. If it does, you might have an inner tie rod issue on your hands.
Replacing Inner Tie Rod when Outer Tie Rod is Stuck
When an inner tie rod fails, the only real solution is to replace it, along with the tie rod ends. The reason for this is simple — you don’t know how far gone the rest of the components are, and you’re already elbow deep in the suspension. Changing everything simply makes sense. However, things don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes you’ll need to replace the inner tie rod while the outer tie rod is stuck. While this complicates things, it’s doable with the right tools.
You will need the following
- The tie rod end
- A hammer to free the ball joint from the knuckle. (Never strike the tie rod ball joint stud, or you will mushroom it, and it will get lodged in. To loosen a ball joint from the knuckle, always strike the knuckle while the ball joint is under pressure, the shock going through the assembly is usually enough to pop it out.)
- A pry bar
- Some big pliers and a cutter to get the boot clamps off
- A MAP gas torch
- A way to cut through the ball joint shaft if it spins free (it usually will), I like an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel.
- A set of ratchets, sockets, open-ended wrenches
- An inner tie rod tool
- The inner tie rod
Step-1 Remove the Boot
Remove the clamps on the steering rack boot and push it forward. You will see the large hexagonal ball joint on the inner end of the inner tie rod. If you can’t get access, you can turn the steering wheel to push it out further.
Step 2 – Separate the Inner Tie Rod
Completely separate the two parts of the tie rod tool and put it around the inner tie rod ball joint. It really helps if you have a 14 mm ratcheting wrench when tightening it down as space is always very limited. Keep in mind where the square 3/8ths drive hole is located to maintain clearance as it turns.
Step 3 – Break the Inner Tie Rod Loose
Use a long 3/8ths extension and a ratchet to break the inner tie rod loose from the steering rack. Since this is all enclosed under the boot, nothing under here should be stuck, and it should break loose without much trouble.
Step 4 – Assemble the New Tie Rod
Once both parts are on the table, assemble the new inner and outer tie rod end. Line them up next to each other and judge the length from the center of the ball joint’s threaded shaft (that goes into the knuckle) to the flat face of the threaded part on the inner tie rod. The new Febi inner tie rod I used was different from the one that came off of the car, so be careful when deducing what your points of reference are. This will get you a good ballpark while you drive to get an alignment.
Step 5 – Install the New Tie Rod
Installation is the reverse of removal, the new tie rod should be torqued to the steering rack with about 75ftlbs of force. If you have a good size ratchet on it, consider German torque specs “Guten Tight”. That’s it, go get your alignment.
At this point, your car will need a rod adjustment/alignment service. When the tie rod end and tie rod arm are changed in a vehicle, the wheel alignment of the vehicle will be affected. When the wheel alignment is out of spec, the vehicle will pull to the right and left, making driving potentially dangerous. Therefore, make sure to get your wheels aligned as soon as you perform this repair.
How to Find the Best Inner Tie Rods?
Finding the right part for your car can sometimes be tricky. There are so many options to choose from, and different model versions only add to the confusion. Fortunately, we have an easy solution to all of your needs. Just choose your vehicle’s make and model from the drop-down menu, and you will get a list of all the parts that are guaranteed to fit your car. Always remember to use genuine or OEM quality parts on your vehicle if you want to cover all of your bases.