Can you drive with a bent tie rod?
This blog will answer the following questions: Can you drive with a bent tie rod? What are the symptoms of a Bent tie rod? How much does it cost to fix a bent tie rod? Can you straighten a bent tie rod?
Can you drive with a bent tie rod?
You can drive with a bent tie rod but it is possible to lose steering and cause an accident. The tie rod is connected to the steering knuckle, it has a direct effect on the steering of the vehicle. Hence, it is recommended not to drive with a bent tie rod. Even a slightly bent tire can cause excessive tire wear and alignment issues.
The tie rod is connected between the steering rack and the steering knuckle. The tie rod consists of two pieces called the inner and outer tie rods. The inner tie rod is more likely to bend as it is longer.
The steering knuckle turns as tie rods transmit the force applied by the steering rack. The toe adjustment in the wheel alignment is performed by adjusting the tie rod. Therefore, if a tie rod is slightly bent, the toe can be corrected during the wheel alignment.
Regular vehicle alignment can help to determine the condition of the tie rod. Sometimes the bend is not visible to the naked eye but can affect the ‘toe’ angle of the front wheels. The tie rod is only present on the front axle, it is connected with the left and right wheels with a ball joint on either side.
There are various types of the tie rod end, it is possible to replace only the tie rod end if the ball joint is worn out. Worn-out ball joints can make abnormal noise and increase the dead zone in the steering wheel.
There is a preload spring in the tie rod end that helps to keep the tire in contact with the road. On uneven road surfaces, the preload helps to keep the tie rod in contact with the steering knuckle.
Driving with a bent tie rod causes the preload spring to exert uneven force on the steering knuckle. Under articulation, the steering is no longer smooth as the tie rod cannot follow the movement of the steering knuckle.
What are the symptoms of a Bent tie rod?
The symptoms of a Bent tie rod are as follows:
Uneven tire wear
As a tie rod plays a crucial role in keeping the tire in contact with the road surface, a bent tire rod will cause the front tires to wear unevenly. The tire connected to the bent tie rod will wear more unevenly compared to the other tires.
If the vehicle is driven continuously in this state, the tires will need replacement. Tire rotation cannot rectify a bent tie rod as the weight is not spread evenly on the tire. Rotating the tire will only temporarily fix the issue for a few miles.
A bent tie rod causes the steering wheel to tilt in one direction. The vehicle no longer goes in a straight line when the steering wheel is held in the center position. The driver needs constant steering inputs to keep the vehicle in a straight line.
Toe is one of the critical measurements in vehicle alignment. Car manufacturers specify the toe angles for each model. If the toe is out of range, it makes the vehicle unstable on straights. If the vehicle alignment is off due to a bent tie rod it must be corrected and the bent tie rod must be replaced.
A bent tie rod on a single side will make the steering movement more erratic. It is especially noticeable while turning the steering wheel. There is also a large dead zone in the steering input.
Other suspension components like the control arms also affect the steering feedback. However, the steering input is only affected on the side with the bent tie rod. Driving the vehicle with erratic steering can lead to accidents while cornering.
The steering can also shake side to side at high speeds causing the driver to lose control if the speed is not reduced. The bent tie rod is also structurally compromised, it can collapse by the articulation of the suspension. The steering will become unresponsive when the tie rod is collapsed.
When the vehicle is at standstill, the front left and right wheels should be pointed in a straight direction. A bent tie rod will also result in misaligned wheels even when the steering wheel is centered.
Depending on how bent the tie rod is, the wheel will look more misaligned as the tie rod will push or pull the steering knuckle with no steering input. A visual check can identify the side with a bent tie rod as the wheel will either stick out or toward the inside of the front bumper.
How much does it cost to fix a bent tie rod?
A bent tie rod will cost between 100-250 USD to replace. The outer tie rod or tie rod end can be replaced by disconnecting it from the steering knuckle and loosening it from the inner tie rod. The position of the old tie rod end is marked on the inner tie rod to preserve the vehicle alignment.
The inner tie rod takes more time to replace because it must be disconnected from the steering knuckle and the steering rack. The steering rack boot is also removed to gain access to the inner tie rod. Hence, the labor cost is high to replace the inner tie rod.
Dealerships will also charge for vehicle alignment after replacing the tie rod of the vehicle as the vehicle toe must be adjusted. Other components like the drive shaft and control arms are also inspected for any damage.
Can you straighten a bent tie rod?
It is possible to straighten a bent tie rod by applying force on the opposite side. However, it is not recommended to straighten a bent tie rod as the structural integrity of the tie rod is compromised.
It can collapse under the force of the steering rack and the steering knuckle. In most cases, a bent tie rod is only straightened if the vehicle is stuck in a trail or is away from the nearest accessible road.
This blog explained the symptoms of a bent tie rod and if it’s possible to drive with a bent tie rod. Toi rods are very strong and durable so only a heavy impact in a pothole or curb can bend them. Periodic tire inspection and alignment can help to spot a bent tie rod that affects the steering of the vehicle.