If your vehicle is pulling to one side, the wheel is stiff, or steering isn’t working as expected, the issue could be the tie rods.
That’s even more true if you’ve recently been in an accident and a tie rod has snapped or broken.
However, while you should always try an adjustment first, tie rod replacement costs are usually well worth the added safety and handling for your vehicle.
In addition, tie rods can wear down over time.
Tension from steering, road bumps, and even extreme cold can cause weaknesses and deformation in the metal.
Over time, that can cause significant issues with steering.
Luckily, the cost of replacing tie rods is not usually significant. In most cases, the cost of installation and labor will be your largest consideration. For example, you can get tie rod ends for as little as $29.99 for a 2007 Ford F-150 series. Inner tie rods usually cost $20-$100. On the other hand, labor costs average about $80-$100 for an outer tie rod and $150-$300 for an inner tie rod. On the other hand, if you have a high-end car like a BMW, you can expect to pay significantly more for tie rods.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of tie rod replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Store||Tie Rod End Cost|
Some installers, like YourMechanic cost more upfront, but they do offer an added 24-month warranty on top of the factory warranty.
That may make them more worth if you’re concerned. In addition, price ranges depend on the vehicle, the model, and how many models each tie rod fits.
For example, if your vehicle needs a special tie rod, it will always be more expensive.
If your vehicle fits the same tie rods as dozens of other models, your tie rods will be cheaper.
In addition, branded and OEM parts always cost more.
If you’re buying BMW tie rods, you will pay for BMW tie rods. Generic parts will always be cheaper.
How Much Does Tie Rod Replacement Cost?*
If you want to replace a tie end rod, you can normally expect to pay between $20 and $240.
In most cases the actual costs depend on which make and model of car you have. You’ll also pay more or less based on OEM or non-OEM.
In addition, it doesn’t matter much if you’re buying inner or outer tie rod ends.
However, as stated above, installation costs vary dramatically between the two. For tie rod installation, expect to pay $100-$300.
The chart below includes estimated costs for 10 popular car makes.
|Vehicle||Side Mirror Cost|
|Ford F Series||$29.99-$122.99|
|Dodge Ram 1500||$21.99-$115.99|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (January 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
Tie Rod Replacement Price Factors
Tie rods can vary in price by over a factor of 10.
Even if you’re looking at tie rods for the same make and model, you can see variations as wide as $12.99 to $157.99.
What are the differences? Sometimes that can actually be hard to define.
Brand will always impact the cost of your tie rods. For example, if you get an OEM part, it’s always going to be more expensive than a generic one.
You can also choose other well-known brands. For example, Duralast, ValueCraft, RareParts, TRW, and Moog are all well-known and popular brands.
Choosing a quality brand over a generic one has several advantages. Here, the largest of those are that you normally get a warranty.
For example, many RareParts and Moog tie rods offer a limited lifetime warranty.
On the other hand, Duralast and ValueCraft normally offer a 1 year warranty on most tie rod ends.
You can almost always find heavy duty versus standard build tie rod ends for sale.
Here, build quality is often a consideration. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell by looking at the package.
For example, you can buy tie rod ends on Amazon for as little as $3. These are very likely very cheaply cast. The build quality can be very different than a high-end tie rod end.
That’s also important. For example, the largest cost related to replacing a tie rod is usually labor.
It’s difficult to replace tie rods on your own if you also have to balance the steering. That means you may be stuck having a professional replace your inner tie rods.
So, it makes sense to invest in quality tie rods with a good warranty. Therefore, reducing the chance that you might have to replace them again.
Some vehicles have fairly specialized tie rod ends that only fit that or a few vehicles. Others are compatible with dozens or even hundreds of models.
The more models your tie rod ends fit, the cheaper they will be.
That makes sense considering it’s cheaper to mass-produce things. However, it is a cost factor that is out of your control.
How Are Tie Rods Replaced?
Importantly, the process varies slightly depending on which vehicle you’re working on. However, the general steps and processes will almost always stay the same.
Things You Need
You’ll always need the following equipment:
- Safety glasses
- Socket and Ratchet set or torque wrench (38mm, ½ inch depending on your vehicle) +19mm or ¾ inch
- Crescent wrench set/adjustable crescent wrench
- Needle nose pliers
- Vice grips
- Penetrating oil
- Tie rod puller
- Inner tie rod tool (You can normally rent these from your local Autoparts supplier, sometimes for free)
- Flat screwdriver
- Thread sealer
- Grease gun
- Rack and Pinion Boot Bellow Kit
- Replacement tie rod ends
- Breaker bar (optional)
- Mallet (optimal)
Prepare the Vehicle
Park your vehicle on a flat and level surface. Then, turn the ignition off.
Use a jack to ensure access to the underside, on the side you intend to replace the tie rods first.
You’ll also want to remove the wheel on that side.
Replacing the Outer Tie Rod
The outer tie rod is the easiest to remove and you can likely do so with no extra tools.
- Remove the cotter pin using needle nose pliers.
- Use a 19mm or ¾ inch socket and ratchet set to undo the bolt. A breaker bar may be necessary to get it loose.
- Either use a Tie rod puller (tool) or flip your castle nut that you just took off the tie rod around, screw it on slightly, and use a rubber mallet to loosen the tie rod. Then remove the castle nut again.
- Find the alignment nut. Pull the tie rod out and down. Then, unscrew the alignment nut.
- Twist and pull the outer tie rod out.
- Then twist the tie rod off the bar. Count how many spins it takes. You’ll have to ensure that your new tie rod is spun on as many times. E.g., if it takes twenty spins to get it off, put it back on twenty spins.
- Break the clamp on the bellow using a pair of pliers.
- Then pull the bellow boot off. This might take some effort. If you’ve bought a replacement boot, you don’t have to be careful. However, if you’ve decided to re-use the old one, try using WD-40 or another lubricant to get it off.
- Unclip the clip at the top of the bellow boot using a screwdriver.
- Pull the bellow boot off and unscrew the bolt at the end so you can pull it off.
- Use a flat head screwdriver to remove the retainer pin on the inside tie rod. This pin keeps the tie rod from unscrewing.
- Find the tie rod adapter from your inner tie rod adapter kit and fit it over the kit.
- Use the inner tie rod removal tool and the ratchet to unscrew the inside tie rod.
- Pull out the inside tie rod.
- Apply the thread grip to the new tie rod and screw it back into place using the same tie rod adapter and tie rod tool.
- Then install the retainer pin.
- Attach the new boot and secure it with clamps. Here, you also want to ensure that you align the vent on the boot with the vent in the tie rod.
- Attach the alignment nut.
- Then, install the new outer tie rod. Here, you want to ensure you turn it in the same number of times as you turned the other when uninstalling it.
- Here, you want to tighten the alignment nut against the outer tie rod.
- Finally, press the outer tie rod back into the original setting and re-attach the bolts. The nut may spin so you may have to use two wrenches to hold it in place until it is tight enough.
Importantly, most manufacturers offer recommendations for how tight nuts should be.
E.g., most cars require a minimum of 41 foot-pounds of pressure. You can see this with an air wrench or a torque wrench.
- Install the cotter pin and use a grease gun if you’re using zerk fittings.
Finally, you can put the wheel back on. In addition, it’s almost always a good idea to take your vehicle to be balanced after changing the tie rods.
Unfortunately, if you’ve improperly aligned the balance, driving your vehicle can actually be dangerous.
Try driving a short distance in the parking lot or another safe space to see how your vehicle handles before taking it on the road.
5 Symptoms of a Bad Tie Rod
If tie rods are going bad, chances are, you’ll notice it quickly.
Here are 5 symptoms you can look for if you’re unsure.
1. Wear and Tear on Tires
If your tires are wearing significantly and unevenly, it’s very likely to be a tie rod issue.
Here, you want to pay special attention to the outer edges of the tires.
If one side shows heavier wear than the other, you likely have a tie rod or another suspension issue.
2. Misaligned Front End
If you haven’t recently gone over a curb, pothole, or another object, front end misalignment can suggest tie rod issues.
Here, you might want to take your vehicle in for an alignment check first before replacing the tie rods.
3. Weird Steering
If steering feels different, it might be a tie rod issue.
However, this could also be a result of many other problems.
If your steering wheel pulls in one direction it could be misalignment.
In addition, if your steering wheel shakes as you turn corners, it’s likely a loose tie rod end.
However, you can also get extra play in your steering wheel from that same issue.
4. Squealing Sounds on Turns
Squealing sounds when you turn are never a good symptom. However, they aren’t necessarily a sign your tie rods are bad. But, they can be.
If your tie rod ends are worn, they can squeal. However, the same issue can be caused by the ball joints having poor lubrication. You also get squealing if your power steering fluid is low.
5. No Steering
If your vehicle doesn’t steer, it’s very likely a tie rod or a power steering issue.
Here, you’ll definitely want to have your vehicle taken in for an inspection before doing anything else.
If you still have questions about your tie rods, this FAQ should help.
Can you drive a car with a bad tie rod?
That depends on how bad the tie rod is.
If you have some squealing or extra play in the steering wheel, there’s no reason why you cannot.
However, driving with a bad tie rod is always a risk.
If your tie rods snap, you will lose the ability to steer. And, you can definitely see how that can be very dangerous.
How long will a bad tie rod last?
There’s no real answer to this question. A tie rod can maintain the same state almost indefinitely.
If you have steering issues, you likely want to get them fixed as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, you cannot predict when, how, or if a bad tie rod will get worse.
Therefore, it’s always best to take preventive measures as quickly as possible.
What happens if a tie rod end breaks while driving?
In most cases, you’ll lose the ability to steer.
However, more likely, you’re already applying tension to the wheel when it happens.
This can cause your vehicle to veer in the direction of the remaining good tie rod.
Most instances that cause tie rods to snap involve harsh turns, jolts, or crashes.
So, there’s a high chance you won’t be going at top speed when it snaps.
Unfortunately, a tie rod end breaking while driving can be extremely dangerous for you and others on the road.
The cost of changing tie rods depends on the make and model of car and the brand you choose.
In addition, you’ll pay significantly different rates depending on if you do the work yourself or pay a mechanic.
Here, installing a tie rod always requires specialty tools.
Therefore, it might not be cost-saving to install the rods yourself.
You can always check what you have and if it’s enough to install a tie rod before deciding.
Good luck replacing your tie rods.