Tie rods connect the steering linkage to the wheels, making it impossible to drive a vehicle with a broken tie rod. Vehicle owners should have tie rods inspected regularly, and replaced if worn, to prevent loss of steering and a possible accident.
Tie rods come in pairs and are connected with a threaded linkage. Adjusting this linkage is a part of the front-end alignment process. The tie rods turn and move, so the joints between them, the wheels and the steering linkage require lubrication to reduce wear. Rubber tie-rod boots protect these joints by keeping water and debris out while keeping the lubricant in place. If the boot cracks, it no longer provides the protection; the joint is doomed to failure. If an inspection reveals this type of damage, the tie rods and boots require replacement.
While many tie rods last for years, certain driving conditions increase the need for regular replacement. Driving a vehicle on pothole-filled roads increases the wear on the tie rod ends. A quick pull of the wheel causes the tie rod end to separate, and the driver loses control of the steering.
Because tie rods wear over time, some manufacturers use a spring-loaded mechanism to keep the fittings tight. These strong springs push the ball into the seat as wear takes place and increases wear tolerance.