The term "loose tie rods" indicates a set of worn components of the steering system of a vehicle. Tie rods are flexible couplings that connect the steering knuckles to the steering linkage. While tie rods often last for years so that some vehicle owners never need to replace them, severe road conditions increase wear. HowStuffWorks recommends regular inspection of these important, high-usage parts.
Loose or worn tie rods cause rapid tire wear on both the inside and outside edges. Inspecting tie rod ends involves raising the vehicle so that the tire is off the ground, as well as rocking the front wheels back and forth. Normal tie rods do not allow any free play. If any is noted, the worn components require replacement. Resetting the toe wheel alignment is an essential part of replacing tie rods.
Issues with tie rod wear cause the vehicle to pull to one side when braking or driving. In low-speed, tight-turning conditions, the wear results in a knocking sound from the front of the vehicle.
Some manufacturers include sealed connections, while others include grease fittings. If there are grease fittings on the tie rod and steering knuckle connection, the joint requires greasing every 6 months or 6,000 miles to reduce wear.