The most noticeable symptoms of bad tie rod ends include wobbly steering wheel, uneven tire wear and a clanking sound emanating from the front end of an automobile. Tie rods are a major component of a vehicle's steering mechanism, and worn out tie rod ends often lead to severe damage and consequences, such as loss of steering control.
Tie rods consist of two parts called the inner and outer end. Tie rod ends are located on the outer end, and are connected to the wheel's ball joints by an articulating bearing, called heim joints, which pivots to allow an arc-shape movement of the front wheels. The linkage is held together by a locking nut with a split pin. This connection allows easy steering and ensures that both front tires are stable and run in the same direction.
Uneven and rapid tire wear can be attributed to failing tire rods. The slack in the ball and socket tie rod joints causes wheels to go out of alignment. The slack also causes a clanking noise and wobbly steering wheel which severely affects a vehicle's road handling.
Aside from normal wear and tear, the normal causes of failed tie rods are excessive or lack of lubrication, hitting a curb, road bumps and potholes.