What Are Track Rod Ends And When Should You Replace Them?

Anyone who owns a vehicle should at least know the basics behind how some of the components work and what they do. In this guide, we explain track rod ends in more detail, how they work and when you may need to replace them. Without an understanding of how parts and components work, you will not be able to look after your car as well as you should. We believe this short guide can help.

What Are Track Rod Ends?

Track rod ends are small, flexible ball joints inside your steering system that sit on the end of track rods. They connect them to the steering rack where the ends swivel to allow the steering rack to move the wheel more efficiently. It is done by transmitting force from the rack gear to the front wheel steering knuckle. While some units are sealed, others require a good layer of grease every 6,000 miles. Since track rod ends are one of the major components in the steering system, if they are worn or damaged in any way, your car won’t turn.

What Are Track Rods?

Track rods are a larger part of the steering system that connects the front wheels together. They consist of an inner rod that attaches to the steering rack while the outer rod attaches to the steering knuckle. Track rods also play a pivotal part in your vehicles’ steering system.

FAQ: What Is The Role Of A Ball Joint In A Car’s Steering System?

In rack and pinion systems, the ball joints in rotate and allow everything to move with more flexibility. While the track rod is fixed, the track rod ends help the wheels swivel and that means turning your car is nearly impossible without ball joints. The truth is, your steering system is set up to make it 16x easier to manoeuvre your car!

Are Tie Rod Ends The Same As Track Rod Ends?

They are both the same but American English typically refers to ‘tie rods’ and ‘tie rod ends’ whilst British English uses ‘track rod’ and ‘track rod ends’.

As with all other car parts, your track rod ends will also gradually wear down. Although a rubber boot protects the outer track rod by keeping grease in and dirt out, it will crack with time. This could lead to moisture and cause corrosion which can cause serious problems such as premature tyre wear. Your driving style can also impact its longevity so the smoother you drive, the longer they typically last.

Replacement Intervals

Despite not having a set replacement interval, technicians will check your track rod ends during your MOT. This helps you keep a closer eye on their overall condition so you have a better idea of when to replace them. Take on board any advice as worn or broken ends can result in an MOT failure.

In older cars, you may be able to adjust the ball joints but that is no longer possible in many modern cars of today. Always check your vehicle owner’s handbook and ask a professional before attempting to make any adjustments. You should only attempt adjustments or replacements if you are confident in your ability but we highly recommend visiting your nearest Elite Garages branch to complete the work instead.

How To Tell Your Track Rod Ends Need Replacing

Bad track rods or track rod ends are common causes of suspension problems. However, they display many of the common warning signs for steering or suspension faults, so they may not be to blame for your problem. Track rods and track rod ends in poor condition can cause suspension issues. The fact is, track rod ends often exhibit several of the typical symptoms associated with steering or suspension faults but they are not always to blame for the issue.

4 Signs You May Need To Replace Your Steering Rod Ends

To avoid expensive and dangerous issues, be sure to consult an expert if you notice any of the following:

  • Vibrations in the steering wheel are the first and most common symptom of potentially problematic track rod ends
  • Worn track rods can make your steering wheel feel loose so if there’s excessive play or the need to turn the steering wheel more before the car starts turning
  • When vibrations in the steering wheel are accompanied by knocking or clunking noises or shaking when going over bumps or changing direction. This is often most noticeable at lower speeds.
  • Uneven or premature tyre wear is one of the main symptoms of faulty or worn track rod ends. When something goes wrong with your suspension and steering, the weight of your car is no longer evenly spread across all four tyres, thus affecting your wheel alignment and extra tyre wear

Important Tip

Please note that as they wear, the rods often become loose and subsequently rattle at the joints. Additionally, grit and dirt can get into the joint if the rubber boot cracks which will result in a grinding noise whilst steering.

Can You Drive On Worn Track Rods?

You can drive on a damaged rod, but you will no longer have control of the steering if it disintegrates. To check for play in the wheel, grab one of your front wheels and push with one hand while pulling with the other to see if there is any movement. If you see significant movement, it’s time for a replacement.

You can also shake the rod to check for play. If it moves too freely, you should repair it as soon as possible. If your car has electronic power steering, it’s best to leave the job to a professional as the replacement process can be tricky. At Elite Garages, our team of experts are always happy to help so please get in touch. We highly recommend booking a wheel alignment at the same time.

How Much Does a Track Rod End Cost?

The price of replacing track rod ends varies greatly between different makes and models of vehicles. However, a track rod end is usually between £40 and £120 with about 1 to 2 hours of labour. For a more accurate quote, it’s best to contact your nearest service centre for more information.

Remember, if one of your track rod ends is worn, chances are that the others are close as well. You should replace both to promote even wear and avoid more expensive repairs while extending the lifespan of your tyres.

A well-maintained car will give you better fuel economy, a safer driving experience and reduce the risk of unexpected and expensive breakdowns. Make sure to follow this guide and to service your car regularly. For more information about MOTs, tyres, car servicing, brakes, batteries and more, contact us today.