To know what the heck a tie rod IS, we must first explore what the heck a tie rod IS NOT. A tie rod is not: 

  1. A special rack in a closet used only for hanging neckties
  2. Something a superhero with super strength can do
  3. The mechanism that connects train cars to each other
  4. A-Rod’s non-steroid-enhanced alter ego

What a non-steroid-enhanced guy!

What a non-steroid-enhanced guy!

So…what the heck is it then? 

A tie rod is the thing that connects a vehicle’s steering gear to the wheels, which enables the wheels to turn.

It is a rod that ties.

It is a rod that ties.

Let’s Delve a Bit Deeper

Tie rods are capped with an inner and outer end.

Whoah! That Was Information Overload. Let’s Not Ever Delve That Deep Again…JUST KIDDING *continues the delving*

Inner tie rod end:

  • The inner tie rod end is attached to the steering gear’s center link
  • The steering gear pivots at the inner tie rod connection

Outer tie rod end:

  • The inner and outer tie rod ends are joined together with an adjustable sleeve. The sleeve’s set length is part of the alignment of the wheels.
  • The other side of the outer tie rod end is connected to the steering knuckle
    • The steering knuckle is attached to the wheel, and has an upper and lower ball joint on which it pivots to turn the wheel

Steering knuckle sandwich

Steering knuckle sandwich


Here are some of the main indicators for failing tie rods:

  • Vehicle vibrates a lot—especially while turning, accelerating, or decelerating
  • Steering wheel shakes—especially while turning
  • Uneven wear on the tires (bad tie rods can cause bad alignment)
  • Tie rod is physically loose when you try to move it
  • Knocking sound from the front of the vehicle

It takes special tools to remove tie rod ends and an alignment will be required after replacement, so if you suspect that your tie rods are failing, make sure to take it to your trusted mechanic!


So, there you have it. Now you know what the heck a tie rod is NOT, what it IS, and possibly got hungry looking at that delicious steering knuckle sandwich. It tasted like chicken!

Tell me what other automotive parts baffle you. I’ll tell you what the heck they are!


Written by Ben Scharff

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