Blown Tire Leads to Broken Tie Rod

My girlfriend was driving at 45 when she blew out her front right tire. She had it towed to the nearest shop, which happened to be a Firestone. The looked at it and suggested that she get 4 new tires, since the rear tires were also pretty warn. 4 days later, her tie rod snaps on her way home from work. I am wondering if Firestone is at fault for the tie rod, or at least for letting her leave without checking the tie rod. On the receipt, it states that they perform an alignment check with the purchase of 4 new tires. They say that just means they attached a computer and didn’t check under the chassis. Do you think that Firestone should be held liable for letting a car leave with a bad tie rod?

A good alignment tech should inspect the suspension before doing an alignment as any worn parts make an alignment pointless until the problem is repaired.

That being said, I don’t think they can be held liable for this as their reasoning, even though a bit shallow, could be looked at as valid.

A tie rod seldom snaps unless it was due to a collision, large pothole/etc, or was badly worn and ignored. Ignored means something that your girlfriend should have noticed due to noise, wandering, etc.and the latter did not occur overnight. This means a long existing problem.

Regular maintenance schedules involve thoroughly checking the suspension and many other areas underneath the car for problems. This could lead to questions of whether the car has gone through those maintenance procedures.

And I’m not defending Firestone here. Personally, I don’t care for their operation at all. The old saying that you get what you pay for comes to mind with free alignment checks and their system of pay.

Your girlfriend shows she did not take the kind of care she should have. Blaming the shop won’t wash.

I don’t personally care for Firestone either, but I’m with OK4450 100% here. Stuff happens, and not all of it is predictable.

By the way, what are the year and miles on the car? And what was the cause of the blowout?

I wonder how the tie-rod failed. If it was a separation of the ball joint, any sloppiness should have been recognized at the time of service. I cant see doing and alignment check without checking the condition of ball joints and bushings. Any slop in these components would make any attempt at adjusting the alignment futile. If it fractured and broken from the housing, however, this may have been impact damage or a part defect that may not have been apparent. Do you know how it broke?

I’m wondering how big the pothole was…

I think it’s possible the violent nature of the blowout was the last straw for a tie rod that was already near failure.

I think she just let the tires go too long and that caused the one to blow. I wasn’t in the car with her and I’m not sure of where the rod broke or what. Sorry for my ignorance on it.

So the only possible liability I am getting out of this is whether Firestone should have checked the state of the tie rod and ball joints. She is getting it towed to a local shop this morning, so I’ll ask her to forward the info on where the rod failed when the mechanics get the chance to look at it.

The only reason I want to take legal action is the what-if: what if she had been on the highway and when the tie rod snapped? Then there would have been an investigation and Firestone could be held liable for not checking it during the alignment. Of course, since there was no major extra damage, the shop will get off with a slap on the wrist, if that. But hopefully, that will keep them sharp the next time a worn tie rod wanders into the shop.

I think she just let the tires go too long and that caused the one to blow.

If that’s the case I wonder what the condition of the rest of the car–including tie rods–is. Driving a tire until it blows is just lack of maintenance.

I can’t see how Firestone is in any way responsible or liable for the broken tie rod. The courtesy alignment check simply means the car is rolled on to the alignment rack, heads are mounted on the wheels to see if the wheels are pointed/angled close to where they should be. If things are in spec, off it goes. If one of the readings is out of spec, THEN the car is inspected for further issues and an alignment recommended. If the car drove and steered normally after the tires were mounted, they’re off the hook.

I’d want to see the tie rod. More than once I’ve seen a hurried or sloppy tow truck driver hook to a car by pulling on a tie rod, which should never be done and can easily bend or damage it.

You can take them to court, but it will be a waste of your time. I would suggest that you contact the owner and manager about the failure. The tie rod end was probably worn and the damaged more by the pothole. This caused it to fail. I would stress to them that she would have replaced it if it was brought to her attention. Then ask if they could stress to their technicians to please check all components for damage and wear when doing a repair. Firestone is not known for having the best techs, but at least you can feel better about informing them of the failure and possible loss of life the could have occured.

How was the car towed? Did the wrecker lift the car by the front wheels and tow it behind the wrecker? Or was a roll back flat bed used and the car pulled up onto the truck? If pulled onto a flat bed what did the driver attach his cable to? Maybe the tie rod?

Fair enough. Thanks for letting me vent and cooling me down a bit.

No idea on the towing, but these are all good questions to ask. I’ll get with her this evening and give you all an update.

I had a one year old Moog tie rod snap on me and I never hit a pot hole, curb, or anything else and drove 98% on the freeway. I don’t know how you would detect a tie rod ready to snap without actually x raying the joint. The stress fracture had to have been there for a while and the blowout probably just made it worse. Just replace the other one too and check the ball joints while you’re at it and go on with your life. Stuff happens and it is an accepted fact that things happen more often after the car has been worked on. You can’t assign blame though.

I agree with the others . . . the blow out may have caused the tie rod to give out. Rocketman

“the blow out may have caused the tie rod to give out”

…and, the blowout may well have been the result of failure to replace the tires when they should have been replaced.

As others have suggested, if the OP wants to know who is responsible for these problems, I think that he should look to his girlfriend and her…approach…to maintenance.

The tow truck connection is also a very good possibility as I’ve seen cars yanked up on flatbeds by the tie rods simply because there may be little else to connect to so the operator goes for the obvious.

Agreed with others about a blowout causing a problem and I will just add something. It’s something I flat overlooked while thinking about the original complaint.

It’s stated that a “tie rod” broke. If this means a tie rod and not a tie rod END then the blowout theory carries even more weight. The odds of a tie rod breaking due to wear is about as close to zero as it gets. A tie rod END may wear and break but a catastrophic tie rod failure means an outside influence such as a collision, blowout, major road debris, etc.

If a tie rod END broke due to wear then one has to suspect that just about everything else in the front suspension is on borrowed time; or already out of time.

Well I was talking tie rod end and I just assumed that what broke was the tie rod end not the tie rod itself. Holy moly, that would mean a one inch thick steel rod snapped. I think the guy was talking about a tie rod end. At any rate my over looking the tow, certainly could have caused some problems that Firestone may or may not have been able to see.

I am wondering how you do an alignment check without looking at the chassis?

Poorly. My guess is the car was run onto the rack and the alignment heads or cameras were stuck on the wheels and by sheer luck of the draw the specs were shown to be in the neighborhood due to the wheels settling in roughly the right spot so out the door it goes.
Telling a mechanic he’s going to do something for free (as in alignment) often has bad consequences.

There’s also the possibility of repairs being suggested and those being refused by the car owner.

There’s a lot of blank spaces in the story and especially when it’s related by a third party.