Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Driver side inner tie rod play

my 1992 camry has some driver side inner tie rod play. no symtoms of tire wear or knocking etc. two different mechanics said it was okay. when is it time to repair it. my military training always relies on preventative maintenance. i don’t want to spend the money if it is not necessary but i don’t want to break down either. what are the most obvious signs when it is time to get it fixed other than the wheel falling off?

Posted by: aslevin

Failure of a tie rod end will not cause a wheel to fall off. Total failure would disconnect the steering wheel from controlling the left front wheel. Long before that occurs the play would become quite evident with the wheel shimmying and the tire showing a cupping wear pattern. That certainly needs to be taken care of soon but a sudden, unforeseen catastrophic failure is very unlikely.

is there any amount of play that is acceptable?

If you can see the play in the tie rod end, its too much. BTW, Toyota has a different name for this but I can’t remember what they call it. Anyway, you have to slide the rack boots off and look directly at the joint to see if it has any play. There is some play in the system that can make it look like the joint is bad when its not.

If you decide to replace it, and your alignment is good right now, it might be cheaper to order an outer tie rod end at the same time, assemble them together, then remove the existing tie rod assembly and adjust the new one until its is exactly the same length as the old one, then install the new one. That would avoid the cost of a front end alignment.

There should be no play in a tie rod at all. However, the odds of a tie rod wearing badly enough to cause a catastrophic failure would just about be unheard of. A tie rod end is a different matter.

If it were my car I’d replace both sides. One generally follows the other and most of the time the passenger side is the one that fails first. This is generally due to the side of the roadway being much rougher (on average) and the passenger side taking the brunt of the beating.

If this comes down to a situation where both tie rods and tie rod dust boots need to be replaced you might consider replacing the steering rack with a reman unit.
The reman unit will have new tie rods/dust boots and this is often a more cost effective way of curing the problem. You just have to weigh the costs and determine that. Hope that helps.