Loose Tie Rod

Hi all! So: I recently bought my first car, an 08 Subaru Outback. I took it to a mechanic for inspection before I bought it, and he told me the only mechanical issue with the car was that the rear tire rod was loose. I don’t notice anything that seems wrong when I drive the car, so I assumed I would wait until I started to feel unusual vibrating to treat it like a big deal. But while helping a friend move and driving slowly around the city with the car loaded full of stuff, I definitely noticed it vibrating more. My question is… when do I know the tie rods really need to be replaced? I know I’ll be replacing them soon, but I live somewhere with really bad roads and so I feel like it makes sense to try and squeeze as much longevity out of them as I can.

Edit… thanks for helping me perspective-ize this issue, y’all you’ve been a huge help. No longer putting it off at all!
Thank you!!

… at expense of substantially faster wear on tires and other suspension components…

your car / your decision


no it doesn’t! Get it fixed yesterday. Especially if you notice increased vibrations.


Which only makes sense to fix it now.


So… let’s see…
The original tie rod lasted for 13 years.
Unless you plan to keep the car until it is about 26 years old, I don’t see the sense of delaying this repair.

In all seriousness, this is a potential safety issue and this type of repair should not be deferred.


probably not gonna last 13 years over “really bad road” and/or if some bottom-feed part is used for replacement

Driving on the freeway one morning, just over the river bridge, my one year old tie rod broke. Not a fun ride when you lose control in one wheel. If the guy said it was loose, replace them all. You don’t always have the luxury of a gradual wear for replacement at leisure.


Agree with Bing the life you save mat be your own.

Tie rods are generally part of the steering system; i.e. the front suspension, rather than the rear. Does your Outback have 4-wheel steering? Some higher end performance vehicles have that function, but I wasn’t aware an Outback did. There are control rods, usually called “arms”, or “links”, for controlling the orientation of the rear wheels. So is this problem for the front, or or the rear of the vehicle?

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I bought new a '73 Opel when GM had Buick dealers selling them as economy cars.GM owned Opel in Germany. The car had “lubed for life” ball joints so there were no grease nipples. After a few years I heard a squeaking noise over bumps and saw the boot had split and once water got in that caused the squeaking. I replaced the ball joint and a few years later the same thing happened. (By now I figured out that when Opel had a material design defect the engineers weren’t concerned about fixing it.) So I took a can of lithium grease spray and soaked the ball so a bunch of grease went into the socket and the squeaking stopped. (Mind you young men do not develop judgement until later in life.)

Point of this story is, one day I’m driving and the joint came apart and left the front tire flat on the ground. Fortunately I was just buzzing around town and going slow. If it had happened on a highway it would have been a disaster.

Anything wrong with the suspension, steering, or brakes needs to be fixed before continued driving. When (not if) it fails you easily couild be looking at total loss of control, possibly into opposing traffic. You can’t choose when or where that will be - have it towed to where it can be properly evaluated by a reputable independent mechanic or dealership, better if not a franchise shop.

For reasons that I will probably never understand, many people seem to envision all mechanical breakdowns taking place in their own driveway, or in some other safe and convenient place. They never seem to realize that the damaged/weakened parts will almost surely break when they are on the road (possibly at expressway speed), thus producing several possible (avoidable) situations:

  • A safety issue
  • Being stranded in a dodgy/unsafe area
  • Needing to have the vehicle towed long distance to their own mechanic, or having it fixed at a repair facility with which they are not familiar.
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Yeah lost a serpentine belt in a bad area of town. I was a little concerned not being able to watch my back with my head under the hood.

I guess I was never afraid to have my car towed 50 miles home. My guy usually charged me $125 and got a ride home to boot. I drew the line though at 150 miles and just had the engine replaced out of town.

I guess that’s why over the years I’ve become a big fan of preventive repairs. Replacing parts with a known life span a little ahead of time. Still alive so it must work.

That has been my strategy also, and it seems to have worked for me, too.

The short answer, the money saved on the tie rod will be more than offset by tire wear. Plus there is the issue of safety. Penny wise, pound foolish.


original poster updated post #1 to say “thanks, will do”

we do not need to keep bashing him that hard

hey, @Marion.hrwtz_176355, you can hit “reply” down below and we all would see your answer[s]

Agree with whoever said that tie rods are usually associated with steering, so unusual to have them in the rear. Maybe we’re talking about sway bar links or a trailing arm that the mechanic mis named? Almost anything back there that a mechanic would bring your attention to being loose would be connected with wheel control.

Glad to see that you decided to get it done. While you don’t have to have them done in pairs, when one side goes, can the other be far behind? Wouldn’t be unusual for any suspension link to go after 13 years.