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Tie Rod failure

We were driving in Friday rush hour traffic on the interstate, and the tie rod broke on our 2007 Chrysler Aspen. It has about 54,000 miles on it. Thanks to some instinctive, veteran driver reactions, my husband was able to get the car from the inside lane to the shoulder. The left wheel was detached from the tie rod, and completely unresponsive to steering.
My question is, could there be a manufacturing defect in the tie rod assembly? It seemed strange that this failure would occur on a 5-year old car with a good maintenance record. Is this something that should be checked at 25,000 miles, 50,000 miles, etc., on a vehicle? This was terrifying.
How often do tie rods break? Is it rare, infrequent, occasional, or often?

It is terrifying. It is also something that does happen, though it is an unusual thing to have happen at 54,000 miles. Most tie rod issues are discovered long before they break, and 54K is a fairly short lifetime.

Unfortunately its not possible to say much more without a whole lot of info on the vehicle. “Good maintenance record” doesn’t really say anything. If you wanted to get specific about exactly what kinds of maintenance and repair work have been done on the vehicle and where that could help. E.g. by “good maintenance” some people mean they go to a quick lube for regular oil changes. In that case, no one who knows anything is ever actually looking at the car, and certainly not checking the steering and suspension components.

A tie rod end is a ball in a socket to allow some movement since a wheel is moving up and down as well as side to side. In time they simply wear and usually “loose” steering is the result. Since the wear is gradual many drivers simply don’t notice until the steering is so sloppy it is hard to control the car safely or it is caught in a “visual” inspection where a mechanic see’s too much “play” in the tie rod. When you consider some severe shocks and jolts that go through the suspension, the life of a tie rod isn’t easy.

Not the norm for it to break completely, but it happens. Could have been a substandard part in manufacture, or under designed for the weight of the vehicle, or simply just broke with no real reason other that its time was up.

Since one broke, I’d recommend changing the other side now too. They both lived the same life and you don’t want to go through this again. As far as maintenance this not a maintenance item. So a quickie lube place wouldn’t even look at it. Most mechanics tend to look over the front end and shake and poke around a bit anytime they get a car on a lift, but not all do this anymore as many shops have mechanics on a “clock” and push for productivity. Does your state require yearly inspections of vehicles?

The specifics of the break might give some indication of the cause. Did the ball drop out of the socket. If so was the ball and socket worn badly? And was it the inner or outer tie rod end? It would seem unlikely but did the tie rod itself break?

I had a tie-rod failure on my GMC S-15…Luckily it happened when I was pulling out of my driveway. Having it go on the Interstate I’m sure was NOT fun.

Tie rod or tie rod end? There’s a difference although the end result is the same. I’m assuming tie rod end because the odds of a tie rod breaking is about as close to zero as it can get.

Tie rod end failure (or even the remote tie rod failure) is preventable. This is why regular inspection of the chassis should be done. If you look in the owners manuals they will often state in the regular service guidelines something about “inspection of suspension” during a regular service check.

Tie rod ends and tie rods seldom ever fail suddenly; it’s incremental. Most of the time wear is caused by the environment (dust, water, road salt, etc) or rough road surfaces.

Did the part fail from wear, or did something break?? Also, which end failed, inner or outer, or did it just break in the middle?

Tie-rod failure is very rare, almost unheard of. Since this is a critical safety related part, they are usually somewhat over-designed…

An exception might be some sort of impact damage which happened earlier but was forgotten at the time.

The broken part will have to be removed and closely examined to determine exactly what failed and why…

For a tie rod to break on a 5 year old car with 54k miles, I’d say that yes, it was defective. That’s assuming that there wasn’t an external cause, such as hitting an object in the road that started the process to breaking it. It would also be helpful to know exactly what broke. Did the ball break off? did the ball drop out of the socket? Did the ball end drop out of the steering knuckle (nut left off or not cotter pinned)?

This is so unusual in a vehicle this age that I’ll have to agree with Keith on this. Even thoughit’s possible it would normally be caught in an annual safety inspection before it broke, than unless there was some damage to it the failure would almost have to have a root cause in the manufacture or assembly of the joint. Proving it would be pretty much impossible without an in-depth failure analysis, but I think you’d be more than justified in writing to Chrysler,whatever’s left of them…and requesting that they pick up the repair tab as a goodwill warranty repair.

I was recently driving on a local side street at no more than 15 miles/hour. the weather was dry, there were no pot holes in the road. I suddenly heard asnap and my car veered to the right and hit a parked car. My 2012 MDX was towed into Acura where I was informed that I had a broken tie rod. This seems to be quite uncommon since the car is only 6 months old with 6000 miles and has neve been in a major collision. Even the resulting accident was a basically a fender bender. I am interested in how a tie rod can break and can it be a manufactirer’s defect. The car had it’s 5,000 mile service 2 weeks ago where they alledgedly checked the suspension.


I suggest you start your own thread.
This one is from April 2012

ellen, it was a factory defect unless you have a really pissed off ex.

It sounds to me like the tie rod broke, not the ball coming out. I don’t know that its all that uncommon. I had one break that was only a year old quality Moog part. Broke right off, not the ball. My guess would be a defect but not much to do about it. I’ve only had it happen once though in about a million miles so maybe it is rare.

@ellen1015 You say the car has never been in a major collision but what about a supposedly minor one? Clear that major/minor difference up first.

Additional info that might help would be if the vehicle was purchased as a new car or dealer demonstrator and if a tie rod or tie rod end broke. The tie rod term is often used interchangeably but they’re vastly different parts with the latter more prone to failure than the former, although neither are failure prone on a new car unless there’s an underlying reason.

The odds of a metallurgy problem are extremely remote so this could point to an accident, curb strike, negligent PDI, someone leaving a tie rod lock nut loose during an alignment, and so on.

OK, this would likely be a casting defect like an oxide occlusion or a cold shut. They are more common than you would think, but most are caught at the foundry.

It’s possible I suppose but I’ve never actually seen a metallurgical failure on a tie rod or tie rod end. That is my reasoning for the odds of metallurgical failure being remote and the comment about “no major collisions” kicks the curiosity up a notch.

What needs to be known is what failed and where it failed. Tie rod threads, tie rod end threads, ball socket on the end, threads on the ball stud, etc,

How often to have it checked? I recommend that when a car hits 30,000 miles a front end alignment should be done and every two years after that.