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Tie Rod replacement on a 1998 Lexus es300

I recently brought my sedan for a yearly wheel alignment. Although the steering wheel only pulled slightly to the right when I’d brake, I had hit a couple of speed bums at 45 mph and a local garage was offering a $59. special. Last year I had the alignment done by a Toyota dealer and the cost was $149

They told me that the were unable to do the alignment because the tie rods were locked or frozen? And the repair would be $850 - $900. They said that it was safe to drive the car. That was about a month ago and I’ve had no steering problems at all. Does this make sense?

I’m going to another mechanic for a second opinion but I thought I could tap into the knowledge of the Car Talk community as well.
P.S. My car has about 140,000 miles on it.

You might have tie rod problems, but you might also have had a “special low price” on the alignment as a come on to get more $$$ from customers by way of unnecessary repairs before the low price alignment can be done.

Good move on your part in not being a victim and getting another opinion.

The inner tie rod can become rusted inside the tie rod end requiring extra time and effort to break loose so that the toe can be adjusted. Unless the parts are very rusty replacement shouldn’t be necessary.

If you can, try applying penetrating oil to the threaded area and lock nut on the tie rods a few days before the alignment.

It does require a special tool to reach way inside the power steering rack to loosen the inside end of an inner tie rod. Perhaps the mechanic gave up too easily and figured on replacing the entire P/S rack. Not a very good tech in my estimation, but if a rack is needed, that’s probably about what you can expect to pay.

Front end alignment every year, are you kidding me? Short of hitting something really big, a lot bigger than a speed bump, your alignment should last the life of the vehicle. $59 a special price, doesn’t look all that special but the “frozen tie rods” is pure bunk. Uncle Turbo is right on this one.

Many of the Lexus vehicles from out of town that I align have rusted/siezed tie rod adjustment threads even though the cars have no rust. They are from a somewhere with rain. Toyota doesn’t put grease or any type of anti corrosion substance in the tie rod thread. The wrench silps over the the flat area of the tie rod, A wise-grips, pipe wrench and hammer are needed to break the adjustment loose.

You guys are right about the special, the mechanic probably receives less than $10 for the alignment and will put his tools away at the first sign of trouble.