Track Rod Ends: 5 Things You Might Not Know

Mechanic inspecting the track rod end
It’s fair to say that a track rod end is one of those car parts many of us don’t know about. They’re small, unsung heroes which soldier along in the background keeping you safe on the road.
 
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate them.
 
We decided it’s time to celebrate these unsung heroes and give track rod ends the spotlight they deserve. So, if you know little to nothing about these small superheroes, here’s a quick guide to get you up to speed.
 
Check out another lesser-known unsung hero: The Head Gasket! The first in our blog series.

What Are Track Rod Ends And What Do They Do?

A track rod end is a small, flexible ball joint which sits on the end of the tie rods, connecting them to the steering rack and front wheel steering knuckle. They swivel and allow the steering rack to move the wheel efficiently.
 
It’s complicated, so we’re going to go into more detail about the steering system later on.
A track rod end allows the steering system to move efficiently and keeps the rack and pinion system in top condition. Even though a track rod end is a very small piece of the car, you could be heading for disaster if it breaks.
 
And that’s why it’s an unsung hero.

How Do They Fit Into The Steering & Suspension Systems?

Most cars use a rack and pinion system. This consists of a single long rod which connects to both the wheels and has several ball joints interspersed along the length to allow everything to rotate fully. The track rod is fixed and the wheels swivel thanks to the track rod ends and ball joints.
 
This system allows our vehicles to turn as tightly as they do. Most cars have a good turning circle which allows for mobility around narrow corners. Without flexible ball joints and power steering, you’d struggle to turn the car at all.
 
Did you know? Your steering system makes it 16x easier to turn your vehicle even a small distance. Just imagine how much harder you’d have to work without it!
 
Clearly, there’s a lot more to thank for that than just your track rod ends, but they work tirelessly to keep you pointing in the right direction on any road – especially on a twisting country lane.
steering system
Track rod ends aid the steering system

 

When And Why Do They Need Replacing?

There’s no set time frame for track rod end replacement. They will wear like all parts, but their lifespan is affected by how well you drive.
 
The smoother you drive, the better it is for your track rod ends.
 
Even though there’s no replacement interval, your track rod ends are checked as part of your MOT test. That way, you’ll have an annual update on their condition – but don’t ignore any advice. Worn or broken track rod ends count as an MOT failure, which can cause quite a few unnecessary problems.
 
For older cars, you may be able to adjust your ball joints rather than just replacing them. This is clearly cheaper and more convenient for more people, but you shouldn’t try it unless you know what you’re doing. Check your vehicle handbook first and, if you’re in any doubt, leave it to the professionals!
 
It goes without saying that keeping your steering rack in top condition is a must. If you’re not in control of where the car is going, you could end up in a very scary situation.
 

How Much Does a Track Rod End Cost?

Different makes and models of car use different track rod ends, so the cost does vary. Usually, the part costs around £30 and, with only 1 or 2 hours of labour needed for installation, it should cost below £100 for a replacement part.
 
However, you should never replace only one of your track rod ends.
 
If one is worn, the likelihood is that the other one is on its last legs as well. Replacing both at the same time gives more even wear for the suspension and steering and is better for the long-term health of your vehicle.
 
It does make it more expensive but it’s better for your car in the long run. Besides, even the most humble unsung hero deserves star treatment every now and then.
 
Mechanic adjusting track rod ends

What Are The Warning Signs of Track Rod End Failure?

There are several obvious signs of track rod end failure. Many of them are common warning signs for general steering or suspension faults, so don’t be alarmed if the mechanic informs you that another part is the problem. Book a track rod end replacement if you notice any of the following:
 
  • Vibrations in the steering wheel
  • Imprecise steering
  • Knocking when you drive over bumps or when changing direction
  • Uneven or premature tyre wear
 
We recommend booking a wheel alignment appointment at the same time to keep everything running smoothly. A faulty track rod end can have a knock-on effect on your wheel alignment and wheel balance, so it’s always worth double checking that everything is in tip top condition!
checking wheel alignment
If you’re experiencing any of these issues and think your track rod ends are coming to the end of their life, book an appointment with a local garage today!
 

Recap:

We’re sure you now agree that track rod ends don’t get the credit they deserve. They’re hardworking unsung heroes who serve us and our cars expertly. To lighten some of the load on your track rod ends, here are the three most important things to remember:
 
  1. Keep an eye on your steering system as a whole
  2. Book a wheel alignment appointment when you change your track rod ends
  3. Change both track rod ends at the same time to improve long-term vehicle health
Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

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