I've just been told that I need to have the...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I've just been told that I need to have the right front tie rod on my 1986 Volvo 740 replaced. It has a lot of "play" and causes the steering wheel to wobble and shake. So what exactly IS a tie rod, and what does it do? -- Sue

RAY: The tie rod is a crucial piece of the steering system, Sue. Essentially, it "ties" the two front wheels together so they both steer the car in the same direction.

TOM: So if a tie rod breaks, you would only be able to steer one wheel of the car, and the other would be free to turn in any direction it feels like.

RAY: This -- as Dave Barry would say -- is not good.

TOM: As you can imagine, when you're driving at a high speed and one of your front wheels suddenly decides to make a left turn on its own, that's a recipe for the undertaker.

RAY: So if it's already at the point where the steering wheel is shaking or has play in it (that means it's pretty far gone), you should absolutely get it fixed right away. Today or tomorrow. This is a potentially deadly problem, Sue.

TOM: While we generally favor increased freedom and independence throughout the world, we want to go on record as saying that we make an exception when it comes to front wheels.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One