Volvos, like many European cars, are known for excellent handling. Handling, is a smooth mix of power, suspension, and steering. While all three of these are necessary for quality handling, there is nothing like a failing steering system to make your elite European Automobile feel like driving a homemade Go-Kart.
Tie Rods and Steering
Tie rods are an essential part of the steering function of any car. They function as the connecting point in the power steering system from the center of the vehicle to an outer edge. Each vehicle is built with at least two inner tie rods and as the steering wheel is turned, those inner tie rods pivot. This allows the wheels to move, which is essentially how steering works.
Failing Tie Rod Symptoms
When your tie rod begins failing, you will notice your steering acting up. It will start with a small shifting sensation in the steering wheel. This will be followed by bump sensations along with clicking or popping noises. These noises and sensations will get even worse if you try to turn the wheel while your car is stationary. When it gets worse, one of the wheels may turn independently from the other.
Once your Volvo’s steering begins making regular noises and shifting sensations, you need to get the tie rods replaced immediately. Within a few days the ball-in-socket joints will wear out and cause a separation in the tie rod apparatus. This separation will misalign your wheels and terminate your ability to steer your Volvo. Your vehicle will be unsafe and illegal to drive.
How do you fix a failing tie rod?
Tie rods are typically not repaired, they are replaced. There are two sets of tie rods, an inner road and an outer rod. The inner rod will typically last the lifetime of the car unless it is damaged in an accident. The outer tie rod wears away on its wheel-side connection, and when that connection gets loose, it begins to chisel away at the inner tie rod as well (the most common failure for the inner tie rods).
It does not take a lot of expertise to diagnose your tie rods, but it does take a lift to get the car off the ground. Once you get under the undercarriage, you need to check to see if there is any movement in the ball-in-socket joint on the inner tie rod. If there is, or if there is any sign of physical damage there, the rod is ruined and needs to be replaced.
Replacing a tie rod is a lot more work and requires more expertise. Once the car is lifted, the wheel is removed. If the vehicle has a steering gearbox, the steering wheel is turned completely in the opposite direction. When the tie rod is exposed, the castle nut is removed so you can take out the tie rod. If the vehicle has a steering rack, you need a special tool to remove the tie rod. After each of these operations, you need to realign your vehicle. If, when removing the tie rod, you see evidence of power steering fluid, you probably have a failed seal and will need to replace the entire steering rack.
Tie rods are not complicated parts themselves, but they connect into the complicated power steering and suspension systems. Replacement operations are best left to a professional Volvo mechanic. You can easily face injury or further damage your car if you attempt these operations on your own without sufficient expertise and equipment. Do yourself a favor and get a Volvo expert to look at your tie rods if you suspect they are getting worn, shifting, or making clicking and popping noises.
Don’t trust your Volvo with just anyone either. Volvos and other European model automobiles are not always set up the same way as other cars. If you need expert service on your Volvo in the Ann Arbor, MI area, be sure to check in with Orion Automotive Services. They handle European automobiles from the classics to current models, providing a thorough service by trustworthy technicians. Don’t wait until you get into an accident because of failed tie rods. Call Orion and make your appointment today.
* Volvo XC90 image credit goes to: cansab.