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Automobile tie rod failure. Figure 1. Right rear tie rod. (Photo: C. Roberts)

Drivers frequently claim that their vehicle suddenly lurched to one side, resulting in an accident. On occasion, the cause may not be the fault of the driver. This case study illustrates that point. According to the insured, she was driving at the speed limit when suddenly her vehicle lurched to one side, causing a loss of control and striking a wall head-on.

During an inspection in the body shop, there was severe damage to the front of the vehicle but no damage to the rear. It was discovered that the right rear tie rod that controls the alignment of the right rear wheel, as shown in Figure 1, had parted from its normal position (arrow). There was no evidence of an impact causing the tie rod, which controls the toe adjustment of the right rear wheel, to become detached. This can cause severe misalignment and loss of control that was consistent with that reported by the driver.

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