I'm not aware of this model having a common problem, but if it was an '80s Ford-built Escort, Tempo, or their Mercury twins, you'd be on the second replacement set of outer tie rod ends already. Those lasted about 15,000 miles. Due to all the other steering, suspension, and alignment problems the engineers built in, we called those, "killer cars".
34,000 miles does seem a little soon to be having problems, but understand that Ford figured out in the '70s that if they left off four grease fittings at five cents a piece, they could save millions of dollars each year. Other manufacturers followed their lead and are doing the same thing, so relying on maintenance schedules and taking care of your vehicle is not related to this issue. It's a design issue.
My recommendation is to visit an independent tire and alignment shop for a second opinion. What you should not do is ask them to verify the tie rod ends are worn because that is what they're likely to focus on while overlooking other parts. If they're on a friendly basis with the dealership, they will be inclined to agree with their diagnosis, even if it's questionable. If they're not on friendly terms with the dealership, they're going to try to make them look bad. You want an impartial inspection simply because you know that should be done once per year with most vehicles, and more often with Ford products.
GM has some of the most customer-unfriendly business practices when it comes to tying you to the dealership, but you already know that. This is one area where independent shops can still work on your vehicle, and for suspension and alignment diagnosis, the specialty shops are better-suited to give you an accurate appraisal.
Monday, September 28th, 2015 AT 2:55 PM