Signs of a Bad Steering Rack and Pinion

by Cindy QuartersUpdated June 08, 2023
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Rack and pinion steering converts the force of the steering wheel being turned into a force which actually turns the wheels of the car, in order to cause the car to change direction. If your car has power steering, the concept is the same, but the power steering pump uses hydraulic fluid pressure to minimize the amount of effort the driver has to exert. Problems with the rack and pinion steering system can cause a variety of symptoms in your car.


If you are having a problem with the steering rack and pinion, your steering wheel will have a loose feel to it. The car may also wander on the road when you are driving, moving slightly to one side or the other instead of traveling in a straight line. Steering will seem harder than it should, and the car will not respond well to the movements of the steering wheel. It may also be harder to turn the car in one direction than the other. Another sign of a problem is that the car will be harder to steer in the morning than later in the day. You may also find that the steering wheel does not return properly to its normal neutral position after you have made a turn.


According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, sounds such as thudding, clunking, or a persistent knocking can be warnings of a loose rack and pinion steering system. If you hear these types of sounds as you drive, you need to get the system checked out.


Unusual tire wear is another symptom of a steering rack and pinion problem, though there are other conditions that can cause uneven tire wear. If your tires show uneven wear, where they are more worn on either the inside or the outside than on the rest of the tire, you should suspect a rack and pinion problem.


If you find that your car seems to be leaking fluid from the front end, it could be a leak from the rack and pinion steering system. If you want to verify where the fluid is coming from, put some newspaper or cardboard under the boots of your rack and pinion system. If the fluid drips from the boots, you will know that your rack and pinion steering system is compromised. Most likely you will see at least some of the other symptoms listed in this article together with a fluid leak.

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