How to tell if your rack and pinion needs to be replaced.
The most obvious and common sign your steering rack and pinion is going bad is a leak. This will cause a noticeable lack of response when you steer through corners and a bit of a squealing coming from your steering gear box. If you suspect a leak, turn the steering wheel from left to right and back again a few times while the engine is running. This will actuate the steering gears and demand fluid from the power steering system. Your power steering pump is keeping fluid in the lines under pressure, so a leak will produce a small puddle under the front of your car or truck. Another sign of a failed steering rack and pinion would be broken inner tie rod ends. This is a much more noticeable symptom, often manifesting itself as sloppy steering or a complete lack of response. You will also hear lots of clunking noises. Sometimes these can be replaced independently, but usually the whole rack and pinion has to be replaced. It goes without saying that controlling your vehicle is of utmost importance when it comes to safety. Do not continue to operate your car or truck if you have to replace your steering rack and pinion.
How does a steering rack and pinion work?
A pinion gear is a round gear with cogs on the outside. The rack is a linear gear with cogs on the top. As the driver turns the steering wheel left and right, the column turns the pinion gears which actuate the rack left and right. It then translates that motion to the inner tie rod ends, ultimately turning the steering knuckles, the wheels, and the car. Over time, steering rack and pinion assemblies gained hydraulic assistance and were making it easier for drivers to control their vehicles at both low and high speeds. No longer do you have to turn your steering wheel 4 times in one direction just to fit into a parking space. Thank you, steering rack and pinion
An all day affair.
Installing a new rack and pinion is complicated; taking a lot of preparation and patience, and should be done with the vehicle on a lift. Because of this, we recommend professional installation. For the daring and/or experienced, here's how it's done:
- First, make sure your steering wheel is completely straight. The wheels need to be pointing forward for this job. Then disconnect the battery and lift the car. Jack stands are okay, but a lift of 5 to 6 feet is best.
- Now it's the preparation phase. Spend the next few minutes marking the positions of your tie rod ends and sleeves using a paint pen. You will need to know precisely how the connections are aligned and spaced. Make note of the distance from the outer tie rod stud center to the end of the connecting sleeve, from the sleeve to the inner tie rod boot, and so forth.
- At this point, you should drain all your power steering fluid. You can disconnect the pressure and return hoses from the steering rack and pinion once the system is dry.
- Next is another preparation phase. You will want to take a good look at the lower steering column joint. This is where the bottom of the steering shaft connects to the steering gear box. Mark the connections and alignment of the gears while the steering is in neutral (straight) position. Once that is done, you can uncouple that joint and disconnect it from the rack.
- Then the next thing to do is remove the rack and pinion assembly. It is usually mounted to a crossmember with large bolts.
- You can now install your new steering rack and pinion. Mount it first using manufacturer recommended torque specs, then connect the steering shaft coupler, and then connect the tie rods. Using your marks, make sure you align all the old parts with your new rack exactly.
- The last thing you do is refill the reservoir and bleed the system. Obviously, an alignment is recommended.
Help us help you.
If your car or truck has a leaking steering rack and pinion, it's best to get it replaced as soon as possible. At Car Parts Discount, we carry a wide variety of rebuilt rack and pinion units as well as some new ones. Our inventory is ready to ship right away, and our prices are as low as possible. That means your downtime and costs are kept to a minimum. Don't put off fixing your steering any longer. Order yours today.