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Tech Talk

3 Rack and Pinion Problems: (And How To Diagnose Them)

 

The rack and pinion steering system is one of the most commonly used steering systems in cars today, and while it is a fairly safe and durable setup, it will often start to show wear and tear as a vehicle approaches 100K miles. Being aware of the potential rack and pinion problems that can occur will help you catch dangerous steering issues before they become a threat to you and your passengers. If your car is nearing the 100,000-mile mark, its important to know the signs of rack and pinion problems. 

What Does Your Steering Rack Do?

The rack and pinion steering system is the steering system that allows your vehicle to turn your front wheels easier when making turns. On most vehicles, it takes three to four complete turns of the steering wheel to make the wheels turn from left to right – but the rack and pinion system decreases this number. The “power” part of steering comes from pressurized fluid in steering rack passages. This fluid keeps your steering system cool and prevents damage from metal to metal gear contact.

3 Common Problems To Look For

It can be tricky to diagnose rack and pinion problems on your own, so it’s always best to visit a suspension repair specialist if you’re experiencing any of these warning signs:

Morning Sickness – Not the typical morning sickness you think of! This type of morning sickness is felt when driving your car first thing in the morning and your vehicle feels stiff or immovable. If your vehicle takes a few minutes to warm up and steer smoothly, this is not normal. You may have steering rack issues.
Contamination – Contamination happens when other substances have tainted your steering fluid, such as water, oil, or coolant. Typically, this occurs once your steering pump is about to fail, if your hoses are deteriorating, or if there is moisture in your steering column.
Center Wear – Center wear occurs when the area between the rack and pinion gears gets worn down, which can cause your steering to wander. The result? Your vehicle can begin to veer off to one side of the road to the other. This can commonly be mis-diagnosed as an alignment issue, so it’s important to take your vehicle to an auto repair shop.

What Makes a Steering Rack Fail?

Most modern steering racks are built to be very sturdy, but it’s common for a steering rack to fail on an older vehicle, or a vehicle with over 100,000 miles on it. The rack and pinion system is exposed to high underhood temperatures and various elements beneath your vehicle, and mixed with the Texas heat, this can lead to costly wear and tear. Preventative maintenance and routine cleanings will help your steering rack last longer and prevent degrading. At Brake Works, we can perform auto diagnostics for these issues, and even replace your power steering fluid to apply top-notch reliability.

Tools Required To Diagnose Steering-Rack Problems

Feel up to the challenge to diagnose your auto issues?

Here’s what you’ll need:

• Shop Towels – To clean up any residue or leakage
• Disposable Gloves – It’s always best to keep chemicals away from your skin
• Power Steering Fluid – To determine the best fluid for your vehicle, consult your manual
• Flashlight – Let’s be sure you’re looking at the correct part!
• Power Steering Stop Leak – This is optional, but is handy if you detect a seal leak

Altogether, these tools could cost you anywhere from $80 - $150 depending on your vehicle’s needs.

And, because steering rack problems can be easy to misdiagnose, you may not even have solved the root of your vehicle’s steering problems.

If you’re not the handiest person, have a vehicle made before 2010, or want to be sure the job is done correctly, it’s best to bring your vehicle in to an auto repair shop, such as Brake Works.

We have two convenient Brake Works locations in San Antonio, visit one of our locations today or give us a call for best availability. We’re proud to be locally owned for almost 30 years, and with our perfect 5-star rating on Google, you can count on us to provide excellent service without any hassle.