The steering rack is composed of a rack enclosed with a steering pinion. It is connected to the steering wheel through the set of shafts and U-joints. As the steering wheel is turned, the pinion moves and pushes the steering rack either to the left or right. The ends of the steering rack are connected to the front wheels so the steering rack inputs and turns them to the left or the right as well.
A power steering rack utilizes an engine-driven pump to supply high-pressure hydraulic fluid to the steering rack when the wheel is turned. This enables an easier turning of the steering rack. This also means that there is a big amount of hoses, seals, and o-rings to contain the hydraulic fluid.
If the power steering rack wears out badly, it will start to leak. The absence of the hydraulic fluid will result to a hard, difficult steering. This is the right time to replace a new or re-conditioned replacement steering rack.
5. Signs of a Bad Steering Rack
When the steering rack goes bad it needs to be replaced quickly for your own safety. But first, you should be sure that the steering rack is at fault. Look for these five telltale signs before you take your vehicle in for repairs.
1. Car Wandering
If your car is wandering on the road, both at low speeds and high speeds, it’s a sign that the steering rack has gone bad. You’ll need to constantly correct the direction and holding the wheel in place will take much more work than usual. Sometimes this problem can be attributed to your wheels being out of alignment , but with a bad steering rack, the tires will show unusual wear specifically on the inside or outside of the tire, rather than all over like an alignment issue will cause.
2. Numb Spot
With a bad steering rack there tends to be a so-called “numb spot” in the center of the steering mechanism. Between about 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock there might be little response, a certain indication that there are steering rack problems.
3. Wheel Shaking
If the steering wheel shakes when moving at higher speeds, coupled with too much play in the wheel, the steering rack has probably gone bad and needs to be replaced. Apart from anything else, the lack of control with a wheel shaking can prove to be dangerous, especially on freeways when you have a regular commute.
4. Power Steering Fluid Leak
If your power steering fluid levels keep dropping, even after you’ve topped it off, then it’s time to have the steering rack looked at and possibly replaced. Check fluid levels regularly and look for other signs in conjunction with this one so you can be sure this is a steering rack issue and not just a fluid leak .
Sometimes when this part is going bad, or more specifically if it’s loose, you can hear a thudding, clunking, or frequently knocking as you drive. Even if your problem doesn’t turn out to be a steering rack malfunction, noises like these should always be investigated by a professional quickly.
Don’t just look for one of these symptoms, as some of these things can be caused by more than one problem with your vehicle. If you notice any of these signs, look specifically for some of the others so you can know for sure that your steering rack is the cause.