Troubleshooting Common Rack and Pinion Problems

A stack of rack and pinions.

When your busy life relies on a reliable vehicle, then rack and pinion problems are going to need to be diagnosed, and fixed, as soon as possible. The rack and pinion assembly is a part of the entire power steering component that makes driving your car much easier. When the rack and pinion is not working properly you will notice that the car is either pulling to one side or is harder to steer. Being able to diagnose a problem is important if you rely on your vehicle for your day-to-day travels.

Here are some troubleshooting techniques to find out what rack and pinion problems you may have.

Leaking Problems

Rack and pinions can last for several years without any problems. However, with the pressures of the fluid, the vibrations of the car, and regular wear and tear, the rack and pinion can experience leaks. If you see some fluid under the driver's side of the vehicle it can mean many different things. However, look at the fluid and check under the car to see where it is coming from.

These leaks can be a combination of many different things. Seals can wear, hoses can crack and leaks around the input shaft are all common problems associated with leaking. The problem is that some of these cannot be fixed easily, and simply replacing the entire rack and pinion is easier.

Travel in Steering Wheel

steering wheel

After many years of driving you may notice that there is a lot of play in the steering wheel. This can mean several different things, but to find out if the problem is with the rack and pinion you can jack up the rear of the car and move the steering wheel back and forth. If the play is in the rack you will notice it very quickly.

Dark Power Steering Fluid

One of the problems that is associated with rack and pinion problems is with the power steering fluid itself. This fluid is a combination of different chemicals and special additives so that it can withstand the pressures it is under. After a while, the fluid starts to get dirty. This dirt will radically change the way that the steering components work. This includes the rack and pinion assembly.

Check the power steering reservoir for any signs of discoloration. If you see that the fluid is dark and murky you will need to flush the entire system.

Other Steering Components

Not all the problems associated with your rack and pinion is going to be contributed to the actual rack and pinion. There are other parts that can affect they way that the rack operates and steers the vehicles. A loose tie rod end is a good example of this. Your steering will feel very loose when the tie rods are loose at the rack and pinion assembly. Any broken mounts will also provide play in the rack and pinion assembly. Rubber mounting bushings will also crack and become hard and brittle. Any slight deviation in angle, or suspension, can cause the rack and pinion to flex a little making it harder to steer.