Tips on Diagnosing a Faulty Steering Rack

Tips on Diagnosing a Faulty Steering Rack

With the complexities involved in the connection of your steering wheel with your front wheels, it may be difficult to find out the cause of the problem with a failing or faulty steering rack. Don’t know if it is the tie rod ends or the steering rack itself?

The Mechanism Of The Steering Rack

To make a car turn, the rack and pinion steering system convert the left-right wheel movement to the wheels’ left-right movement. The pinion gear is spun by the steering column which is connected to the gears in the rack at the turning of the gear causing the rack to move left and right. The steering’s power part is supplied by a pressurized fluid in the passages of the steering rack which helps the driver turn the wheel. Other functions of the fluid include cooling everything and helping to avoid damage to the contact of the metal on metal gear. However, like in all car systems, it’s possible for the steering rack to develop faults over time.


What Causes The Failure Of A Steering Rack

Despite the fact that they are made up of hard steel, it is a common sight to see an older vehicle’s steering rack fail. Its location is responsible for the exposure of the rack to high temperatures and the varying British weather. When road debris hit it many times, it may result into damaged internal bushings which may lead to a leak.

Contamination of the fluid may cause abrasive grits to enter into the gears. The first two problems above cannot be resolved in any way but a steering rack will last longer when one carries out preventive maintenance. It is necessary to promptly replace your power steering fluid to ensure optimum performance and efficiency.


Items Required For The Diagnosis Of A Steering Rack Fault

A Jack, Axle Stands, Disposable gloves, power steering fluid, a few old towels, a flashlight and maybe a power steering stop leak.



Note that warning signs depend on the type of vehicle and how the steering parts became faulty, hence not all the signals listed will apply. Beginning with the least expensive to the most costly, we have highlighted the properties of a failing steering rack.



Majority of owners manuals advise you to regularly monitor the power steering fluid because it may be the first sign of power steering issues. To monitor the condition and level of the fluid, open the reservoir cap. For cars which require conventional power steering fluid, it should be light brown or clear. When you notice a low fluid level, pour more till it gets to the full level and then, try to test drive. In cases where the fluid is discolored, a power steering flush may be needed as contaminants like water could be present in the system.

A cracked hose could introduce air into the system if the fluid is foamy. Two hoses should run from the steering rack. One (high pressure) should supply fluid while the other (low pressure) would carry surplus fluid to the pump reservoir. Replace the larger low pressure line if you find any fault after checking it. Other common signs of low fluid are a reluctance to turns at reduced speeds, a growling or whining noise when turning the wheels to one side or angle.


Steering Rack Leakages

Did you find a brown or red fluid beneath your car? Try to troubleshoot because the problem may not come from the rack. Begin by checking the reservoir for the power steering fluid. If the fluid is low, add more. If you observe a fluid leak, check the source with the aid of a flashlight. It may be tough to find a leak but you can place a cardboard sheet under your motor to trace its original source. Clean any current drips with an old towel then ask someone to turn the key without starting the engine and carefully move the steering wheel backward and forward. The pump is equipped to pump additional fluid out of the failing component. If the source is a hose, replace it. In cases of a minor leak, apply a pack of power steering stop leak. For major leaks, you may need to get a replacement rack.


Loose or Worn Steering Rack

In this case, you may think that the car requires an alignment. It becomes obvious that the vehicle is struggling to drive straight. You would feel as if you are battling with the wind at top speed, making corrections in directions even on days when there is no wind. It is dangerous to drive while powering a car with extra slop in the steering. Give us a call and book in to get your wheel alignment and steering rack checked. After getting a solid alignment we will help find any excess wear in the ends of the tie rod or pitman’s arm, the fault is likely to come from the rack.


Numb or Dead Spot

You may observe a numb spot while on a neutral steering wheel. This could be up to “10 and “2 locations on the steering wheel where you may not feel any resistance when you turn the wheel. For a moment, it may seem like the steering wheel is not in alignment with the other parts of the car till you further turn it and it steers. This indicates possible worn out gears and its advisable to replace the entire unit. Note that it would not improve on its own and is thus dangerous.


Grinding Sound

This noise is not the same as that which we hear when the power steering fluid is low. However, it also occurs when turning corners at reduced speeds. The grinding sound is a pointer that a contaminated fluid may have destroyed the pinion gear and steering rack. In the case of excessive grinding, it’s possible for the gear and pinion to have moved out of alignment. This is a very serious issue, you should Speak to one of our technicians urgently. Clunks and thuds are also symptoms of a faulty rack but are more complex as they have a lot of possible causes such as tyre/wheel problems or tie rod ends.

Comments for this post are closed.