The rack and pinion, also known as the steering rack, is an assembly in your vehicle that allows your wheels to rotate from side to side when you turn your steering wheel. The rack and pinion got it’s from the type of gears used in the assembly. A small pinion gear is connected to the steering wheel that connects with a long rack gear. Connected to both ends of the rack is a tie rod that connects the steering arm on the spindle. When you turn your steering wheel, it pushes the rack right or left. The rack and pinion make it easier to turn your wheels and converts the rotating motion of your steering into the linear motion need to turn your wheels. So, what are signs that your rack and pinion is failing?
There are a few key signs that can help you identify issues with your rack and pinion. The first identifier is a power steering fluid leak. Your rack and pinion lie at the bottom of your car, so a steering fluid leak may not always be the rack and pinion, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Steering fluid is powered hydraulically so you won’t lose fluid unless there is a leak somewhere in the system. Steering fluid has a burning oil smell and is typically pink or red in color. Look for these signifiers near your engine to spot any potential issues. A steering wheel that is hard to turn, or very tight could be a sign that you’re having problems with your rack and pinion. If your gearbox builds up heat, or loses hydraulic pressure from lack of steering fluid, this can be another indicator. Like other failing automotive parts, excess heat and lack of lubrication over time can cause you to hear a grinding noise while turning left or right. If you hear, see, or feel any of these symptoms, reach out to a trusted ASE certified mechanic for a diagnostic or inspection.