The car you are driving has a steering wheel that is used via the steering column to control the vehicle. Few of us care to know how the steering wheel and the front wheels are connected. Any car on the road today uses a technology simply called the rack and pinion steering system. This system comprises of several components such as the shaft, universal joint, the steering rack, and the gear box.

When the coordinated movement between the steering wheel and the other components is not smooth and efficient, that is what happens when the rack and pinion goes out. Failure to correct this problem could be the difference between a minor repair and a major mechanical problem.


What to Expect When Rack and Pinion Goes Out

By now we already know that the rack and pinion are the heart of the steering wheel system. When the two components are out of place, you will lose the ability to steer your vehicle. This can lead to serious consequences. That is is why I saw the need to come up with an article that will help you and many others understand symptoms that are associated with bad or failing steering rack or gearbox.

I hope one or diagnosis that I will share will save you a lot of money and time needed to troubleshoot this problem. The most important thing that we all need to avoid by reading through this article is a potential crash.

Let us look at the few symptoms or warning signs that will give us an idea of what happens when rack and pinion goes out.​

Tight Steering Wheel​

Most of the cars we drive today are steered by a power steering. This is meant to give you an easy feel every time you steer your car in any direction. The hydraulic pressure should not make it difficult for you if everything is in place. When steering feels tight or is harder than expected, it simply means that the loss of hydraulic pressure in the steering column is creating a heat build-up making it harder to use the steering wheel. To get through this problem, you may need to add steering fluid or make minor adjustments.​

Leaking Steering Fluid​

We have already noted that power steering is operated on a hydraulic system. There is no way the level of fluid in the hydraulics will reduce unless there is a leakage somewhere. Leakage simply means a loose fitting that needs immediate attention. Ensure to seal the leak to avoid potential breakage of gears.

To distinguish a steering fluid and other fluids from your car, look out for pinkish red fluid that may be dripping and gives a burning oil smell.​

Burning Smell​

Every time you steer especially when cutting corners, you will catch a whiff of burning oil which at some point will be present in the steering gear box. When you get this smell, the best thing to do is to stop the car and contact a qualified mechanic. Continued driving in this condition may result in fire or irreversible damage to the steering column.

Squeaking When Steering​

When turning in any direction and you hear a squeak in every turn this may mean that the vehicle’s rack and pinion are out of place. This displacement increases metal to metal contact, and that is why you get the grinding noise. When it reaches this level, the best thing to do is to prepare for a possible steering gearbox replacement.

Sticky Steering Problem​

This mostly happens if you are driving on a straight course and you let go of the wheel, and the steering wheel either veers to the left or right. It may also occur when you make a turn, and the steering wheel does not assume its natural position.​

Sometimes when driving on a straight course, you may be forced to hold on to the steering wheel to minimize swerves.​

Uneven Tire Wear​

Because your steering column is out of place, the controls to the wheels are not as synchronized as expected. This uneven control forces the vehicle tires to wobble, and this results in uneven tear and wear.​


If you have experienced any of the above situations, your car needs to be checked by a qualified mechanic. The mechanic will correct the rack and pinion problem. I would advise quick action on addressing the above problems. You need to be able to control your vehicle all the time and especially in an emergency situation.

For the rack and pinion to go out of line, it means there are a lot of broken or worn out units. Being able to diagnose rack and pinion problems is highly critical, that is why I urge you to share more of your experiences through the comment section and help others too.​

Want create site? With Free visual composer you can do it easy.
Did you find apk for android? You can find new Free Android Games and apps.
Chief editor at Paul's Gigantic Garage. I came up with this blog to help you to sort out some basic problems your car may be facing and in turn, save lots of cash by some of my DIY tips that I hope will get your car out of its current situation. I also had in mind motor enthusiasts who for the love of cars who are constantly looking for information about cars on the latest trends, questions, fixes, driving, tricks, and accessories.


  1. Should I let the mechanic know I think it’s the rack and pinion or let him come up with it himself? We just changed the belt and if anything it got worse.

    Worried n

  2. Let him come up w it…….mechanics dont like being told what the problem is. This will often result i costly repairs that they either didnt do or did for nothing

  3. Just had the outer tire rods replaced on both sides at the advice of a mechanic (not my mechanic). My car has be leaking power steering fluid for a long time and I could never see where is was going.
    My mechanic said that the old outer tie rod ends were just fine and he tightened my rack and pinion.
    It was fine for a few days and now when turning right I hear a rubbing sound and and while driving at at 50 I hear what sounds like that tires are bouncing up and down. Same as before the tie rod ends were replaced.
    I am thinking the rack and pinion needs to be replaced or rebuilt? Also what happens if it goes completely out before I can have the work done? I drive approximately 22 miles one way to work. Any ideas of how many hours of labor it takes to replace the rack and pinion on a 2003 cavalier?

  4. I really appreciate the information you provided me Sir. This was very helpful but from what I’m experiencing on my car right now it sounds like It is the rack and pinion. Thank you again.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here