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.
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.