When you’re driving, you tend to know exactly how your steering should feel, so if you notice anything off with it, any signs that there may be a fault in the power steering system, or specifically an issue with the steering rack, it can be quite worrying.
Unfortunately, it’s not an easy diagnosis when it comes to figuring out the root cause of your steering problem, as there are quite a few components that could be the culprit. So how can you tell if you have a bad steering rack? Look out for the following signs!
If you are cruising down the N3, and you notice your car wandering a little, and is difficult to keep in the lane, you may well have a faulty steering rack. Also, every road imperfection causes your car to easily move left to right instead of staying in a straight line.
Steering Wheel Vibration or Slip
If your steering wheel shakes at high speed, it is worth getting your steering rack checked. As much as anything, the vibration can make it hard to control the vehicle and, especially at high speed, this alone can prove dangerous.
Along with vibrations, the feel of your steering wheel is arguably the clearest indicator that anything is wrong with your rack. If the feel of the steering changes dramatically, either tightening or loosening, it is definitely worth getting your vehicle checked.If your steering rack and pinion wear out the steering will feel loose. You may also notice that steering is harder at lower speeds. On top of all these symptoms, you will also notice that the wheels don't return to straight position after making a turn.
The steering wheel moves but the front wheels don't move. If your steering is unresponsive between 11 o’clock angle and 1 o’clock angle when the wheels are pointing straight-ahead, the so-called numb spot, it suggests that there is something that needs to be fixed on your steering rack.
Uneven tyre wear
While uneven tyre wear can be often caused by bad alignment or wear of other steering components, a bad steering rack can also be the cause for unusual tyre wear. Check your tyres. Do you see more wear on one side?
Power Steering Leak
A bad steering rack may develop power steering fluid leaks from the O-rings and boots. It is possible that your power steering rack is bad. Note that other components can cause power steering leaks such as power steering pump, reservoir or lines.
Noise when turning
Clunking noise or thudding when taking a corner or turning the steering wheel is another symptom of bad steering and rack system. You may also notice grinding noise when steering due to metal contact of the steering rack or lack of lubrication.
A ‘’Burning Oil” smell
When it comes to a burning smell, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause, as it could be a number of components in your vehicle that could be overheating. However, the smell of power steering fluid resembles that of burnt oil, so if you’re driving and suddenly this aroma fills your car, you should stop immediately and call a mechanic, as it could mean your power steering system is overheating.
Misdiagnosis of a bad steering rack
It is worth noting that symptoms that are similar to that of a bad power steering rack can also be caused by other components:
Tie rods / Struts / Ball Joint
Tie rods may be the cause of excessive play on your steering wheel. Tie rods are directly connected to the power steering rack. They wear quite frequently and need to be replaced around the 120,000-160,000 kilometre range. Check both the inner and outer tie rod ends for excessive wear. It is common for owners to think that they have a bad steering rack when in reality the tie rods are the problem.
Poor alignment can cause problems such as vehicle pulling to one side or steering not returning to centre as well as accounting for uneven tyre wear. Have your alignment done.
Power steering belt
A worn or loose power steering belt may account for a screeching noise when you turn the wheel. his is the belt that connects the power steering pump to the engine. The screeching noise could also be a symptom of low power steering fluid levels.
Power Steering Pump
If you are having problems with the steering wheel not returning to centre, the problem could be a bad power steering pump. Generally, a power steering pump is not generating enough pressure. Ask your mechanic to check the pressure between the power steering pump and steering rack, to see if it is within the specs recommended by your manufacturer.
Unlike some mechanical problems, steering problems generally give you plenty of warning that something is wrong, and the warning signs persist until the problem is fixed or the system fails.
If your steering is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, take your car to a suitably qualified mechanic who can check the steering and suspension components that we mention in this article. You want to rule out the less expensive parts first such as tie rods before you replace the steering rack.
At Start My Car, we can assist you at every step of the way - from tie rods to rack ends to steering racks. Many of these parts you will find on our website. But we also have thousands of unlisted parts, that we can source for you, fast! As always, have a look on our website, or give us a shout, and we will do our utmost to assist you.