How to know if a rack & pinion are bad

Written by misty s. bledsoe
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How to know if a rack & pinion are bad
Defects in your rack and pinion system can cause loose steering. (geschwindigkeit image by Andreas Garkuscha from

Only a licensed mechanic will be able to diagnose to see whether the rack and pinion of your steering system have gone bad. Rack and pinion maintenance varies from inspecting and adjusting the parts of the rack and pinion system to replacing key parts of the system. Drivers can be more alert to potential rack and pinion problems by keeping an eye out for signs of rack and pinion wear and tear.

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  1. 1

    Notice if the steering of the vehicle seems to be loose or "slips" at all while the vehicle is in motion. For example, if you are turning either left or right, note if the vehicle does not turn at the same degree it normally does. If you have to turn more than normal to get the vehicle to turn to the same degree, the steering is loose. If the vehicle suddenly seems to straighten out even just slightly and then goes back into the turn, then the steering is "slipping."

  2. 2

    Note if the vehicle is excessively pulling to one side or the other. Although vehicles pulling to one side or another typically indicate issues with front-end alignment, this behaviour especially coupled with noisy or stiffer steering can indicate issues with the rack and pinion system.

  3. 3

    Take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic. The mechanic will run down series of standard tests to see what may be bad or just need adjusting in the rack and pinion system. First, if the steering is loose, the mechanic will tighten all bolts, lug nuts and adjust any applicable springs before retesting the steering. If it is still loose or slipping, the mechanic will inspect the steering for pull, noise and stiffness. If there is no uneven tire tread indicated on the tires and there is no leaking of the power steering fluid itself, then parts of the rack and pinion system may be bad and may be replaced.

Tips and warnings

  • Normally, there will be more than just one symptom present to indicate trouble with the rack and pinion steering. Age of the vehicle, condition and history of any vehicle accidents can all play apart in the overall stability and effectiveness of the current rack and pinion system.
  • It can be very dangerous to continue driving if the steering is loose or is slipping. The laws of inertia govern a vehicle when an outside force (such as steering) is not affecting the desired movement of the vehicle. Do not ignore any signs of possible rack and pinion wear and tear, especially if there is more than one symptom present.

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