The rack aspect of rack-and-pinion steering connects the steering shaft to the spindle of the wheel, thus making it an important cog in your steering mechanism. For this reason, you need to be able to diagnose when you have a problem with your steering rack--whether that problem is looseness or even a leak. You will need to take the car to an expert for repair, but it is possible to diagnose a steering rack problem yourself.
Feel the steering wheel as you are driving. One of the key ways to diagnose a bad steering rack is by looseness of the wheel when you are driving the car. You also may find that the car does not naturally drive in a straight line and the wheel does not automatically correct itself after you make a turn.
Listen for sounds such as thudding or clunking as you are driving. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs insists this could be a sign of a loose steering rack, so it is something to listen for this as you try to make a diagnosis.
Look at the wear on your tires. If you find that they are unusually worn and that the wear is more prevalent on the inside or outside of the tire, this could point to a problem with the steering rack.
Check under the front of the car for leaks. If the other symptoms are present, then leaks from the front end--where the steering rack is located--will pretty much confirm the diagnosis of a faulty steering rack.