The rack-and-pinion steering system, found on many vehicles, is among the most difficult repair challenges, mostly because the mechanism is difficult to access and problems are hard to diagnose. Even trained experts must use detective skills when analysing symptoms, narrowing the possibilities down until they pinpoint a problem correctly.
Rack-and-pinion systems can occasionally exhibit stiff or hard steering, when the wheel becomes difficult to turn. This indicates issues within the rack. Usually, hard steering is a result of inner tie rod socket problems, including corrosion. Binding on the strut bearing plates and lower ball joints can also result in stiff steering. Over-torquing can produce this symptom as well.
The opposite of stiff steering, flexible or loose steering, can also be a problem with rack-and-pinion systems. This condition can be dangerous, as it makes the wheel less responsive. Like hard steering, the problem may point to inner tie rod socket issues, usually involving the socket being old and worn. A simple replacement of the inner tie rod socket should cure the issue.
Noisy Rack and Pinion
Although noise generally indicates a problem in a car, it can often be very difficult to pinpoint the source without being a trained professional. Although spotting a noisy rack-and-pinion system can be tricky -- as many mistake the noise for something else -- the noise can also be a sign of problems with the inner tie rod sockets, which can produce noise in the steering column when worn out. A yoke adjustment may be necessary as well, as bad rack bushings can cause noise within the system.