The steering wheel -- also known as the "rack and pinion" -- is made up of several parts and components that allow the driver to control the direction of the entire vehicle. Problems within the steering column can cause significant failures, from loose to hard steering. Although the symptoms are relatively easy to spot, the cause of steering column problems may be due to a variety of issues.
Inner Tie Rod Sockets
One of the key components of a steering column is the inner tie rod sockets. If these sockets become worn, several different symptoms can result requiring immediate replacement. The steering wheel may feel "loose" when turning it. The steering wheel may also rotate, either left or right, by itself unless the driver holds it in place. Symptoms of inner tie rod socket problems can also be attributed to completely unrelated issues, such as tire misalignment, so it is important to diagnose the issue correctly.
Over-torquing and Binding
Over-torquing can be another issue with regard to both the inner and outer tie rod sockets within the rack and pinion. The usual symptoms of over-torquing are hard steering exhibited when the steering wheel is difficult to turn in any direction. Alternatively, corroded inner tie rod sockets can result in this same phenomenon as the corroded sockets can cause the steering wheel to stick in one place. Binding issues on the strut plates within the steering column can also result in problems with turning the steering wheel.
Rack and steering columns often need a yoke adjustment to ensure they function properly. Vehicles in need of a yoke adjustment can experience steering failure or produce unusual noises within the column. As with most other symptoms, these noises can also occur with other rack and pinion issues, such as worn inner tie rod sockets.