If you ask experienced motorists the difference between modern and earlier cars, they’ll point out many. However, evolution and change in the steering system are ranked among the notable changes. Rack and pinion steering systems are some of the inventions that have revolutionized this part. Although, it’s such a complex mechanism whose minor dysfunction can affect the overall functionality of your car. Due to its efficiency and practicality, Rack and pinion are almost in every vehicle you see today. Talk of SUVs, trucks, etc.
Behind the efficacy, lies a delicate system that is hard to repair. In case of a fault, it is easier to replace the whole system rather than repairing it. Due to its complexity, the repair is not easy at all. Therefore, replacement is more reliable and safer. Additionally, replacement cost is way lower than repairing the rack and pinion.
What Is Rack and Pinion Steering?
Rack and pinion is a steering gear that helps to push and pull your vehicle wheels in the right direction you are steering them. It’s a new technology which is more versatile and lighter compared to its predecessors. The system can be hydraulically or electrically powered. Today, most cars, trucks, and SUVs you see around are using a rack and pinion steering.
How Does Rack and Pinion Work?
Now that you have an idea of what rack and pinion are, let’s see how this crucial part works. First of all, its location plays a critical role. Located between the two-vehicle front wheels, the rack and pinion act as a bridge between the wheels and the steering. It also has inner and outer tie rods that link it with the car tires.
Every time you control your steering wheel in a given direction, the rack and pinion pull or pushes all its components in one direction. This helps to redirect your vehicle wheels in a certain direction. By so doing, you are able to keep your car steady and in the intended direction on the road.
How Long Does Rack and Pinion Last?
Basically, the rack and pinion are built to last a couple of days. However, its lifespan depends on usage and maintenance. Therefore, in as much as it doesn’t wear out easily, how you handle it will dictate durability. All factors remaining constant, you shouldn’t get anything less than 100,000 miles from your rack and pinion. Being a high-pressure system, it will constantly suffer wear and tear but it should withstand. Until you hit a 100,000-mile mark, you shouldn’t be thinking of replacing it.
One of the best maintenance practices is having a fresh power steering fluid always. This ensures that there is reduced friction between the components. Additionally, you can enhance your rack durability by eliminating all impurities in the steering system. All these should be done in strict adherence to the manufacturer manual. You should also follow the accompanying maintenance schedule for your car. This will help to keep your rack and pinion in their fresh state.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Rack and Pinion?
No manufacturer will decide the exact date when you’ll need to replace your rack and pinion. So, you need to look out for pointers that may suggest the need for a replacement. Some of them are red flags which by the time you see them, you have a very short time to replace this part. Or else you may find yourself stuck outside with an un-roadworthy car. Some of the tales tell signs of a bad rack and pinion include;
- Power steering fluid leakage: This is one of the primary symptoms of a faulty rack and pinion. If you haven’t seen a power steering fluid leak, it is always red in color. The color alone distinguishes it from all other fluids that are found on your car. So, it is hard to miss.
- The trouble with steering: Another symptom that it’s about time you replaced your rack and pinion is clunking sound from the steering wheel. This may happen frequently or every time you turn on the steering wheel. In its worst-case scenario, you will find it so difficult to steer your vehicle, especially while at slow speeds.
What Do You Do When You Have a Bad Rack and Pinion?
If you suspect your car’s rack and pinion are faulty, the first thing should be handing it over to a mechanic. Note that it should not be any mechanic. You should get the one you are used to working on your car or is a specialist. That boosts your chances of getting a proper diagnosis of your rack and pinion. This will determine whether it’s time to replace it or not.
Not every time your mechanic will recommend replacement. You need to take note of parts that may need a replacement. The mechanic may request you to buy spare parts like a tie rod or steering gearbox. The recommendations are always based on the side of your car’s rack and pinion.
At some point, the mechanic may recommend a full rack and pinion replacement. You shouldn’t ignore this. Until the replacement has been done, you shouldn’t try driving your car around. In case you weren’t prepared for a replacement, some repairs may help.
Is It Worth Replacing Rack and Pinion?
The cost of replacing your rack and pinion is a hefty one. Therefore, you need to calculate well, lest you throw away thousands of dollars fixing a low-worthy vehicle. For that reason, you should consider the benefits of fixing your car’s rack and pinion versus cost.
Think of the value of your car and the total replacement cost. If it’s a cheap car whose cost is almost equivalent to the rack and pinion replacement cost, you better avoid it. There’s no need to invest thousands of dollars on a hundred-dollar car. That won’t do any magic to bring your car value up.
On the other hand, it’s worth every penny replacing a rack and pinion for your new valuable car. Replacing the system guarantees you long service without bothering you again. It also gives your car new strength making it more efficient and safer. What this means is that the viability of a decision to replace your rack and pinion depends on you. You may feel it’s worthy or not at your own discretion.
When Should You Replace Rack and Pinion Steering?
You shouldn’t wait until your car cannot move to turn it in for rack and pinion replacement. It is prudent to get your car checked anytime you feel the change in the steering wheel. Sometimes, the steering may also become jerky. In case you notice increased noise on the steering wheel, it might be an indicator of a worse thing in the offing.
How Long Does A Rack and Pinion Replacement Take?
The time required to replace your car rack and pinion will depend on the type of your car and how complicated it is. A mechanic will quote you the time which will range from 3 hours and above.
If you decide to go DIY, you may not be able to approximate the time to spend. You may encounter some difficulties that you can’t solve alone. In that case, you will spend more time trying to unravel the complex system structure. So, the replacement will depend on several reasons thus we cannot give a concrete answer.
What Is Done During Rack and Pinion Replacement?
The replacement of a rack and pinion is a systematic process. It requires utmost organization and expertise. Below is the step-by-step procedure on what happens during this exercise;
- The first thing before a mechanic starts working on your car should ensure that the wheels are straight. The steering column should also be locked and wheels immobilized. The wheel may be tied with anything like a belt to ensure it doesn’t move during the repair process.
- The mechanic goes ahead to remove the front tires and the universal joint coupler from the pinion shaft.
- The power steering lines are removed from the rack. Also, the tie rod nodes are pulled in different directions.
- The next step involves dismembering the rack and pinion bushing brackets. This is done by removing the bolts and the assembly.
- The next step is the replacement of the old system with a new one. All the mechanic needs to do is reverse the processes above.
- From the power steering system, air bled to the right proportions. The mechanic should also remember to top up the correct quantities of the fluid.
- The testing step should begin here. Swinging the where’s from one lock to another to ascertain that everything is perfect.
- If everything checks out correctly, then the mechanic should close the job with an alignment procedure. This is done to ensure every angle is correctly set.
How Much Should It Cost to Replace the Rack and Pinion Steering?
The cost of replacing a rack and pinion isn’t a fixed value. Although arbitrarily quoting, you can spend anywhere from $1,530 to $2,000. The variation in cost is due to differences in car models and make as well as the type of rack and pinion. The mechanic you go to also will charge you differently. Therefore, the task to replace this crucial system should involve proper calculation and thinking. Without that, you may end up spending a lot of money that won’t pay anything back.
What Can You Do If You Can’t Afford to Pay for Rack and Pinion Replacement?
Sometimes, you may conclude replacing a rack and pinion is not the right decision for your car. In that case, you may feel stuck with a car you no longer need. The best option in such a scenario is selling it out to junk car dealers.
One of the best companies in this category is Cash Cars Buyer. They do not choose the problems with your cars no matter how wasted your rack and pinion is. They also deal with other un-road-worthy cars. Thus, they can get the trouble off your hands and give you money in return.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can You Fix a Rack and Pinion?
Yes. It is possible to fix the rack and pinion. Although being a complex system, repairing it may take a lot of time and money. That’s way, most experts advise on replacement instead. Since even after repair, there is no guarantee that it will work perfectly. Thus, driving a vehicle without a sure rack and pinion is a risky mission.
How Long Can I Ride-on a Bad Rack and Pinion?
Riding on a car with a bad rack and pinion isn’t recommended at all. Well, when you notice you need a replacement for this system, you don’t know when the problem began. Therefore, the most suitable decision should be packing off the road and calling for its towing. This way, you won’t be endangering yourself and other drivers on the road. Nonetheless, you may drive your car and nothing happens. Mostly, if you have a small power steering fluid leak, it won’t cause a lot of damage. But in case of a prolonged heavy leakage, your power system will remain with little to nothing. This is dangerous as it may lead to permanent destruction of the rack and pinion and also the fuel pump.
What Happens If You Don’t Replace the Rack and Pinion?
There are two possible outcomes if you drive your car whose rack and pinion is faulty. If the leakage is high, you will damage the fuel pump and the steering system. It will also be a risky drive because controlling such a car is hard. Therefore, you are an outright threat to other drivers on the road.
What Is the Labor Cost to Replace A Rack and Pinion?
The labor cost of replacing a rack and pinion depends on your car. Different car models are charged differently. Different mechanics will also have their own tariffs. Although, regardless of the car and the system, labor cost in most cases ranges from $150 to $600.
If you feel your car might have issues with its rack and pinion, don’t wait for the worst to happen. Take it immediately to an expert for diagnosis. If the mechanic tells you to replace this crucial part, don’t panic. It is all for your own good.
Since the replacement isn’t a cheap endeavor, you should think over the decision before saying yes. If the car is about to exit the stage, you better save your dollars. But if you just bought it, then replacing the rack and pinion is an investment. A car with a properly working steering system brings a lot of joy. But, traveling in a vehicle whose rack and pinion is faulty is a disaster in waiting.