As with all components, the power steering rack on a car can fail. When it does, the vehicle is unstable and an accident can happen.
Replacing a car’s steering rack is not for the inexperienced mechanic or the faint-hearted. It’s a tough, physically demanding job that requires the proper tools and advanced mechanical skills.
What is a vehicle’s steering rack?
The steering rack is a key component in the rack and piston system. It connects the steering wheel with the car’s front wheels. The rack responds to input from the driver and generates a mechanical message for the wheels to turn one way or the other.
How often is the power steering rack replaced?
Unlike many parts that are replaced after the vehicle has travelled a certain distance or after a prescribed number of years, the power steering rack can last the lifetime of a vehicle.
The only time the component has to be substituted with a replacement is when there are indications of steering rack failure or wear and tear.
What are the signs of a worn or defective power steering rack?
A loose or “disconnected” steering wheel that has excessive play is one of the most common indications the power steering rack has seen better days.
Other signs include:
- a loud clunking noise when travelling over bumps and potholes
- uneven or erratic steering
- vibrations on the steering wheel
- fluid leaks
- dark discoloured power steering fluid.
When it takes an effort to turn the wheel and the car won’t go in the direction you want, it’s time to install a new power steering rack.
What causes a steering rack to fail?
All mechanical parts, including the steering rack and piston system, wear more quickly when a car is driven constantly.
A rack that’s poorly fitted during the manufacturing or assembly process will cause problems, as will worn or damaged seals, O-rings and gaskets.
How to install a power steering rack
The first step is to drain the power steering fluid, loosen the front wheel nuts and jack up the car. Once the vehicle is properly supported on the jack stands, remove the front wheel lug nuts and the wheels.
Disconnect the tie rods
Detach the clamps connecting the steering column to the piston. Disconnect the outer rod ends using a special tie rod separator or ball joint fork. Loosen the nuts and turn the rods.
Remove the faulty steering rack
Insert a drainage pan under the car to catch any fluid and unbolt the power steering rack from its seating. Remove the rack via one of the wheel wells. Use plenty of effort, patience and ingenuity.
Install the new power steering rack
Using the same exit point as your entry point, insert the replacement rack into position using the required force. Measure the length of the old rack to determine the precise positions of the tie and cotter pins. Insert the pins in the new rack.
Reattach the hoses, except the steering fluid reservoir return line. Replace the components that were removed to enable access to the rack, together with the front wheels.
Bleed the power steering system
Start the car. Turn the steering wheel back and forth for about 15 minutes to release air trapped in the system. Turn off the engine and let it stand before topping up the reservoir with fluid.
If the fluid is light brown in colour or has foam on the top, repeat the process until the fluid is clear. Reattach the reservoir hose, remove the drainage pan, lower the car and tighten the wheel nuts.
Where to buy a top-quality steering rack for your car
Masterparts stocks a comprehensive range of high quality automotive parts for almost all vehicle models – old and new – on our roads. Included in our range are steering racks produced by the renowned UAE vehicle components manufacturer Autostar.
Contact us if there’s a part you need and we’ll be happy to help.