Before you can figure out the importance of a properly working steering box and how to fix a steering gearbox, you need to figure out what a steering box is.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this subject, figure out what a steering box is, the symptoms of a bad steering box, check for a bad steering box, properly fix the steering box, and the price of a replacement for a steering box.
As we now know, the steering system in each car made in modern factories today is mainly a rack and pinion steering system. The steering system comprises multiple parts moving simultaneously, containing universal joints, main shafts, intermediate shafts, and the steering rack, also known as the steering gearbox or steering box.
The steering gearbox contains the gears that allow the driver to transmit the driver’s steering inputs into the linkage and mechanisms that turn the wheels properly, ensuring it can run correctly. The sterling box multiplies the driver's steering changes so that the wheels on the front of the vehicle can move more than the steering wheel.
Most cars produced on the market today use rack and pinion steering, where the mechanisms of steering turn a pinion gear, moving on a rack to turn the front wheel. Other types of cars use circulating ball systems, where the mechanics involved feature ball bearings mounted on a “worm” type of steering gear, showing the differences between these two systems and the use of a steering box.
Power Steering Pump
Along with the steering box, the power steering pump is a crucial part of the steering system. In order to know why it is so important to maintain or replace the power steering pump, we must first know what it is. In most vehicles, the power steering aids the driver to steer the vehicle by changing the steering wheel’s steering effort.
Power Steering Pump Mechanism
A power steering pump generally works according to a few key principles. First, a slotted rotor is supported inside of a cylindrical cam. It is positioned close to the wall of the cam, forming a small, crescent-shaped cavity. The rotor is sealed into the cam by the effort of the two side plates. As the cam rotates and the fluid comes inside the pump, the vanes are pushed further outside, to the house’s walls, due to the hydraulic pressure.
This central unit is in charge of the steering direction and the signals from the driver. Without this steering box, the steering wheel would not move. This central unit receives inputs, using the steering wheel and the steering column to send a mechanical signal to the steering shafts to complete smooth, responsive, safe, and efficient turns in both directions.
The steering rack is the main focus of the steering system, showing the importance of a steering box in controlling your car. When the box wears out over time, shows damage, or completely breaks over a long time of use, the steering can be compromised and not work properly.
If this happens during an inopportune time while you are driving, then this can be quite dangerous. You can prevent this by noticing the signs of a bad, failing, or damaged steering box that can save you time, crash potential, and money in the long run.
Faulty Steering Box Signs
However, as with all parts of a car, the steering rack or gearbox can wear out, meaning that you will need to figure out repairs and replacements for your vehicle to keep the steering box working well. Quick service used in the time before the damage gets too bad can mean that you save money and time on more expensive repairs and replacements. The replacement steps and price are the differences between just a quick fix and a huge overhaul of your steering system.
Here are a few signs that can let you know of a potential problem that you currently have or forming with the steering box in your car.
Tight Steering Wheel
First, your steering wheel might be very tight or unable to turn properly or smoothly while controlling your car. The rack and pinion systems used in modern cars today are supported at the base by a power steering unit that features hydraulic pressure, allowing for your steering on your car to be responsive, smooth, efficient, and fast.
Tight Steering Wheel Causes
If you find that it is harder to turn the steering wheel, showing a tightness of the steering box can be due to a buildup of heat or a loss of hydraulic pressure, causing a tight steering box.
Regardless of which reason, this is a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed, as it won't go away on its own, meaning you need to figure out a replacement or solution to the problem before it creates an unsafe driving situation.
The solution to this driving steering box issue could be pretty simple, meaning that you shouldn’t wait to get it done. You just need to add more power steering fluid or minorly adjust the steering box to extend your lifespan steering mechanism.
Leaking Power Steering Fluid
Second, a leaking power steering fluid can cause your gearbox issues and cause tightness in the steering wheel. As noted, sometimes tight steering means low power steering fluid. However, since the steering box is hydraulically powered in most cases, the fluid levels will not get lower unless you have discovered a leak in the system of your steering mechanism.
Once you start to leak power steering fluid from your steering box, this means that there is a larger issue at play, a loose-fitting wheel or broken gasket, or another mechanical problem that means the leak needs to be fixed as soon as possible before getting worse.
Leaking Power Steering Fluid Recognition
So, how do you know you are leaking power steering fluid? There are key differences between power steering fluid and other fluids in your car. Leaking steering fluid from the steering box can be told apart from other fluids by the burning smell distinctive from other liquids in your car.
The steering fluid is generally red or pink and originating from the rear part of your motor. Make sure you call a mechanic or bring your car to a nearby automotive shop so they can professionally address the issue and inspect the leak to repair it before it damages your steering box further.
Third, a bad, damaged, or failing gearbox is generally the result of a lack of proper lubrication, reducing smooth movement, and a lack of repairs or service. If you do not regularly check the steering box’s service, a grinding noise can creep up. The friction causes metal on metal contact, creating a loud grinding noise when you turn the steering wheel in either direction and reducing lubrication for smooth movement.
Causes of Failing Gearbox
When does this normally happen? Well, usually during uneven terrain or a bump in the road. If you drive along the highway and hit a pothole, this grinding noise can become apparent. If you turn up onto a higher driveway or the entrance to a shop, the grinding noise can occur when going over the bump.
Notice this sound? Don’t wait to get help with the grinding noise of your steering box. Contact a mechanic right away so that the professional can quickly and accurately diagnose the issue and replace the steering box if needed.
Smell of Burning Oil
The last symptom of a tight steering wheel that negatively affects the steering box and the ability to control your car is the smell of burning oil. As we know, the oil that can leak from the steering wheel and the box is pink or red and has a very strong and distinctive aroma. If the steering fluid itself is leaking, you will smell a strong burnt oil aroma while the steering box is also very hot.
If you feel like this is happening, you will surely be able to recognize it. Find a safe place to pull over if this occurs and stop driving immediately. If you decide to keep driving, this can be catastrophic, as your car might catch on fire, and the car could explode if you get in a crash during this instance.
Damaged Power Steering Pump
There are a few key signs that will indicate that it is time for your power steering pump to be replaced. If you do not replace your power steering pump, this can negatively influence your vehicle’s steering box.
Difficulty Turning the Wheel
The first sign will be that the steering wheel is increasingly difficult to turn and handle. When you turn your wheel sharply, it causes more strain on the power steering system. You might still be able to turn the wheel, but you will have to use much more force than typically required. If you notice that the wheel is shaking while driving, this is also a sign you need to have the power steering pump replaced.
Power Steering Fluid Leak
Second, if you see power steering fluid underneath your car, then that is a sure sign that your power steering pump needs to be checked and possibly replaced. The fluid can be various colors, like clear, pink, or brown. It is critical to verify that it is power steering fluid on the ground and not another leak from your car, like oil.
If you have determined that you need to get your steering checked, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic. They will be able to test-drive your vehicle and give you an opinion and quote on the total power steering pump cost for a repair or replacement.
Steering Box Replacement Cost
Keep in mind when you're trying to repair or replace your steering rack. The process requires heavy and sometimes expensive and sophisticated equipment to be used properly and professionally to fix the issue comprehensively. Many of these big and heavy parts underneath your vehicle, like the shafts, joints, and steering mechanisms, can wear out over time and after extended use.
Steering Box Replacement Steps
So, how are the repair and replacement done? The mechanic will need to raise the vehicle and support the car on jack stands to do the repair and see everything they need to. The tires are then removed, and the tie rods and steering gear are disconnected from the system.
Next, the steering rack and the steering box are replaced – we will go over how much this costs. Next, the system is given new fluid, and the tires are installed. Lastly, the vehicle is lowered off of the jack stands, and you are good to go.
Average Replacement Cost
The price of replacement depends on the type of car you have. If you have an older car, like a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500, then the estimated price cost for replacing a steering box is around $484. The parts cost is just over $308, while the labor cost is $175, with the average dealer price being around $544.
Sample Steering Box Costs
However, this is one of the lower estimates for a steering box replacement. On the higher end of the spectrum with luxury vehicles, a 2014 Porsche Cayenne is around $1926, with the cost of the parts is around $1645 and the labor cost coming in at just below $280, with the average dealer price being around $2021. This hefty price makes you wonder, is it worth the cost? For some cars, like the BMW model lineup, the price might be too much than it is worth in the end.
Noticing the steering box’s main function in your car can help you recognize any signs and symptoms of a failing or malfunctioning steering system, including the steering box, gearbox, power steering pump, and central unit.