Imagine that you are driving down a winding road in the country. You are enjoying the scenery when you try to turn your steering wheel and you find that it is too stiff to move. You hear a grinding noise and you smell something burning. You wonder if you are not going to crash. Your rack and pinion steering is going out and you need to get it fixed soon.
As with anything that goes wrong with your car, you can’t help wondering how much all of this is going to cost you. The average cost for a rack and pinion replacement is between $1,488 and $1,840. The exact cost will depend on the make, model, and year of the car. It is an important component to have in an automobile and you may not want to drive your car without it. It can be helpful to know how this type of steering works and how to know when it is going bad.
Rack-and-pinion steering is the most common type of automatic steering system on passenger vehicles today. A gearset is enclosed in a metal tube, there is a rack protruding from the tube. A tie rod connects to each end of the rack.
There is a pinion gear that connects to the steering shaft. When a driver turns the steering wheel, the gear will spin and that will move the rack. Those tie rods at each end of the rack connect to the steering arm on the spindle.
The gear set converts the circular motion of the steering wheel into linear motion which is needed to turn the wheels of the vehicle. It produces a gear reduction which makes the wheel turn easily.
On the average car, the steering wheel will have to revolve three to four complete times to make the wheels move from the far left to the far right.
The steering ratio is important to different kinds of rack and pinion steering. Steering ratio means the proportion of which you can turn the steering wheel versus how far the wheels will turn. If your car has a higher ratio, you would have to turn the steering wheel harder to get the wheels to turn a certain distance. However, not as much effort is required due to the higher gear ratio.
Lighter cars have lower steering ratios than larger luxury cars, trucks, and SUVs. A lower ratio makes the steering respond more quickly. You will not need to turn the steering wheel as hard to get the wheels to turn a certain distance. Even though they have a lower ratio, you will not have to put that much effort into turning the steering wheel.
There are cars that have variable-ratio steering. This kind of steering uses a rack-and-pinion gearset that has one number of teeth per inch in the center and another number of teeth per inch on the outside. A vehicle with this kind of steering will respond quickly when you start a turn.
If the rack-and-pinion is in a power-steering system, the rack is designed differently. A portion of the rack includes a cylinder that has a piston in the middle. The piston is attached to the rack. There are two fluid ports in such a system. There is a port on either side of the piston. Distributing higher-pressure fluid to one side of the piston makes it move. As a result of this, the rack moves, providing the power assist.
The rack and pinion system has many components. The more moving parts a system has, the more things can go wrong with it. The system includes universal joints, main and intermediate shafts, as well as the steering rack.
The central unit receives input from the driver. This is done when the steering wheel and steering column sends a mechanical signal to the tie rods and steering shafts to complete smooth turns.
Sometimes, the steering rack simply wears out. You will want to repair this right away or your car may end up needing some very expensive repairs.
The steering rack is basically the center of the steering system. When the steering rack breaks or wears down, the ability to steer your vehicle is compromised. This is very dangerous if it happens when you are driving.
There are a few different things that should cause concern if you have rack and pinion steering.
Very Tight Steering Wheel
Rack and pinion steering systems are supported by a power steering unit these days. They use hydraulic pressure to enable smooth steering wheel handling. If the steering wheel handles tight or seems hard to turn, it's usually due to the steering rack or gearbox building an excessive amount of heat. It also may be losing hydraulic pressure from the power steering unit. In any case, it's a problem that should be taken care of right away. If you are lucky, all you will have to do is add more power steering fluid.
The Car Is Leaking Power Steering Fluid
Sometimes, tight steering can be detected by low power steering fluid. In some cars, the fluid levels will not go down unless the system has a leak. Once a car leaks power steering fluid, it means there are mechanical issues causing the leak. The mechanical issues can be a loose-fitting, broken gasket, or something else. If you don’t fix it right away, it may cause the steering rack or gearbox to become very hot. When this happens it can cause breaking gears and other components that could lead to an accident.
You will be able to tell if your car is leaking fluid because you will smell something burning. The fluid is likely to be red or pink. It will be dripping from the back part of the car's motor. If you notice this type of fluid beneath your car, you should call a mechanic as soon as possible to examine the leak and repair it before the leak causes additional damage.
There is a Grinding Noise When Steering the Car
A worn-out gearbox is ordinarily caused by a lack of lubrication. When proper lubrication is not received, it produces too much heat. The excess heat and lack of moisture causes metal-on-metal contact. You will hear loud grinding noise when you turn the car. The sound will be louder if you turn and hit a bump simultaneously. You should contact a mechanic immediately when this happens, as the steering system and other components of your car may be destroyed.
You Smell Oil Burning
A less common warning sign of a damaged steering rack or gearbox is the smell of burning oil. Since power steering fluid itself smells like burnt oil, the strong aroma of burnt oil will be present when the steering gearbox is hot. If this occurs, stop your vehicle immediately, find a safe place to park your vehicle, and call a mechanic as soon as possible. Continued driving when a steering gearbox is overheating may result in fire and catastrophic damage.
The steering rack or gearbox is an important component that is essential to the smooth operation of any car utilizing a rack and pinion steering. If you observe any of the above symptoms they should never be ignored.
Unless you are a mechanic yourself, you are going to have to go to a professional mechanic if you want your rack and pinion steering fixed. You will have several options for fixing your car. There are a few things to consider when you decide where to take the vehicle.
Taking Your Car to the Dealership
If you take your car to a dealership, you will end up paying up to three times as much as you will at an auto body shop. The dealership is likely to tell you that rack and pinion steering is not worth repairing and you may have to endure a sales pitch.
Dealerships charge by the job and not the hour, so they should be able to tell you exactly what the repair will cost. They will be able to rent you a car and they will have the necessary parts on hand, so you will not have to drive that rental car for very long. The mechanic will also be certified in your particular brand of vehicle.
Taking Your Car to An Auto Body Shop
Auto body shops are the most popular option for car repairs. They cost less than the dealership, but they are less fly by night than going to an independent mechanic who works out of their garage. AAA maintains a list of reputable mechanics so you can find one in your area.
Be sure to ask the mechanic if they are certified in your make and model of car. Ask them how long they have been a mechanic and be sure to get an estimate in writing.
Going to an Independent Mechanic
You can always go on an online bulletin board and look for a mechanic. These mechanics normally work from home. You will pay them for the repairs in cash. This may seem like the most economical option, but if they do not do everything correctly, you may end up at the dealership or an auto body shop anyway. If you do use such a mechanic, be sure to get something in writing.
Steering systems are complicated and they cost a lot of money to fix. If your car is older and the steering goes out, it may make more sense to get a new car. If you buy a new vehicle, there are a few ways you can get money for the old one.
Sell Your Car Online
Car sales websites will charge you a monthly fee to list your car online. You will have plenty of competition if you sell your car this way. You may have your ad up for several months before you even get one phone call.
Once you do get an interested party, you will have to make arrangements to show them the vehicle. You may have to do this a few times before actually selling it. Most people who are in the market for junk cars are mechanics and they may only be interested in a part or two rather than the whole machine. This will leave you with a parted out car on your property.
File an Insurance Claim
If your power steering was knocked out in an accident, You can file an insurance claim. If the damages to your car exceed the amount of money that the car is worth, the vehicle will be considered totaled. If the car is totaled, your insurance company is supposed to pay you whatever the car was worth right before the collision.
Unfortunately, neither the state or federal government has regulations for determining how much a vehicle is worth. It is up to the insurance company to decide how much the car is worth. The insurance company wants to keep its money and will not offer you what the vehicle is worth.
You can either take the paltry amount of money they offer you, or you can hire an attorney to negotiate on your behalf. Although a lawyer may be able to get you more money,they will also keep a large percentage as their fee.
Trade-In Your Car
If you are going to buy a new car, the dealership will offer you a trade-in allowance for your old car. Normally, they will offer you far less than your vehicle is really worth.
In some cases, a dealership may give you a good price for your old car. If they do this, remember to read your paperwork very carefully. Make sure they have not put the money that they gave you right back on to the final price of your new car.
When you go into the dealership, you should not let them know that you have a car to trade-in. Get the dealership to give you a final price in writing and then tell them know about the trade-in.
Sell Your Car to Us
Selling your car to us is a breeze. You just have to fill out our online form and we will call you with an offer.
Our form asks for your name, email address, and phone number. It also asks for the year, make, model, and VIN number of your car. We are generally interested in cars made after the year 2000.
If you accept the offer we make you, we will make an appointment to come to get your car. Our employee will perform a brief inspection, pay you in cash, and tow the car away for free. Nothing could be easier.