What does the steering rack do?

Steering rack repair

The steering rack looks like a long metal tube that is located near the front of your vehicle. The steering rack acts as the heart of your car’s steering system, working with the pinion gear to allow for smooth, precise turning of the vehicle. 

As the pinion gear rotates, the steering rack moves left or right between the two front wheels. This transfers the steering wheels input into the energy that moves your vehicle’s front wheels to steer.

In vehicles with power steering, a power steering pump is used to supply the steering rack with high-pressure, hydraulic fluid. The power steering fluid allows for easier vehicle turning. 

Hybrid, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EV) use electric power steering, as the combustion engine may not be running when power steering is needed. These electric power systems use a variety of steering sensors and can be electronically diagnosed and calibrated with a scan tool.

Some vehicles have a type of four-wheel steering that uses a type of steering rack to control small changes in the rear wheels as well.

Learn more about how your car’s steering system works >


What are the causes of steering rack problems?

Over time, the steering rack can eventually become worn and function incorrectly. This is due to the constant amount of pressure the various steering components are put under. Sometimes, what you think is a steering rack problem can actually be caused by damage to your vehicle’s CV Joints and drive shafts.


Steering rack boot damaged – steering rack boots are made from a type of rubber, The steering rack boot rubber can perish over time, and the steering rack boot can crack or split. Once the steering rack boot is cracked or split it will allow water, dirt, dust and grit to enter the rack and pinion arrangement which can quickly wear them out.

If you have a power steering system, then this grit, dirt and water will be dragged through the power steering rack end seals, which can quickly destroy them. When the steering rack end seals fail you are likely to get red power steering fluid leaking out from under your vehicle. If the power steering fluid gets too low then you may loose power steering, which can be very dangerous while driving. Also your power steering pump may seize up, which means a higher future expense.

Because of the dangers involved, damaged power steering rack boots will fail a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). We recommend that if you notice any red power steering oil (or any red oil) leaking from under your vehicle that you get it checked by your trusted local mechanics as soon as possible.

Damage steering rack ends – steering rack ends have a type of ball joint that connect them to the steering rack and pinion. If the steering rack end becomes worn or loose, then your car will also fail a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). One of the main reasons that steering rack ends fail is because the the steering rack boot has become split or cracked at some stage, and has allowed water, dirt and grit to enter the steering rack end ball joint (please see above).


What are the symptoms of a failing steering rack?

Power steering fluid leaks – In vehicles with power steering, a faulty steering rack will often cause power steering fluid to leak from underneath your vehicle. 

Difficulty turning – A failing steering rack can make it difficult to turn your vehicle. This can compromise your safety and should be fixed as soon as possible.

Weak, unresponsive steering – Your steering wheel may feel light and not require much force to move. This signifies a weakened connection between the steering wheel and rack.

Heavy / hard to turn steering wheel – this is a sign that the steering rack is seizing up, or that the power steering is no longer assisting the driver.

Knocking noise in steering – some common causes for this can be from a worn rack and pinion, worn steering rack end, worn tie rod ends, or worn steering rack mounting bushes.


How important is a steering rack adjustment/replacement?

The steering rack enables your vehicle to turn, giving you control over where your vehicle is going. A faulty steering rack (or other steering component) can limit your vehicle’s driveability by preventing it from turning as effectively.

Additionally, a worn steering rack can cause damage to other parts of your car if left unfixed, meaning you are better of repairing it sooner rather than later. All parts of the steering rack must be working correctly to pass a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). 


Steering rack adjustment and replacement in Hamilton

Is your vehicle leaking fluid or not steering correctly? If so, you may be in need of a steering rack adjustment or replacement.

At Grimmer Motors, our trusted, experienced mechanics can quickly identify faults in your steering system. We can then adjust any issues. Whether your vehicle has power steering, manual steering or electric power steering we can organise a quality replacement of the steering rack.

Please Note – we don’t generally stock or supply just “parts only” for this service. We are a general automotive repair workshop. If you are able to bring your vehicle to us, we can diagnose the problem, find and fit the necessary parts, or organise the appropriate service for you.


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