What Are Rack and Pinion Failure Symptoms?


Rack and pinions are an integral part of the steering system, which is arguably the most important component in a car. It links the driver to the wheels, transmitting the necessary force to ensure that the vehicle goes where it should go.

When the rack and pinion fail, the symptoms include steering difficulties and a loud clanking noise when turning the wheel. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to further damage and ultimately increase the cost of repairs.

This article will list the most common rack and pinion failure symptoms so that you can be more prepared. We will also provide some tips on preventing this steering system failure in the first place.

1. Steering Fluid Leaks

One of the most common racks and pinion symptoms is leaking steering fluid. If you notice that your car constantly needs more steering fluid, or if you see puddles of red liquid under your vehicle, the rack and pinion are likely malfunctioning.

Steering fluid is essential to keeping the rack and pinion system running smoothly. If there’s not enough fluid, the system will overheat, which can cause further damage.

How To Fix?

Be sure to check your fluid level regularly and keep an eye out for leaks. 

If you notice any abnormalities, have them fixed right away. You may also want to consider upgrading to a higher-quality steering fluid, which keeps the system running smoothly and reduce the likelihood of failure.

Read: What Cars Have Best Autopilot?

2. Excessive Noise

The rack and pinion will need repairing or replacement if you hear a loud clanking noise when turning the wheel. This noise is caused by metal-on-metal contact, and it can be pretty loud and irritating. The problem, however, is that the noise gets worse over time. 

If you continue to drive with a faulty rack and pinion, you could do some serious damage to the system.

How To Fix?

If you’re experiencing excessive noise, you may need to replace the rack and pinion. It’s a costly repair, but it’s better than allowing the problem to persist and potentially doing even more damage.

Read: Why There Is Noise When Turning Steering Wheel While Stationary?

3. Difficulty Steering

If your car is becoming increasingly difficult to steer, it could signify that the rack and pinion are malfunctioning. When this happens, you may need to apply more force than usual to make the car go where you want it to.

This symptom can be dangerous, as it makes it difficult to control the car in sharp turns or during bad weather, which leaves you more susceptible to accidents.

How To Fix?

By the time the steering gets to this point, it means you have missed or ignored a lot of the earlier symptoms. The best way to prevent this is to be proactive and catch any problems as soon as they start. 

This includes checking fluid levels, looking for leaks, and getting any strange noises checked out by a mechanic.

Read: Why Car Makes Noise When Turning at Low Speed?

4. Uneven Wear on Tires

If you’re seeing uneven wear on your tires, it could be a sign that the rack and pinion need repair. One side of the tire will wear down more quickly than the other when this happens.

How To Fix?

If you’re seeing this symptom, it’s essential to have the rack and pinion repaired as soon as possible. If left unchecked, the problem will worsen and lead to a blown tire. Add that to the cost of repairing the rack and minion, and you’re looking at a pretty expensive fix.

Overinflation, bad alignment, and a worn-out suspension can also cause uneven tire wear. So if you’re seeing this symptom, it’s a good idea to have your car checked out by a mechanic. 

They will diagnose the problem and suggest the best course of action.


5. Sluggish Response

If the car feels sluggish or like it’s taking too long to respond when you turn the wheel, it could be a sign that the rack and pinion are malfunctioning. This symptom is usually caused by a lack of fluid or an issue with the seals.

A sluggish response can also result from tight steering gear or an improperly adjusted steering rack. If it’s not a problem with the rack and pinion, have your technician investigate the other possible causes.

How To Fix?

Fixing this issue usually requires flushing the system and adding new fluid, but if the seals are damaged, you may need to replace the rack and pinion. This will set you back a few hundred dollars, but it’s a lot cheaper than dealing with an accident.

You can check out this video for steps on how you can flush your power steering fluid:

6. Lingering Smell of Burnt Oil

If you’re noticing a lingering smell of burnt oil, it could be a sign that the rack and pinion are malfunctioning. This symptom is usually caused by a lack of fluid or an issue with the seals.

A lack of fluid can be caused by several things, including leaks and contaminated fluid. If the seals are damaged, engine oil could seep into the system, which will eventually cause the rack and pinion to fail.

How To Fix?

You’ll need to find and fix the leak and then refill the system with fresh fluid to solve this issue. And be sure to use the correct type of fluid for your car. However, if you can’t find the source of the leak, have a mechanic look at it. They’ll be able to diagnose and fix the problem quickly.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair a Rack and Pinion?

If your rack and pinion are starting to show failure symptoms, it’s important to have them repaired as soon as possible. A malfunctioning rack and pinion can lead to all sorts of problems, including a blown tire or an accident.

To repair a rack and pinion will cost you around $1,400 to $1,800, which should cover the cost of parts and labor. However, this cost varies depending on the make and model of your car. 

If your car has a complicated or specialized rack and pinion system, this cost can go up. 

So if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to get several quotes before choosing a mechanic. That’s how you’ll get the best deal for the repair.

Read: What Are Bad Control Arm Symptoms

Is It Worth Repairing a Steering Rack on an Old Car?

It can be worth repairing a steering rack on an old car if your car is in good shape or has a lot of sentimental value. Be sure to factor in the cost of repairs when considering whether or not to keep your car. If you’re driving an old, run-down car, the answer to this question is probably no. 

The cost of repairing a rack and pinion can be pretty expensive, and it may not be worth it to spend that amount of money on an old car.

The problem with old vehicles is that they usually need more than one repair. You may need to replace the rack and pinion, the brakes, the engine, and more. So it’s not worth it to spend a lot of money on repairs when you could buy a new car.

If you decide to have the rack and pinion repaired, be sure to shop around for the best price. You can usually find a good deal at an auto repair shop or online.


Preventing rack and pinion failure is easy if you follow some basic guidelines. Be sure to check fluid levels, look for leaks, and get any strange noises checked out by a mechanic.

By following these tips, you can help to keep your car in top condition and reduce the likelihood of a rack and pinion failure. But if you do experience problems, don’t hesitate to take your vehicle to a mechanic. They’ll diagnose the problem and suggest the best course of action. 

You can also DIY a rack and pinion replacement if you feel confident.

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