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Steering Rack And Pinion Leak: Warning Signs And Causes

Most modern vehicles use a rack and pinion steering system along with the power steering. Rack and pinion is a kind of linear actuator. The mechanism involves a fixed toothed rail engaging with a smaller cog to create linear motion from rotational motion. A rack and pinion leak means loss of power steering fluid, which can lead to various problems.

The Symptoms Of Rack And Pinion Leak

Learn the causes and symptoms of rack and pinion leaking so that you can spot the trouble right away and take necessary rack and pinion repair.

1. Burning Smell

The first and the obvious indication of rack and pinion leak is a burning oil smell and a red or pink puddle under the rear side of the engine. However, to be certain that the oil is licking through the rack and pinion, put something – a piece of paper or a bowl – under the boots. If the oil drips from there, the rack and pinion system must have a nick or crack somewhere.

rack and pinion leak
The first and the obvious indication of rack and pinion leak is a burning oil smell

Other signs that will tell you about the rack and pinion leak are:

2. The Steering Wheel Feels Tight

 rack and pinion repair
When the fluid level is low, the wheel will feel tight when turning.

You can easily turn the wheel when the transmission can create enough hydraulic pressure. And, this happens as long as there is an adequate supply of power steering fluid. When the fluid level is low, the wheel will feel tight when turning.

3. The Steering Wheel Does Not Come Back To The Center

It is not surprising that an issue with the power steering fluid affects the steering wheel’s performance. It is standard for the wheel to return to the center position. But, it won’t happen when there is no power steering rack and pinion leak.

4. Grinding Noise

This problem is also related to the steering wheel. You will hear a kind of grinding sound each time you turn the wheel. It happens when the transmission does not get enough lubrication. The sound is the result of metal components rubbing with other metal parts.

rack and pinion leaking
You will hear a kind of grinding sound each time you turn the wheel if the rack and pinion leak

What Else Causes the Rack And Pinion Leaking?

The components in the rack and pinion system can wear out over time. The deterioration of the seals will cause loose fittings and leaking of power steering fluid. It seems that rack and pinion leak could be a common problem in old cars. However, rough driving style and environmental conditions can also play a role in cracking or shrinking the sealing. They are the factors what causes rack and pinion to leak.

how to replace rack and pinion
The rack and pinion leaking can be caused by loosen fittings

The main factors of leaking fluid apart from cracked seal are:

Loose Fittings – If the gears in the system don’t have a proper fitting, the fluid will drip through it. Along with good sealing, the components should have secured fittings too.

Bad Gasket – Fluid leak is a common occurrence when the gasket in the system wears out or gets damaged. Installing a new one will solve the problem.

How To Fix Rack And Pinion Leak?

Most of the time when people have problems with rack and pinion leak, the questions which we received a lot is how to rebuild a rack and pinion. Rack and pinion leaks are often expensive to fix as the seals are difficult to service, even with a mechanic. Most leaks are solved by replacing the entire rack and pinion system to ensure the system works correctly.

An alternative is a “power steering stop leak” product. While these might look like a good solution, they are only a temporary fix and will remain in your power steering system until your next power steering flush. 

power steering rack and pinion leak
Most leaks are solved by replacing the entire rack and pinion system to ensure the system works correctly.

Moreover, the rack and pinion system are often used in sports cars and other vehicles that are low to the ground or have limited space in the front of the vehicle.  Rack and pinion steering systems are used more in these situations because they are relatively compact systems and do not require elaborate linkages like the steering gear systems found in most trucks. So the rack and pinion leak fix is impossible. That’s why they prefer to replace it.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What happens when rack and pinion goes out?

If you have to face the rack and pinion leaking, you may wonder what happens when the rack and pinion goes out. The first symptom is losing control of the steering. It is really dangerous for  a rack or pinion to go out. 

rack and pinion leak repair cost
Losing control is the first symptom of rack and pinion leak

2. How long does it take to replace rack and pinion

It is said that to replace a new rack and pinion, it takes 2 hours and a half to replace it. So when you bring the car to the mechanic, make sure you have enough time to wait for the repairman. Or you can leave your car there and come back to get later. Some time, how long does it take to replace rack and pinion depends on the repairman or the situation of the car. But it will not be over 3 hours in general. 

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3. Can I drive with a leaking rack and pinion

As what happens to the car when the rack and pinion goes out, you will lose the control of steering. We do not recommend you drive a car with rack and pinion leak. It is dangerous for your life and also for your car. If you have not leaked out all, you may still drive your car as long as you are only driving on a straight road. 

what happens when rack and pinion goes out
We do not recommend you drive a car with rack and pinion leak since it is really dangerous

4. How much does it cost to replace new rack and pinion?

The power steering rack leak cost would be high if you want to repair your pinion assy and the steering rack. On average, to repair the pinion assy and the steering rack, rack and pinion leak repair cost from $500 to $1000 and this would highly depend on the model and the type of your vehicle. The reason rack and pinion leaks are so expensive to fix is that the seals are often not serviceable, even by a mechanic. Most rack and pinion leaks will require the replacement of the entire rack and pinion assembly even if most of it works just fine. 

Conclusion

Is it safe to drive with a rack and pinion leak? Well, you can drive with a leak but there are risks of driving with low steering fluid level. Taking a turn will be difficult in this condition. So, you should service it as soon as you detect the sign of leaking. Remember to follow our maintenance tips for better fixing your car.