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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 power steering leak rack and pinion so that you can spot the trouble right away and take necessary repair action.

1. Burning Smell

The obvious indication of power steering fluid 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
Check under the boots for a leak

Other signs that will tell you about the leak are:

2. The Steering Wheel Feels Tight

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 the rack and pinion are malfunctioning due to the 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.

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.

rack and pinion leak
Don’t keep driving with low steering fluid

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.

In 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.