Power Steering Rack: Everything You Need to Know
Author: Machter Autoparts Date Posted: 13 October 2020
The steering rack is an integral part of your vehicle's rack and pinion steering mechanism. This component is responsible for converting the steering wheel's rotational motion into linear motion that turns the car's wheels. It is a metal bar that sits parallel to the front axle that moves with the steering wheel when it is turned. A power steering rack uses an engine-driven to supply high-pressure hydraulic fluid to the steering rack when the wheel is turned. This allows the steering rack to turn easier. This also means that there will be significant seals, o-rings, and hoses to contain hydraulic fluid.
If the power steering wheel wears out badly, the fluid will start to leak. If the hydraulic fluid is drained out, it will result in hard, challenging, and unmanageable steering. If this happens, this is the right time for steering rack replacement. You don't want to experience having a failing steering rack. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about the power steering rack and how to replace failing ones.
What is a Steering Rack?
As mentioned before, the steering rack is an essential part of any vehicle's rack and pinion mechanism. The steering and suspension system is the metal bar that sits parallel to the front axle that moves left and right as the steering wheel is turned. The steering rack movement allows the driver to aim and maneuver the wheels in their desired direction. The part of this metal bar has grooves on one side, which comes in contact with the pinion gear. This mechanism is responsible for converting the steering wheel's rotational motion into linear motion that turns the vehicle's wheels.
How Does a Steering Rack Work?
To understand what a steering rack is used for, it is crucial to know how a rack and pinion steering mechanism works. Rack and pinion steering is a mechanism responsible for rotating the wheels of the car as the driver turns the steering wheel. It is the most common type of steering system found on most cars and in some small SUVs. Rack and pinion steering can function with or without power steering.
This steering mechanism allows the driver to have more control over the wheels' direction while the vehicle is making a turn. While this has fewer moving parts than larger conventional steering systems, rack and pinion steering help lessen the effort needed to drive and direct the car. This gear sits on the steering rack's side, which has grooves cut into it, pushing the rack left and right as the steering wheel is turned. The end of each steering rack has a tie rod that links it to the kingpin. This movement directs the wheels when making a turn.
Types of Steering Rack
Based on operation, there are two types of steering racks: manual and power steering racks. A manually operated steering rack works like the one described above. Still, a power steering rack uses an additional device on one side of the rack with an internal hydraulically actuated piston. As the steering wheel is turned, hydraulic fluid is directed to the piston's left or right side by a rotary valve. This applies pressure to the piston, which minimises the required effort needed to move the steering rack. Electrically powered steering systems replace the hydraulic power steering rack and pinion system with a motor.
Choosing the Right Steering Rack
If you separate the steering rod from the entire steering and suspension system, it might look like a worthless metal rod. But without it, you won't be able to maneuver and turn your car through the roads.
So if you feel that your steering wheel is a little loose or the tires are misaligned, it's about time for steering rack replacement. Here are some things to remember when getting a replacement steering rack.
Understand your Steering System
Because your steering rack is part of a bigger system-rack and pinion steering systemthe type of steering rack you need would depend on the steering system your vehicle has. Most cars are using the standard rack and pinion steering system. If you have this type of steering system, the steering rack is easy to spot. It is a simple, lightweight rack with differently sized metal teeth. Unlike a simple steering system, a power steering rack has a slightly different design and has more parts.
On the middle of a power steering rack, you will see a cylinder with a piston. This piston is designed with two fluid ports to direct higher-pressure fluid to one of its sides that are protected by steering rack boots a power steering provides the provide the power needed to steer your car. So if your vehicle has a power steering system installed, choosing the right steering rack can be more tedious. Apart from looking at the quality and fit of the rack for a power steering system, you should also inspect the fluid ports and compatibility with the steering system's fluid lines.
Buy the Entire Steering Rack Assembly
Whether you have a standard rack and pinion system or you have a power-assisted one, you need to make sure that the steering rack includes fitting for inner tie rods. This is to ensure that everything will fit perfectly with the entire suspension and steering system. Apart from that, this will also help prevent power steering rack leak or any leaks.
Another advantage of buying the whole assembly instead of just a part is that there are no core changes applied to the entire mechanism. This will eliminate the hassle of returning your old part for a core refund. So when buying a steering rack replacement, don't just buy the rack; buy the whole assembly for a more direct fit and increased life span.
Always Check the Warranty
As with any aftermarket parts, never buy without a warranty. This will help you save time, effort, and money if the part you purchase is not functioning as expected. The standard warranty for a steering rack is one year. For the mileage terms, it will vary according to the type of steering system you have. If you have a standard rack and pinion steering, it is usually covered by an unlimited mileage warranty. This is because it has less moveable parts and is generally used for smaller loads. If you have a more complicated system such as a power steering system, it is more susceptible to wear. That's why it does not have the same warranty terms as a standard system. Sellers and distributors usually cover around 15,000 to 18,000 miles.
What are the Symptoms of a Bad Steering Rack?
The steering rack is the most crucial part of the steering system. If it wears out or breaks entirely, the ability to manoeuvre and steer your vehicle is compromised. Here are the symptoms or warning signs that your steering rack is failing.
The steering wheel is tough to turn
The rack and pinion steering systems we have today are supported by a power steering rack that uses hydraulic pressure to allow easy and quick steering and wheel handling. When the steering wheel is difficult to turn than usual, it's usually because of the steering rack or gearbox building up more heat or a loss of hydraulic pressure from the power steering unit. Whichever is it, it's a problem that won't go away and should be inspected as soon as possible by a mechanic. In some cases, as simple as adding more power steering fluid or a minor adjustment can solve this problem and extend the lifespan of your steering wheel.
The steering fluid is leaking
As mentioned above, if your steering wheel is difficult to turn, it is indicated by low power steering fluid. Since the steering box is hydraulically powered, the fluid levels won't decrease unless there is a leak somewhere in the system. If there's a power steering rack leak, it means that there is a loose-fitting, broken gasket, or other mechanical issues that must be fixed as soon as possible. If you weren't able to fix it, it would cause the steering rack or gearbox to develop excess heat, which can potentially break gears and other components leading to a crash. You can distinguish a leaking steering fluid from other fluid by its smell since it usually smells like burning oil. It's generally in red or pink and will be dripping from the back part of your motor.
Loud noise when steering
When your steering rack is failing, it usually means that it lacks proper lubrication and service. The excess heat causes metal-to-metal contact creating a loud grinding noise when you manoeuvre left or right. The noise is intensified if you are turning and hitting a bump at the same time, like when you drive into a driveway.
When you smell burning oil
One of the less common signs of a failing steering rack is the smell of burning oil. The power steering fluid smells like burnt oil, so the strong aroma of burnout oil will be present when the steering gearbox is hot. If this happens, stop your car immediately, find a safe place to park your car and call a mechanic as soon as possible. If you continue driving when a steering gearbox is overheating, it may result in fire and catastrophic damage.
How to Replace a Steering Rack?
If you are experiencing some of the following symptoms mentioned above and would want to replace your steering rack on your own, here the steps you can follow:
Things you'll need:
- Jack stands
- Power steering fluid
- Brake line wrench set
- New steering rack
- Ratchet and socket set
- The first step is to lift and secure your car using a jack and jack stands. You will need to crawl underneath your vehicle to work on your steering rack, so be sure that your car is properly secured. Make sure that your wheels are straight and the steering wheel is locked before working on the rack itself.
- Now that you have a good view of your steering rack remove the tie rod ends from the steering knuckles using a wrench.
- Once all the bolts and attachments have been loosened, locate your power steering lines. It is usually connected to the rack with the brake line wrenches. Those lines carry a lot of pressure, so be sure to crack them first before loosening.
- Remove the bolts from the steering rack and pull it off from the column. Don't forget that before unbolting the rack from the frame, make sure that it is properly supported with either your hand or a spare set of jack stands.
- Place your new steering rack. Ensure that it is centred before completely installing the rack. Reassemble all the other parts that were removed in steps 2 to 4 in reverse order.
- Ensure that all bolts are correctly secured, and everything is in place before testing your installation job. If you want to know "how do I test my steering rack?" after being replaced, unlock your steering wheel while your car is still lifted and turn the wheels from side to side ten times. Apart from knowing if you've installed the rack correctly, testing it will also help work the air out of the power steering system.
How much does it cost to replace a steering rack in AU (Australia)? The steering rack replacement cost depends on the year, make, and model of your vehicle.
Can you drive with a bad steering rack?
It is not recommended to drive with a bad steering rack as it may lead to an accident. If you think your steering rack is faulty, have it replaced immediately.
When should I replace my steering rack?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a failing steering rack, it is time for you to replace it. Driving with a bad steering rack can be dangerous.
What causes steering rack damage?
The two main reasons why your car steering rack is damaged are fluid contamination and steering pump wear. It only takes a small leak or contaminated fluid, and your rack or steering pump will deteriorate. This will lead to reduced steering ability and failure to steer your car at all.
Machter Auto Parts
However you plan on replacing your power steering rack -on your own or by a professional, it is best to use your car steering rack from a very reputable source. Here at Machter Auto, we offer a range of steering rack and power steering rack that would perfectly fit your vehicle. As one of the very best replacement car parts providers in Australia, you can be guaranteed that all Machter car parts are the best in the market.
Check out the Machter Auto Parts website online to shop for the best car parts online at the lowest price. You can also get in touch with one of our friendly experts to help you find the best car parts for your vehicle or if you need to buy wholesale car parts. Call the team at (02) 7801 4933