A rack and pinion is a steering system that is often found in sports vehicles as well as other types of cars that sit lower to the ground.
These systems are often used in this type of vehicle because they are compact and do not need links to steering gear systems such as those found in many trucks or larger vehicles.
A rack and pinion will transfer the circular motion of turning the steering wheel to your tire rod to push the steering knuckle. This is what causes the front wheels of your car to turn. Both a rack and a pinion are used to complete this task, which is where the name comes from.
A pinion is a small gear that is located at the end of a steering column. It rotates as the steering wheel is turned.
The rack is actually a gear that the pinion sits on. When the pinion is turning, the teeth engage with the teeth of the rack.
When the pinion engages the rack it is pushed either left or right. This is how we create the motion to turn the wheels of your car.
A power steering system in a vehicle makes it a lot easier to turn. These systems use a pump that pressurizes fluid to send down through the rack and pinion.
This fluid helps loosen up the wheel so it is not too hard to turn when your car is stationary or moving slowly. Like all hydraulic systems, power steering systems are prone to leaks.
The hoses and lines of a power steering system are made of flexible rubber which can crack.
Another possible place for a leak is at the connection area. However, the most common place for the power steering system to leak is at one of the seals of the rack and pinion.
Where the rack and pinion and the steering column meet, there is a seal. There are also seals where the tire rods are attached. These seals keep power steering fluid contained as they allow the steering column to move and the tire rods to move.
These seals may shrink, crack, or dry out over time. They can also become unseated, which may cause a leak as well.
Checking for Leaks
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to check these seals for leaks.
The hardest part is getting under the car to find them, but you can do this by using a jack. If using a jack, make sure that the car is safely secured before you get under it.
Rack and pinions are the lowest parts of the car and are usually located under the oil pan of the vehicle.
Why Rack and Pinion Leaks are Expensive to Repair
One of the main reasons that a leak in the rack and pinion is so expensive to get fixed is because most often the seals cannot be serviced, even by a certified professional. Most of the time the entire rack and pinion assembly will need to be replaced, even if the rest of it is in good working order.
To give you an idea of what’s involved in replacing the whole thing, take a look at this clip from Scotty Kilmer:
It isn’t all doom and gloom if you discovered a leak in your rack and pinion. In some cases you can restore the seals in the rack without having it removed. And there are several products available on the market that can be used to seal up any leaks found in the power steering assembly or in the rack and pinion. Blue Devil make a very good stop leak. It’s probably our preferred choice. You can read a review of it here, although there are plenty more leading brands who make similar products.
These products are supposedly guaranteed to seal the leak within just a days or too of driving. All you need to do is add the sealer to the power steering reservoir and it will begin working to seal up any leaks that may be in the lines.
If you discover a leak in your rack and pinion system, trying a stop leak product can be a cheap way to fix this problem. However, if this does not fix the leak, or if the crack or hole is rather large, the system may need to be totally replaced, which can be expensive.
If you’re not sure about any of this you should speak to a mechanic.
Have you had to deal with a rack and pinion leak recently? If so, what did you do?
Let us know below.
For help in fixing it yourslef check out this great step-by-step guide by DIY.