Symptoms of bad rack and pinion bushings are the top causes of rough and unsafe driving conditions. The unit contains over 20 parts, connecting the steering wheel to the car’s front wheels.
Rack and pinion bushings’ core purpose is to provide a car with stability. They act as a cushion to absorb impacts between the vehicle frame and the power steering rack.
If they fail or wear out, they loosen other car components and cause vigorous vibrations. This can lead to partial or complete damage, or worse, fatal accidents.
It is recommended you inspect the steering rack and pinion mounting bushing always. This article will take you through six of the most common warning signs you can check for damage.
Symptoms of Bad Rack and Pinion Bushings
1. Defects on the bushing rubber parts
When driving, steering rack mounting bushings get exposed to water, heat, debris, sand, and other threats.
The rubber dries, cracks, weakens, or shrinks, causing significant wear on the rack and pinion as time goes by.
All these affect the longevity of the bushings rubber portion, requiring you to make replacements.
2. Fluid leakage from the seals and O-rings
Fluid leaks are a common sign to identify faulty steering rack mounting bushings. The easiest way to note the leakage is you check out if there are oil stains under the car each morning before you drive off.
Ensure the leaked fluid is from the steering rack mounting bushings, not other parts such as the engine or brake.
The best way to affirm this is to check the steering oil level in the reservoir. If it reduces faster after a refill, chances are that there is a leakage.
Ignoring this will not only cause loss of the power steering fluid, but you will also use more force to steer. Still, the rack and pinion unit will wear out faster due to the excess friction.
3. Numb spot
Numb spot refers to the steering wheel’s excessive play when moved. In other words, the steering wheel turns more than one and a half inches, but the tires stay constant.
This is often because of looseness in the power steering gear. The condition is dangerous as it makes turning or evading obstacles.
Consider calling a specialist to confirm how much of the numb spot is safe for your car model.
Ensure you check out possible wear on the inner or outer tie rods since they connect to the power steering rack, causing similar problems.
Note, high-quality tie rods ought to last around 75,000 to 100,000 miles.
4. Clunking sound in the steering rack
Any clucking sound emanating from the front of your car is a sign of loose or worn-out pinion bushings. Affected parts include:
- The upper control arm bushings,
- The steering rack mountain bushings,
- Stabilizer bar bushings.
The sound will be more prevalent when driving over road cracks or speed bumps. You can also feel it on the steering wheel when you pass cement seams in tunnels or bridges.
5. Inconsistent steering or jerking in the steering wheel
Does your car’s steering wheel refuse to acknowledge your directions? Faulty steering rack and pinion bushings cause a vehicle to make a sudden left or right turn on its own.
The steering wheel becomes harder to control and navigate to a straight position after turning at lower speeds.
Jerking movements signal loose or worn-out bearings. They cause excessive clearance between the rack and pinion. This can make a vehicle veer off the road and cause an accident if unchecked.
Problems with the power steering pump can also make the steering wheel unresponsive as it fails to generate enough pressure.
For diagnosis, connect a pressure gauge between the steering rack and the power steering pump.
Check the pressure to confirm it corresponds with that of the car manufacturer. In most vehicles, power steering pump pressure ranges from 200 to 1000 PSI.
6. Clicking sounds while turning the steering wheel
In some cases, you may hear a clicking or popping sound when steering to the left or right. This is a sign of failing or worn-out rack mounting bushings causing free play in the steering column.
It is dangerous and can misalign a vehicle’s wheels. Also, it can cause significant suspension failure to the steering box components if ignored.
A rule of thumb is to replace the steering rack mounting bushing as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you drive a car with bad rack and pinion bushings?
No, it is dangerous and can be fatal. Damages to the steering rack and pinion bushings prevent you from steering the vehicle effectively.
2. What causes bad rack and pinion bushings?
Rack and pinion units engage while you steer, causing wear and tear on the metal leads. This creates room for slippage and loosening on the bearings and bushings.
3. Will you need wheel alignment after replacing rack bushings?
It is not necessary to align the wheels after the replacement. But again, if the vehicle pulls to one side, you need to get it aligned to avoid accidents or uneven tire wear.
4. Do steering rack bushings need greasing?
No, it is unnecessary to use grease on steering rack bushings, but you can apply it on the poly bushings such as the suspension bushings.
5. What are the consequences of bad rack steering bushings?
Bad rack and pinion bushing make the steering system unreliable. This leads to compromised safety and impaired driving experience.
6. How much does it cost to replace bad rack and pinion bushings?
The cost depends on the rack and pinion unit you want to install, the model of your car, and the labor charges. The fee can range from $1,534 to $1,860.
It is crucial to get a certified mechanic to inspect your vehicle’s pinion bushings and suspension system anytime you notice leaks or unusual sounds.
Broken or symptoms of bad rack and pinion bushings can spread problems to other parts. But again, repairing them in good time is easier and cheaper.
It reduces the potential of accidents and the hassle of replacing an entire steering system or suspension component in the long run.