The steering gear transmits the movement of the steering wheel onto the wheels. The most popular type of the steering gear is the steering rack. Worm or screw gear is a rarity nowadays. If it fails, you may notice leaks, feel play on the steering wheel, hear a clatter when turning the wheels, feel the steering assistance being unevenly distributed or not being provided at all, as well as notice that the steering wheel does not return to its previous position after a turn.
What is the steering rack?
The steering rack connects the track rods of the front wheels and translates the rotary motion of the steering wheel into the linear motion of the track rods, causing the car's wheels to turn. Any leak, seizure of or play in the steering rack requires its repair or removal.
How is the steering rack replaced?
Replacing the steering rack requires lifting the car and removing its front wheels. Next, the track rod ends must be unscrewed from both knuckles. If your car is equipped with power steering, the hoses leading to the steering box pump should also be disconnected. Next, the braces holding the rack to the body (usually the dividing wall separating the engine chamber from the cabin) are unscrewed. Fitting a new rack requires providing new rubber pads. The power steering system should also be filled with fresh fluid. A new rack is fitted in the reverse order.
What to keep in mind?
Finally, the front wheels alignment should be checked and a test drive should be performed. Remember that driving with a faulty steering rack causes not only a discomfort and annoying noise, but also environment pollution resulting from leaking hydraulic fluid. In extreme cases, a worn and malfunctioning rack may result in an accident e.g. if it blocks after a turn and is prevented from going back to its neutral position.