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What Happens When Rack and Pinion Goes Out

Losing control of your car while driving is not a situation you’d like to deal with, right? Sadly, it’s something that can happen when parts of your steering system become loose, and it’s normally a result of the rack and pinion going out.

To help you avoid a situation whereby you drive with a snapped rack and pinion and end up losing control of the vehicle, we’ll outline the symptoms to look out for.

What Is the Rack and Pinion System?

Vehicles normally use what is known as the rack and pinion steering system technology. This system has several parts like the universal joint, the steering jack, the shaft, and the gearbox.

It happens to be the heart of the steering system.

When there is an issue within it, and it fails to perform effectively, then this is a recipe for disaster. When the rack and pinion go out, the steering wheel becomes faulty and unreliable.

Whenever you notice that there is an issue with your steering wheel, do not drive in this condition.

So, what actually happens when the rack and pinion go out?

Your car will give you several warnings which are indicators that there is a problem with the steering system.

The earlier you pick up these warnings, the better since they will save you from a potential car crash. The following is what happens when your rack and pinion goes out.

Tight Steering Wheel

The cars that we drive today are mostly steered by a powered steering wheel. Under normal circumstances, the steering wheel is supposed to be smooth and easy. You will experience an easy feel whenever you steer your car in any direction if there is no issue with the steering wheel.

If everything is okay with the steering wheel, then the hydraulic pressure shouldn’t make it hard for you. If you start to feel that the steering wheel is becoming hard or tight, then there is a serious underlying issue. This means that there is a loss of hydraulic pressure which is forming a heat build-up that is making the steering wheel hard.

To solve this issue, you will need to make minor adjustments to the steering wheel. Then apply steering fluid. If the situation persists then consult the services of your mechanic.

Leaking Steering Fluid

The hydraulic system is the one which operates and powers the steering wheel. If the level of fluid in the hydraulic system reduces below the required level, then it means that there is an issue.

The possible reason could be that there is a leakage somewhere. When leakage occurs, it means that there is a loose fitting which needs immediate attention. If you notice fluid leakage, make sure you seal the leak. This will prevent the gears from potential breakage.

Burning Smell

When steering your car especially through a corner and at some point, you notice a whiff of burning oil then there is a high possibility that the rack and pinion have gone out. The burning smell is usually present in the steering gearbox.

Once you notice the burning smell, it is advisable that you stop the car immediately and you contact your mechanic or look for a qualified mechanic nearby.

If you continue driving in this state, it may result in a fire. If not, your steering wheel will experience irreversible damage.


Generally, if you hear noises from the steering wheel, it means that there is something wrong. When you turn the steering wheel and hear a grinding, thudding or clucking sound, then it means that the steering components are loose. The clucking or grinding noise is as a result of metal to metal contact. When it gets to this point, it is advisable that you start preparing for a possible replacement of the steering gearbox.

Wobbling Tires

Whenever you have a shaky wheel, then it means that there is a problem with the steering column. When the steering column is out of alignment, then it means that the steering system has gone bad.

Uneven Tire Wear

This problem is related to the one in number 5. When the steering column is out of alignment, the control of the wheels will not be co-ordinated as expected. The unsynchronized control forces cause wobbling of the tires which result in uneven wear and tear.

Stick Steering Wheel Problem

This symptom mostly occurs when driving on a straight course. If you let go of the steering wheel and it veers either to the left or the right, then the rack and pinion have gone out. Also if you take a turn and the steering wheel does not go back to its original or natural position, then there is an issue.

If this occurs and you are driving on a straight course, then you need to hold on to the steering wheel to reduce the swerves.

If your car is experiencing any of the above symptoms, then it is time to contact a qualified mechanic. The mechanic will look into the issue and correct the rack and pinion problem.

If you notice any of the above issues make sure you take quick action to avoid any catastrophes. It is important that you are in control of your vehicle at all times and especially in emergency situations.

Whenever the rack and pinion go out of line, then it means that there are broken or worn out units.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

My steering wheel is hard. Is there an issue with the power steering pump or the rack and pinion?

This condition is known as “morning sickness”. The issue is related to the rack and the pinion. They should be replaced for the proper functioning of the steering wheel.

Why is my car pulling to one side after I replaced the rack and pinion?

If you have replaced your rack and your car is still pulling to one side, then there are several reasons. First, ensure there is proper alignment. Also, check for inflated or worn out tires.

Why are the rack and pinion leaking out the boots?

This problem will arise if the technician failed to loosen the boot camp after fixing the rack. Failure to loosen the boot clamp resulted in cracking. Once the boot is cracked, road debris will cause leaking.

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