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Summary
  • Rack-and-pinion refers to a type of steering gear that’s lighter and more compact than its older counterparts.
  • The common symptoms of a bad rack-and-pinion are loose steering wheel, power steering fluid leaks, steering issues at low speeds, strange noises while using the steering wheel, and wandering steering.
  • A bad rack-and-pinion makes it more difficult to drive your vehicle, and it can also increase wear on steering parts.
  • An aftermarket rack and pinion replacement will typically cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 on parts alone.

Rack and pinion steering is one of two kinds of steering systems. When a rack and pinion assembly wears out, the steering feel and quality will decline. To prevent this from happening, you must replace your rack-and-pinion steering gear right away when it wears out.

When it’s time to buy a replacement rack-and-pinion steering gear for your vehicle, you should know what to do to make sure you get the right one. Read on to learn all about the rack-and-pinion steering gear, when to replace it, how much it can cost you, and more.

What Is a Rack and Pinion?

The term “rack and pinion” describes the basic design of this type of steering gear. The rack-and-pinion steering gear is newer, lighter, and takes less space than a conventional steering gear.

car aftermarket rack and pinion assembly
The rack and pinion can be hydraulically assisted, electrically assisted, or unassisted.

The rack and pinion can be hydraulically assisted, electrically assisted, or unassisted. When the steering wheel is turned, the steering gear pushes or pulls the wheels in the desired direction.

This rack-and-pinion steering system uses a pinion gear at the end of the steering column that’s turning against a geared rack. The steering column turns in time with the steering wheel, which also causes the pinion to turn. The pinion gear engages with the rack and moves the rack accordingly.

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How Does a Rack-and-Pinion Steering Gear Work?

The rack connects directly to the tie rod in the steering linkage to move the linkage back and forth in a straight line. The steering gear input shaft is splined to the steering shaft U-joint. At the end of the steering gear input shaft, which extends into the rack housing, is the pinion gear. Two ball bearings reduce friction between the shaft and the steering gear housing.

Most rack-and-pinion units use a small metal tube that runs along the housing’s exterior to connect the two boots and transfer air from one to the other. If there were no means for air displacement between the boots, they can collapse as they expand or explode when they compress.

Internal threads on each end of the rack keep the externally threaded tie rods secure. A rubber boot at each side of the steering gear housing covers the end of the rack and the inner tie rod end to prevent dirt, water, and other contaminants from entering the assembly. Band clamps fasten the ends of the boots to the housing and tie rods.

The tie rods move back and forth with the rack. They also connect it to the wheels through the steering linkage. The housing generally bolts to either a flange on the firewall or to the subframe or engine cradle. The mounting points have rubber cushions to isolate the steering gear from shock and vibration.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Rack and Pinion?

Experiencing steering-related problems on your vehicle? They might be telltale signs of bad rack-and-pinion steering gears. Here are some of the symptoms you need to watch out for to help tell if your rack and pinion is bad:

  • Power steering fluid leaks
  • Odd noises when turning the steering wheel
  • Difficulty steering at low speeds
  • Loose sensation when turning the wheel
  • Wandering steering

A leak in your rack and pinion steering system is especially troubling. Leaks can indicate internal damage to the system, requiring a new or remanufactured replacement.

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Can You Drive With a Damaged Rack-And-Pinion Steering Gear?

You can drive with a damaged rack-and-pinion steering gear, but it’s best that you don’t. Although a damaged rack and pinion won’t necessarily stop your vehicle from functioning, it would make it hard to handle or drive, which is unsafe. Additionally, driving with a damaged part can cause wear on the other parts of your vehicle’s steering system.

How Often Do Steering Racks Need to Be Replaced?

Like any other car part, the steering rack can eventually fail from normal wear and tear. If your vehicle’s rack-and-pinion steering gear starts showing signs of wear, replace it right away.

How Much Does a Rack and Pinion Replacement Cost?

An aftermarket rack and pinion replacement will typically cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 on parts alone. The price of a new rack-and-pinion steering gear depends on various factors, like the part’s brand, quantity, condition, operation, and your vehicle’s specifications.

Because an internal fluid leak usually requires you to replace the entire steering system, the cost to repair a rack and pinion leak is the same. While rebuilding the rack is an option, it requires highly specialized tools and knowhow. Rebuilding a steering system simply isn’t feasible for the average joe.

You can generally expect to pay around an extra $300 to $1000 to have your damaged rack-and-pinion steering gear professionally replaced. Of course, this is only an estimate and prices might vary depending on the rates in your area.

What to Consider When Looking for a Rack and Pinion Replacement

aftermarket rack and pinion replacement options
Shopping for a new rack-and-pinion steering gear can quickly become overwhelming because of the wide variety of options on the market.

Shopping for a new rack-and-pinion steering gear can quickly become overwhelming because of the wide variety of options on the market. To help you choose the right one for your vehicle, here are some factors to consider when shopping for a rack and pinion replacement:

Application

Always check for fitment before buying a new rack-and-pinion steering gear for your vehicle. Get a replacement that’s designed specifically for your vehicle to guarantee a perfect fit and hassle-free installation.

Quality

Your vehicle’s steering system relies on its rack-and-pinion steering gear to control the direction of the wheels. So make sure your replacement rack-and-pinion steering gear is durable and made of high-quality materials. To ensure the quality of your new rack and pinion, order it from a trusted brand.

See also  What Happens When Rack and Pinion Goes Out?

Finding the perfect replacement rack and pinion for your vehicle should be easy as long as you follow the tips listed above and look through credible product reviews. Also, don’t forget to check your vehicle specifications or consult your trusted mechanic to double-check the specifications of your replacement rack-and-pinion steering gear.

Where to Get a New Rack and Pinion for Your Vehicle

Having a bad steering rack and pinion can make controlling your vehicle on the road more difficult. Instead of enjoying a smooth ride, you might be left with a steering wheel that feels like it has a mind of its own.

The good news is that here at CarParts.com, it’s extremely easy to find a rack and pinion replacement that perfectly matches your vehicle’s specifications. All you have to do is enter your vehicle’s year, make, and model into our website’s vehicle selector, and you’re all set! You can also use the search filters to shop for a rack and pinion according to your preferred brand, price range, quantity, and more.

We never compromise on quality here at CarParts.com, which is why we make sure that all our products are sourced from the most reputable names in the industry. Buy a rack and pinion from us, and you can rest assured that it’s made from only the finest materials available.

Enjoy the lowest prices when you shop from us. In case your new part doesn’t fit, simply file a claim through our Returns Center, and we’ll give you a full refund.

Shop for a rack and pinion today!

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Contact Center Manager and Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

William “Bill” Guzenski has produced hundreds of how-to videos for the automotive community. He’s an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician, and is affiliated with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). He loves attending race events and car shows throughout the country, as well as traveling in his 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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