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Summary
  • Steering rack bushings (a.k.a. rack and pinion bushings) dampen vibrations while making turns.
  • Common symptoms of a bad steering rack bushing include clicking noises while steering, alignment issues, and steering wheel issues like shaking and excessive play.
  • A replacement steering rack bushing can cost between $10 and $100.
  • Avoid driving with a bad steering rack bushing.

The steering rack bushing is a small dampener between the steering rack and the frame. Also referred to as the rack and pinion bushing, it prevents vibrations from being felt throughout the vehicle whenever you make a turn.

After some time, the steering rack bushing can wear out, exhibiting symptoms that could prompt you to find the nearest mechanic to have it replaced.

How to Tell if the Rack and Pinion Bushings Are Bad

A failing steering rack mounting bushing will most likely show the following symptoms:

Clicking Noises While Steering

Damaged bushings can loosen the steering, which can lead to a misaligned steering box. Once this happens, you could hear clicking noises whenever you turn the steering wheel.

Alignment Issues

Damaged steering rack bushings can throw off your vehicle’s alignment. This can cause your car to wander even when you’re in control of the steering wheel.

Alignment issues can also mean there’s an issue with the suspension system, so it’s best to have a trained professional diagnose your vehicle to get accurate information.

Shaky Steering Wheel

A loose steering rack can vibrate as you drive. This vibration goes to the steering wheel, causing it to shake.

Excessive Play on the Steering Wheel

A damaged steering rack bushing can create excessive play in the steering wheel. This means that the steering wheel can feel loose, making it seem like your vehicle isn’t turning the way it should as you maneuver the wheel.

Inconsistent Steering Wheel Resistance

You might notice some inconsistencies in steering wheel resistance when dealing with a damaged steering rack bushing.

The steering rack can bind in one direction and have free movement in the other. The bind can also end up on the other side as you turn the steering wheel.

Clunking Noises When Going Over Bumps

Clunking noises when going over bumps can indicate that the steering rack is hitting the frame or subframe of your vehicle because of a damaged steering rack bushing.

You might not notice performance problems right away. However, over time, damaged bushings can increase the stress on other steering and suspension components, causing them to wear out faster than their service life.

How Much Will a Steering Rack Bushing Replacement Cost?

A replacement steering rack bushing can cost anywhere between $10 and $100, depending on factors like the brand, quantity, location, and the vehicle’s specifications.

Labor costs for this type of repair can also vary, depending on your vehicle’s year, make, and model and the auto shop’s hourly rates.

Is it Safe to Drive With a Bad Steering Rack Bushing?

It’s never a good idea to drive with a bad steering rack bushing. Doing so can make you lose control of your vehicle completely, increasing the risk of getting into an accident.

Also, keep in mind that the steering rack bushing is part of a system. Once it fails, other components will be forced to work harder, accelerating wear.

So once you’ve confirmed that your vehicle needs a new steering rack bushing, replace it right away to prevent other repairs.

Steering Rack Bushing Replacement

There are available rack and pinion bushing kits that let you replace the damaged bushings without removing the entire steering rack.

If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can probably handle this task in your garage as long as you have the right repair information and equipment.

But if you’re having second thoughts about doing the job alone, you can always take your vehicle to a certified auto repair shop and have a professional repair it for you.

steering rack bushing replacement
Keep in mind that the steering rack bushing is part of a system. Once it fails, other components will be forced to work harder, accelerating wear.

Steering Rack Bushing Replacement: Aftercare

One of the most important things you should do after replacing the steering rack bushing or the entire rack is to get an alignment.

A slight discrepancy in wheel alignment measurements can create drivability issues and cause the tires to wear out faster.

In most cases, the replacement bushing will be placed in the same spot as the damaged one.

If you’ve been driving with a damaged bushing for quite some time, the wheels could have been misaligned already. Also, you might notice some issues even after the damaged bushing has been replaced.

Make sure to consult a trusty mechanic to know whether or not your wheels need to be aligned after replacing the steering rack bushing or other related steering components.

Watch Out for These Steering Rack Problems, Too

A bad steering rack bushing isn’t the only problem that can affect your vehicle’s steerability. Here are other issues that can occur in a typical rack and pinion steering system.

Contamination

A damaged power steering pump and worn-out hoses can contaminate the power steering fluid with moisture and other substances.

Replace the power steering fluid once it gets dark, as it usually indicates oxidation or contamination from dirt or metallic debris.

Morning Sickness

Morning sickness refers to the stiffness of the steering wheel when the engine is still cold. Only after the vehicle is warm enough will normal power assist take place.

Center Wear

Wear between the rack and pinion gears can cause the vehicle to wander even when you’re driving in a straight and even path. 

Other related problems you might notice include loose or torn bellows, worn-out tie rod sockets and ends, and broken mounts, among others.

To be sure, conduct a thorough visual inspection of the rack and pinion for leaks inside the bellow boots. If the boots are wet, the rack is most likely the source of the leak. Most rack and pinions come with new rack bushings so it would be a waste to replace worn bushings in a rack that was bad.

To be sure, conduct a thorough visual inspection of the rack and pinion for leaks inside the bellow boots. If the boots are wet, the rack is most likely the source of the leak.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
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 Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

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.

File Under : Suspension , DIY Tagged With :
Garage Essentials
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