(Updated on January 2, 2020)
The steering rack and pinion are the components found in virtually all power steering systems of vehicles. They are a dual gear set which is ultimately responsible for letting the driver turn the wheels of their vehicle.
In other words, the steering wheel’s rotational motion gets converted into the linear motion that is needed for the wheels to turn. Naturally, if the steering rack and pinion were to leak power steering fluid due to damage or wear, then you would have a lot of problems steering your vehicle.
Top 5 Symptoms of a Rack and Pinion Leak
Below are the top 5 signs that will indicate a leak in the steering rack and pinion.
1) Steering Wheel Hard to Turn
If you turn the steering wheel and it feels hard to turn or too tight, then you likely have a leak or some other problem with your steering rack and pinion.
The transmission needs an adequate supply of fluid so that enough hydraulic pressure is generated for you to easily turn the steering wheel. With a low amount of power steering fluid, there will be less hydraulic pressure. This means it will be harder to turn the wheel.
2) Red or Pink Fluid
Vehicles have lots of different colored fluids in them including oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. If you see fluid leaking from your vehicle, you may not be sure where it is coming from.
Just note that power steering fluid that leaks will be a red color or pink color. This should be followed by a burning smell which you will learn about in the next one on the list.
3) Burning Smell
If you have ever smelt burnt oil then you will understand what this odor smells like. The cabin of your vehicle will be consumed with a burning smell when you have leaky power steering fluid.
This is due to there not being enough fluid in the transmission for the hydraulics to function properly.
4) Grinding Noise
When there is leaky power steering fluid, a grinding noise will be heard each time you turn the steering wheel. This is due to the gearbox not being lubricated properly. All that metal touching other metal creates nothing but grinding noises.
5) Steering Wheel Does Not Center
The steering wheel will normally return to a centered position when the steering rack and pinion are functioning normally. But if it does not return to a center position, then it could be due to a leak in the steering rack and pinion.
Top 3 Causes of a Rack and Pinion Leak
To understand why a leak would form on the steering rack and pinion, below are three of the most common causes.
1) Loose Connection
If the steering rack and pinion are too loose and not properly fitted, the power steering fluid will be able to seep through and leak out. Make sure these components and all other components of the power steering system are firmly fitted.
2) Bad Gasket
A worn out or damaged gasket in the steering rack and pinion will cause a power steering fluid leak. Simply replace the failed gasket with a new one before the problem gets worse.
A new gasket should not be too expensive but you’ll likely want to stick with an OEM replacement part for best results.
3) Bad Seals
The steering rack has seals on the end of it which prevent power steering fluid from getting through. But if you have worn out or damaged seals, then the fluid may be able to get through.
The longer you wait to address the problem, the worse the hole in them is going to get. The cheapest solution will be to repair the seals which is not always doable.
Otherwise, you will need to replace the whole steering rack and pinion because it is not possible to just replace the seals separately. They are integrated into the components.