A rack and pinion system has no idler or pitman arms and no center link. Instead, they are replaced with a rack. Because the rack has no wear points, the number of wear points on rack and pinion systems is reduced to four--each of the tie-rod ends. Tie-rod ends are also wear points on the parallelogram steering system.
Power rack and pinion assemblies should be carefully checked for leaks. If leaks cause the pump to run out of fluid, the pump will be damaged. In order to solve problems, a very thorough inspection of the entire system is needed. Everything, including ball joints, tires, outer tie-rods, bellows boots, inner tie-rods, rack-mounting bushings, mounting bolts, steering couplings, and gearbox adjustment must be checked.
Rack and pinion steering inspection must be very thorough because of the system's sensitivity.
- Check all working components of the systems.
All suspension and steering parts should be carefully checked during diagnosis. Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
- Inspect the flexible steering coupling or the universal joints for wear or looseness.
- If any play is found, recommend replacement. Universal joints can also seize or bind. They should be checked closely.
- Grasp the pinion gear shaft at the flexible steering coupling and try to move it in and out of the gear.
- If there is movement, the pinion bearing preload might need adjustment. If there is no adjustment, internal components have to be replaced.
- Carefully inspect the rack housing.
- In most cases, the rack and pinion steering assemblies are mounted in rubber bushings. As the vehicle gets older, these mounting bushings deteriorate from heat, age, and oil leakage from the engine. When this happens, the housing moves within its mounting and causes loose and erratic steering.
- Also, be alert for excessive movement of the rack housing. Stiffness in steering can be caused by a bent rack assembly, tight yoke bearing adjustment, loose power-steering belt, weak pump, internal leaks in power-steering system, and damaged CV joints in front-wheel-drive vehicles.
- Check the inner tie-rod socket assemblies located inside the bellows. The most foolproof way of checking these sockets is to loosen the inner bellows clamp and pull the bellows back, giving a clear view of the socket.
- During the dry park check, observe any looseness.
- The inner tie-rod socket can also be checked by squeezing the bellows boot until the inner socket can be felt.
- Push and pull on the tire. If looseness is found in the tie-rod, it should be replaced.
- On some vehicles the boot might be made of hard plastic. For this type of boot, lock the steering wheel and push and pull on the tire. Watch for in- and out-movement of the tie-rod. If movement is observed, replace the inner tie-rod.
- One fact to keep in mind is that the condition of the bellows boot determines the life of the inner socket. The bellows boot protects the rack from contamination. It might also contain fluid that helps keep the rack lubricated. If any cracks, splits, or leaks exist, the boot should be replaced. Also, be sure that clamps for the bellows are in their proper place and fastened tightly.
- Inspect the outer tie-rod ends. In addition to the dry park check, grab each end and rotate to feel for any roughness that would indicate internal rusting. Be sure to check for bent or damaged foraging and studs; split or deteriorated seals; and, damaged, out-of-round, or loose tapers.
- If any of these conditions exist, the parts should be replaced.
- Also, inspect the leakage points listed in the photo below for signs of fluid leakage.
Possible leakage points on power-steering systems.