For people unfamiliar with cars, the term “rack and pinion” suggests something complicated. The system really is based on simple mechanical concepts that help drivers steer their cars. Damage to the rack and pinion system can be very simple and inexpensive to repair, or it can cost several hundred dollars. Various issues cause damage to rack and pinion steering.
Normal Wear and Tear
Along the steering wheel, also sometimes called a drive shaft, are a number of seals. These seals also exist at the connections between the various parts of the equipment. If a seal gets a small crack or hole, then fluid will leak into the steering system. All of the seals eventually will wear down and break; the eventual need for replacing parts is one of the known downsides of rack and pinion steering. These seals cause lots of trouble, but they are not a difficult repair to have done.
Another common problem with rack and pinion steering systems is loose steering. In these cases, the most frequent culprit is a loose lug nut. The lug nuts can get loose from jarring movements or just from not being tightened when work was done on the car. Tightening these up is simple and should fix the problem. If the lug nuts are in place, then you or your mechanic should go down the list of other possibilities, knowing that each one gets more serious and expensive to fix. The axle nuts can be loose, or the problem could be with the ball joint. The ball joint needs to be replaced at various intervals regardless of how well-maintained the car is, but this repair can get costly.
When a car is difficult to steer, the most likely cause is a problem with the power steering pump. This pump contains power steering fluid, which greases the system to allow it to work. If this pump gets damaged or springs a leak, then the pump needs to be replaced before the car is drivable.