The steering rack is a vital part of any vehicle and is fairly detailed in design. Rack and pinion steering is common in most modern vehicles but before this technology was developed, a recirculating ball system dealt with steering turns. In summary, this involved a “worm” of recirculating ball bearings moving around in a box, allowing an arm to steer left or right. Typically these boxes were very tricky to repair and involved a huge amount of time and effort to do so.
Technology advances meant that vehicles developed from this detailed setup to a more simple rack and pinion steering system. The pinion, round in shape, is connected to the end of the steering wheel shaft. When the steering wheel turns, the pinion turns. This then turns the rack, which is flat in shape, sending this left or right. The front wheels of a vehicle are connected to the rack, with the help of steering knuckles and tie-rods. This system is enclosed in its own housing and would be mounted to the vehicle, to its chassis.
Like all moving parts, the rack and pinion will wear eventually and will need to be replaced. The tie-rods and rubber boots protecting the tie-rods first show signs of wear. They can be easily damaged and crack, allowing moisture and debris into the system and also allow the grease to escape. Once this happens, the wear of the rack and pinion system is more rapid. It is always important that, when the system is repaired, all tie-rods and rubber boots are replaced too, in order to protect the newly repaired rack and pinion.
Not only is the rack and pinion technology an advance on the ball system but there is also the added bonus of power steering. Almost all new vehicles come with power steering as standard. This does cause added issues when replacing the rack and pinion system. When dealing with a rack replacement, check the power steering components. Checking for leaks from the hoses and power steering pressure would be the first port of call. It is important to fill the system with fresh power steering fluid when making any rack replacement or repair so as to avoid any dirt entering the new rack and possibly you will need to bleed the system also.
When making any repairs to vehicles, always follow procedure and ensure you put safety first. Simple, front- line components such as tie-rods and ball joints play a vital roll in ensuring the car is safe and cost little to replace. Ensuring that these parts are maintained, in turn, ensures that the more expensive and larger parts of the car last longer. Having the right tools for the job also ensures that the quality of the work is kept high.