Getting to know rack and pinion steering

At The Motor Ombudsman, our adjudicators get many enquiries on this subject, so this week’s “Getting to Know” guide focuses on rack and pinion steering, and how it works. A steering system essentially allows a driver to use a minimal amount of effort to guide a heavy car in the desired direction. It is also often power assisted to further reduce the level of force needed to move the vehicle, especially at low speed (e.g. when manoeuvring or parking).


What are the core parts of the rack and pinion steering system?


The following are the key components which make up the steering system:


  • The steering wheel
  • The steering column
  • The rack
  • The pinion or gear wheel
  • Track rods
  • The wheels


How does rack and pinion steering work?


Rack and pinion steering is quite a basic concept with few moving parts. As the steering wheel at the top of the column is turned by the driver, the toothed pinion at the base of the shaft rolls with it by meshing with the straight row of teeth on the long horizontal rack, thereby moving the wheels from side-to-side. The ends of the rack are connected to the wheels via track rods, and a universal joint in the steering column allows it to connect with the rack without angling the steering wheel awkwardly sideways.


What are the symptoms of a faulty steering system?


The following are a couple of symptoms that something may be wrong with the steering system:


A tight steering wheel – a power steering unit uses hydraulic pressure to make steering easier. When the steering wheel feels tight or is harder to turn than usual, it’s typically due to the steering rack causing the build-up of excessive heat or if there is loss of pressure from the power steering unit (which could be due to a fluid leak).


A grinding noise when steering – this can be the result of insufficient lubrication and servicing. The excess heat causes metal-on-metal contact, thereby causing a loud grinding noise when steering left or right.


Where can I find a garage to get my rack and pinion steering repaired or replaced?


To find your local Motor Ombudsman-accredited franchised car dealership or independent garage to get your steering repaired, visit The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder.


Image courtesy of ResearchGate