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How to Tell if Power Steering Pump is Bad or Rack and Pinion

March 3, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

The power steering pump and the rack and pinion are two steering system components that show similar symptoms, leaving a car owner confused about which is faulty.

They both work fine and provide a smooth and effortless steering experience. However, problems within the power steering system can significantly impact the vehicle’s handling and safety.


If it’s from the power steering pump, the steering wheel often becomes stiffer and may wander while turning. Also, you may notice steering fluid leakage. Meanwhile, a bad rack and pinion will cause the steering wheel to shake when you make a turn.

In this article, we will explore the signs and symptoms of a bad power steering pump and a failing rack and pinion and how to tell which is damaged.


What is a Power Steering?

The power steering assists the driver in turning the wheels by using hydraulic pressure generated by the power steering pump. This pump is typically driven by a belt connected to the engine. The power steering fluid, stored in a reservoir, is pumped through hoses to the rack and pinion assembly, translating the hydraulic pressure into the steering force.

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Symptoms of a Bad Power Steering Pump

  1. Difficulty in Steering: You may notice the steering feels heavier, requiring more effort to steer the vehicle, especially when turning or parking.
  2. Whining noise: a failing power steering fluid is usually associated with a whining or groaning noise when making turns. These noises may indicate low fluid levels, air bubbles in the system, or worn-out internal components.
  3. Steering Fluid leaks: Stepping fluid leaks at the front wheel or the engine bay indicate that the power steering fluid is weak.
  4. Steering Wheel Vibrations: you may notice shakes or vibrations throughout the steering wheel due to the steering pump trying to deliver adequate hydraulic pressure.

How can I check to see if my power steering pump is bad?

What are the symptoms of a bad rack and pinion?

  1. Loose or Wandering Steering Wheel: You may notice increased play or looseness in the steering wheel, which feels less connected to the vehicle’s movements. Additionally, the steering may become less responsive, requiring more effort to turn the wheels.
  2. Steering fluid leaks: similarly, you may notice fluid leaks at the engine bay or the front wheels when the rack and pinion become faulty.
  3. Uneven Tire Wears: Due to the car pulling to one side, the tires on one side of the car Wears out and become Uneven faster.
  4. Car Pulling to One Side: When driving on a bad rack and pinion, your car may pull to one side.
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How can I check to see if my power steering pump is bad?

How to Tell If Power Steering Pump is Bad or Rack and Pinion

We’ve seen the symptoms associated with a bad power steering pump, rack, and pinion. Let’s show you how to identify which one is faulty.

Symptom Culprit
Whining Noise when turning Power Steering Pump
Difficulty Steering Rack and Pinion, or Power Steering Pump
Loose or Wandering Steering Rack and Pinion
Steering fluid leaks Power Steering Pump or Rack and Pinion
Car Pulling to one side Rack and Pinion
Uneven Tire Wears Rack and Pinion
Knocking Sounds Rack and Pinion

Diagnosing Power Steering Issues

To determine whether the power steering pump or the rack and pinion is the source of the problem, you can follow these diagnostic steps:

  1. Check the power steering fluid level: If you do and find out the fluid level is significantly low, it indicates a leaky or faulty pump. Ensure the fluid is always at the recommended level.
  2. Check for leaks: Next, visually inspect the power steering pump for any leaks. Look for wet spots, drips, or puddles under the vehicle or engine bay. Carefully trace any spot to know if it’s coming from the pump or the rack and pinion.
  3. Start the engine and steer the wheel from lock to lock while listening for unusual noises. If the noise gets louder as you turn the wheels, or you have difficulty in turning the wheels, there’s a fault in the power steering pump.
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Similarly, the rack and pinion are faulty if you notice excessive play on the steering wheel. Although, it’s best to let a mechanic check this component for you. They may also check the tie rods and other related components.

How to Replace a Bad Power Steering Pump

Replacing the power steering pump is a simple task that can be achieved within 20 minutes with the right tools.

For this fix, You’ll need a new power steering pump, a drain pan, a wrench, and other protective clothing. You can purchase any of the tools below.

  1. Disconnect the negative battery terminal.
  2. Remove the power steering pump pulley by losing the bolts that hold it intact.
  3. Loosen the pump bracket bolts and remove the pump from the engine.
  4. Install the new power steering pump
  5. Reconnect the battery terminals
  6. Test your car for fluid leaks and unpleasant sounds.

How to Replace a Bad Rack and Pinion

  1. Disconnect the negative terminal of your car battery
  2. Lift the vehicle and remove the wheels
  3. Remove the tie rod ends and remove the steering knuckle.
  4. Loosen the power steering rack bolts and remove the rack from the vehicle.
  5. Install the new steering rack in the same order of removal.
  6. Reconnect the battery’s negative terminal and ensure enough steering fluid is in the reservoir.
  7. Start the engine and test drive to check for leaks.
  8. You may need to take your car to a mechanic for proper wheel alignment.

How to Tell if Power Steering Pump is Bad or Rack and Pinion (VIDEO)

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.