With rack and pinion steering, the rotation of the pinion causes linear motion of the rack, which turns the vehicle’s wheels left or right. 


Rack and Pinion: Applications

While most consumers are familiar with rack and pinion systems for steering cars and small trucks, rack and pinion combinations have several other applications. Not only are rack and pinion systems used to help trains climb steep gradients, but they also provide better brake control, especially in snowy and icy conditions. Rack and pinion systems are standard components in most stair lifts. The rack and pinion mechanism often operates using hydraulic or electrical energy.


How Does Rack and Pinion Steering Work?

Steering rack and pinion works by using a gear system to translate the steering wheel’s circular motion into the linear motion needed to turn the wheels. A metal tube houses the gearset. The tube has openings on each end to allow the rack to attach to an axial rod. The pinion gear connects to the steering shaft so that the gear will spin and move the rack when the steering wheel turns. The axial rods connect to a tie rod end, which attaches to the spindle.

What Is A Rack And Pinion

Rack and pinion is a type of linear actuator consisting of a circular gear (pinion) meshing a linear gear (rack and pinion). Together, they convert rotational motion into linear motion. Turn the pinion so that the rack is driven in a straight line.

Bad Rack and Pinion Symptoms You Should be Aware of

Loose or Tight Steering

A malfunctioning rack can cause your steering to either be loose or tight. If there’s heat build-up on the steering column, the tendency is for it to become harder to steer. On the other hand, the steering column tends to be loose when your wheels are badly aligned with your failing rack.

Fluid from the Steering Rack Leak

Another symptom is a leaking steering fluid. If you notice that you have to constantly top off your steering fluid, chances are, it is dripping at the wrong places (check the ground for traces). Remember not to confuse the steering fluid with other fluids in your car. It’s the one that’s pinkish red.

Tires Wobble

Do you suspect your steering column to be getting out of alignment? That’s one more indicator of a steering system gone bad. When this happens, tire control will be rough, resulting in shaky wheels and uneven wear and tear on the tires themselves.


Usually, the steering wheel will make noises when something’s wrong it. When you turn it and you hear clunking, grinding, or thudding, that could mean your steering components are starting to get loose.

Our Rack and Pinions

A rack and pinion gear assembly helps transfer rotational force from the steering wheel to the front wheels. A steering shaft is attached to the steering column. The steering shaft has a pinion attached which attaches to a linear gear with teeth called the rack. 

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A rack and pinion steering system consists of a pinion (a circular gear) with a rack (a linear gear). The system works by converting a revolving motion into linear motion. Most cars, small trucks, and SUVs come equipped with a rack and pinion system, rather than the recirculating ball steering found in larger trucks, larger SUVs, and other heavy-duty vehicles.

The primary function of a vehicle’s steering system is to allow the driver to change the direction of the car when the steering wheel is turned. Your car achieves this by accurately converting the rotational movement of the steering wheel through the steering shaft into angular turning to move the wheels left or right as needed.

Nearly all modern vehicles have rack and pinion steering. But on older cars and newer heavy-duty trucks, a steering box is used instead, which is a recirculating ball system, also known as a gearbox.

It is highly recommended to have a professional technician or mechanic perform the replacement if you don’t have mechanical experience or have never replaced a rack and pinion in the past. Unfortunately, there are not any other alternative repairs for a bad rack and pinion. Proper tools, skills and knowledge are necessary.

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