Can't turn right


Hello everyone,

I have a 97 Chevy Lumina. This has been a really great car for almost 260,000 miles but it finally has a major problem. I can’t turn right. I haven’t a clue what the problem may be. The car roles down the road fine, I just can’t turn. I would hate to throw this car away, it’s been so amazing for so long. Thanks!


The GM vehicles of this era had issues with the rack & pinion assembly.

The most likely problem is with the spool valve in the assembly. The spool valve directs the hydraulic pressure from the power steering pump to the piston in the assembly to provide steering assist in either direction. If the O-rings on the spool valve develope a leak, hydraulic pressure is no longer applied to the piston to provide steering assist. And this makes the steering harder.



Are you saying that you can’t turn your car to the right or that you can’t turn correctly?

If you’re saying that you can’t turn your steering wheel to the right but you still don’t want to get rid of your car, get used to making three left turns in order to get to your right - or sell or junk it.

If you can’t turn correctly, park your car and sell or junk it.


All cars will quit some day. Yours has gone past all possible design expectations. You could pour thousands into it from this day forward. Your engine and transmission are running on a maybe. You could or should need new struts and springs, you already need a $300 rack and pinion. Your rubber brake lines are all cracked. The master cylinder can quit along with slave cylinders or related hardware. Right after you fix something at this stage, something else will break. You are living through the best time of the cars life; the time when you can just pay to have it taken away or just give it to someone who will. The repairs will cost you a lot more than that. You have already saved thousands by keeping the car for far longer than its usual end.


Do you have any evidence to back up your statements or are you just spewing nonsense?


Yeah I’d agree with the rack and pinion. Not much else could cause it.

260,000 is really not worn out. I’ve done cost analysis six ways to Sunday and there really is no mileage figure that beyond, costs more per mile over the long haul. The first 100K on a new car are cheap repair wise, but costly vehicle wise. the third 100K are a little more repair wise but cheap vehicle wise. Takes your pick. The only thing to consider in a repair is whether or not you intend to drive it sufficient miles to justify the cost of the repair. If you spend $500 for a new rack, so what if you drive it for another 50-100K? If you are going to fix it and then sell it, no repair is worth it.


How long a car lasts or should last is like asking how long is a piece of string! The car in question had indeed steering rack problems, but GM brought out a retrofit correcting the problem. Having said that, any piece of machinery has 3 lives:

  1. DESIGN LIFE; this is used by the manufacturer to ensure the equipment will give reasonable service for, say, FOR EXAMPLE, 10 years. This is also the length of time the factory commits to supply parts.

  2. ECONOMIC LIFE: This is the life that, as previous posters explained, you calculate when it is best to get rid of the car. This varies greatly; it is 1-2 years for big city police departments, and up to 25 years for a midwest farmer who also has a pickup truck. Normally, you should include a safety consideration here. The car may be reliable, but rusted out to the point of danger. Also, too many repairs on a salesmen’s car may make him miss business, so this also goes into the calculatios. Appearance would also enter the picture.

  3. ACTUAL LIFE: This is the life you can achieve if cost, time lost and inconvenience are not a factor. In third world countries with expensive cars and cheap labor, Volvos, Toyotas and Mercedeses last forever when fixed with locally made “bogus” parts. A retired person owning a popular car (parts readily available)can go on virtually forever owning that car economically. Clic & Clac usually say it is cheaper to fix than buy new. Unless the car in question is an absolute dog! Industrial Equipment, where the installation is a mjar cost item, is CONTINUOUSLY REBUILDABLE, and the manufacturer normally provides spares for many years. Caterpillar diesel engines fall in this category.

So car life is really what you make it, unless it’s a Yugo. You should track the annual cost of owning your car; depreciation, finance charges, fuel, repairs & maintenance and insurance. Repairs typically run no more thatn 25% of the ownership cost, even if your car is paid off.


If you can’t decide whether to spend several hundred dollars fixing the steering (damned liberal cars that won’t turn right! :slight_smile: ), take it to a good mechanic and have them thoroughly inspect the car from bumper to bumper. Ask for a list of everything likely to need fixing over the next couple of years and how much it will cost to fix. That may help you decide whether it’s worth fixing the steering or junking the car (I wouldn’t keep driving it, or try selling it, until and unless it’s fixed). The mechanic can’t promise to find everything possibly wrong (especially looming engine and transmission internal problems), but they can give you an idea what shape your car is in. You might ask them to quit looking when the estimated repair bill reaches a certain amount, at which you’ll junk the car.