I bought a 98 contour about 4 months ago. It has not given me any problems so far but when it decided to go…It had to be something that with cost me a fortune. 1500 dollars to replace the rack and pinion plus the pump and hoses! I cant afford this and I am wondering if I can still drive it without a million other things going wrong with it? Will i lose control of my steering? will the serp/belt break? Im really lost but and I really need my car. Its not that hard to turn really, a little stiff but not too bad. Anyway I realize that it is a lot of questions but if there are any mechanices out there I would really appreciate it.
The real problem is going to be able to drive it safely. While under normal conditions you may be able to drive it, if you run into an emergency situation, you may not be able to turn it as fast as needed. I would suggest that the other driver could well claim that you were at fault due to the faulty steering, and maybe you might not be alive to argue the point.
There is nothing inherently unsafe about driving a car without power steering. In the early days that was the only kind the made. Of course, steering ratios were different.
You are already aware that when driving at speed, the effort to turn the wheel is about the same as with normal power assist. More effort is required at low speeds, when safety is unlikely to be much of a factor. As long as you confident you can deal with the steering you may continue to drive.
If you can determine that the steering pulley spins freely you need not worry about the belt.
It should hurt nothing other than being a bit stiff to turn at low speeds or during a sharp U-turn.
Many cars are designed to lose a bit of their power steering feel at speeds anyway.
A number of older cars (Subarus for one) used rack and pinion steering for many years with no power assist at all; strictly a manual setup as you have now.
If you decide to repair this in the future, you might price this around. That 1500 sounds high for rack/hose assemblies.
It really depends on the car. Some cars may be OK without power steering, some will be unsafe. I broke a power steering belt on my old benz a couple of years ago and it was almost un-drivable. It was difficult to make normal turns and almost impossible to park, I would not have been able to avoid anything in an emergency.