Power Steering Leak

I brought my 2005, 4cyl, Toyota Camry to the dealership for routine maintenance and a state mandated inspection. They told me that I had a power steering leak and needed to replace return line and the rack (they mentioned that the leak was so bad it had eaten through a boot) which would cost me $275 and $1200 respectively. Prior to this, I did not feel any trouble with the power steering. I took the car to get a second opinion and they said that only the return hose was old and cracked and replaced that for $80. Then I took the car back to the dealership where they again pointed out that while the return line was fixed now, the rack still needed to be replaced and showed me the torn boot near the driver’s side, the passenger side boot looked totally intact. I went back to the waiting area and shortly thereafter picked up my car. The next morning I went back to the indy mechanic and he told me that someone had cut up part of my boot. And indeed there was a very clear straight line from part of an irregular tear. He called the Toyota dealership and I brought my car back to the Toyota dealership where they agreed that someone had cut up the boot but claimed it wasn’t them. So, now I have a boot that is cut/torn wide open and I still don’t know if the rack needs to be replaced.

So my question are these: how can you definitively tell if the rack (or seals within the rack) is leaking? Does fluid that accumulates in the boot always mean that rack itself is leaking or could it have trickled down from a return line leak? Also, is there such a thing as a crossover line? If there is a leak in the rack, would it collect in both boots or just one boot? Thanks!!!

If the rack is leaking from its seal, it’ll collect in the boot. However fluid can also run down from a leaking hose and get all over everything including the boot. Since it appears that someone might have cut the boot, it’s also possible that they squirted something on the boot to make it appear that it was leaking. TIP: generally if a boot tears from wear, it’ll tear circumferencially along one of the “folded” lines in the convolutions, usually the inside folds. They don’t generall tear along the boot unless there’s a prominent seam there.

Monitor the PS fluid in the reservoir. Check it daily. If it isn’t dropping, the rack isn’t leaking. Also, do an internet search for “splt replacement boots”. I don’t know for certai if there are any available for your particular application, but I know that they make them for CV joints, and if they do exist for racks the boot could be replaced without disassembling the end rod.

I’ve attached a drawingn to show how this is all assembled.

When you park for the night, slide a sheet of clean paper under your car and see if there are any noticeable leaks…One or two drops, I would try some “power steering fluid w/stop leak” and see if that stops the “seep”. Then, investigate whether the torn boot can be replaced without replacing the entire steering rack…They usually can be…It involves removing the tie-rod end and slipping on a new boot…A half-hour job. A wheel alignment may be needed to complete the repair…

Should the leak turn out to be bad enough to require the rack be replaced, have an independent front-end shop install a re-built rack and avoid the high-cost dealership shop…