Rack and pinion or Tie rod?

My dad and I recently replaced the rack and pinion (some cars its called the gear box i’m told) on my 97 accord. Both tie rods were changed as they came with the part and the boots were damaged on the original part. After having it aligned at Tire Kingdom we drove the 600 miles to back to Washington DC hearing a clunking noise when hitting certain bumps and when stopped if we wiggled the steering wheel. After getting back home i took a look and was amazed to see that both castle nuts on the tie rods were loose, allowing the tie rods to slip up and down making the clunking noise. So i tightened them both down well… But i still hear a clunking noise in the steering but not as bad. The tie rod joints seem good but could I have damaged them by driving with the loose nuts? Could the changed rack and pinion be as bad as the first? Any advice/help is much appreciated!

Reach behind the wheels and feel for free play in the tie rods while someone moves the steering wheel left to right.

Did you replace the rack just because the boots were damaged? Did you tighten down the rack? The part above about feeling for play while someone moves the steering wheel back and forth, don’t do that. With the car sitting on the ground, have someone move the steering wheel back and forth while LOOKING at the various suspension components. If something is loose, you will see it.

You mentioned ‘castle nuts’ - is there a hole for a cotter pin? That’s normally why castle nuts are used.

WHO exactly, changed the steering rack?? You and your Dad?? The picture above is worth a thousand words…

.010" of lost motion in a tie rod end can be much more easily felt than seen. .010" is enough to cause steering woes. It is possible that you damaged the tapered sections of the tie rods by driving the car with them loose, but I think it’s doubtful.

Did you put cotter pins through the holes in the tie rod ends and the notches in the castelated nuts? If not, it’s a wonder you didn’t kill someone. I have seen tie rods fall completely out if they weren’t properly pinned.

Ball joints can make loud noises if they are dry. If you find the noisy one, and it should be easy if you listen from under the car, change it. You could have worn out control arm bushings, a broken or loose anti-sway bar or something wrong with the strut. An alignment tech should be able to find the problem and you need an alignment anyway.

Haha, yeah we pinned them! The tie rods were tight too as far as we know becuase the noise I am describing happened after the alignment. The rack was changed in response to an awful metal on metal noise (completely different from the present noise) that my dad thought HAD to be coming from the rack. It definitely stopped after it was changed.

I don’t have anyone I can trust to move the steering wheel for me right now (a neighbor/stranger would be liable to run me over and steal the car) but as soon as I can I will post about it. Another interesting note is that the clunking in the steering seems to disappear when the power steering is engaged/car on. THANK YOU FOR YOU’RE HELP I will be in touch soon!

Thanks guys. They are pinned and have been pinned. They were pinned above the point where the nut would tighten them down so that they were ‘slipping’ up and down.

Thanks for you’re response. Why do I need another alignment?

'they were slipping up and down’
I don’t understand - a castle nut that’s been tightened and then had a cotter pin put in (see picture) should not come loose, and certainly should not be ‘slipping up and down’.

You would think. Not the case though.

Are the cotter pins still in place? Can the nut be turned?

I tightened the nuts down and pinned them properly. They were loose after an allignment at Tire Kingdom

So the pins are missing? Sorry, this is confusing, a fully-tightened nut with a cotter pin securing it does not normally come loose.

If the tie rod was left loose when the front end was aligned the toe in is likely not correct and nothing in the front end can be considered safe until a competent mechanic inspects and aligns the car.

Did you use a new rack or one from a junk yard? Watch where you put your hands, it can hurt.

No idea what was wrong. Fixed it with a 2005 Honda CRV in great condition. The car talk guys would be proud.

I almost forgot… Thank you to everyone who contributed!