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Rack and Pinion "shifting" on 2002 Acura RL

We’re limping along until we have time research and select a new car (we keep them a LONG time so it’s a long-term decision). We’ve had a few minor repairs and a couple major repairs that would be expected in a car this age (190,000 miles). It runs great, had the second timing belt changed, but have been having various oil leaks. First it started with a minor rear main seal leak. A leak stop product seemed to stop that–the oil level stopped dropping, the smoking and the leaking on the ground stopped.

Q – how long can I expect the leak stop on the rear main seal to work and is there any danger in driving? Mechanic says no danger and doesn’t recommend the repair ($1,000) because he knows we want to replace the car. Agreed?

Next the steering seemed unresponsive and “floaty” going into turns–like driving a Caddy from the 70’s. I also noticed the steering wheel wasn’t arriving at the level position when the tires were straight. It does this about 90% of the time, but now and then it returns to center.

The independent mechanic who I’ve used a lot and trust quoted $400 to replace leaking valves that likely caused the rack to fail. He said it is literally “shifting” back and forth, thus the symptom of it coming back to center now and then. I would love to try the leak stop, but I’m at a loss to understand how this will bring it back to center.

Q – can someone explain this “shifting” of the rack (we don’t have any significant drop in the PS fluid… but I find it hard to check too.) If I try the leak stop for the steering how does the rack get back into place? (If that even makes sense.) $1000 to replace rack.

Q – since I’m going to be getting a new vehicle will I get my money back on the $1400 repair on trade or sale? I know from being in car sales that “Needs RACK!!!” is a favorite of the appraisers to knock big $$$ of the appraisal and it’s very easy to detect when they test drive it.

Q-- do the repair and take my time finding a new vehicle? do the leak stop first and see what happens? Junk it now?

The mechanic is not pushy and said I can keep driving it the way it is. Agreed? I’m concerned about safety.


I would trade it in. You’ll never get your money out of the repair. I personlly would go to the dealer today. The rack sounds as if it will fail soon.

The rack probably needs a rack guide screw adjustment.

This is an easy adjustment and can return the steering to like new if done correctly.

If you do have a leak in the rack, I would recommend this to stop it.


Update… to be more precise… it is a leaky valve cover that ruined the rack. The mechanic thinks he may be able to replace the bushings only as the rack itself may not be damaged, saving us $300-$400. This would be a stop-gap just to get us through a month or two until we buy a new vehicle.

“Q – can someone explain this “shifting” of the rack…”

You should be able to watch the rack while someone turns the steering wheel back and forth and see the rack moving relative to whatever it’s bolted to.

It sounds like you’re referring to the rack squirming around due to the mounting bushing rubber being softened due to the engine oil leak.

Those should not be terribly expensive to replace if you can’t put up with the current sensation.

As to the main seal leaks there is no way of knowing how long that can hold up and the mechanic is correct about not recommending the repair because of an upcoming trade.

No, you won’t recoup any money on repairs and if possible you might just ride it out until the trade. At the age and miles that car will be a dealer wholesale unit anyway and it will mean nothing to them repaired or not.