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Rack and pinon

I have a 2003 impala with about 116000 miles and the 3.1 engine I believe. I have been told I have a leak in my rack and pinion and it needs to be replaced at a cost of $775.

My question is that a fair replacement cost and how can I tell as the consumer know there is a need and the repair place isn’t steering me wrong.

There are leaks and there are seeps. On a 2003 car you have to expect seepage which some shops will say are leaks that need repair. How to tell? Do you have to top off your power steering fluid, if so how frequently? A significant leak will require topping off like every few weeks or so. Do you see a puddle of fluid on the pavement where you park the car overnight? Is your power steering noisy or have a grinding feel when you turn the wheel?

When you get under the car there are rubber boots on each side of the rack. Are the boots intact or torn? Is there some evidence of fluid on or adjacent to the boots? Can you see any drips?

These are things you can look for yourself. On an expensive repair you can get another garage to give another opinion. If the steering is functioning normally and you just need to add some fluid every couple of months this might be one of those things you choose to live with on a older car.

When the power steering fluid gets low you will get a buzzing noise when you move the wheel. Top off the fluid and the noise goes away. A steering rack is not one of those things that suddenly fails leaving you stranded on the highway.

Thanks, as of now there has been no noises or difficulty in steering. It is the one fluid I have not monitored like I should. I bought the car in December of 2014 and have added any since. I will keep a close eye on it going forward.

I’ve also seen this “diagnosis” applied when the fluid was actually weeping out of the valvecover gasket and running down onto the rack.

Just yesterday I went with a friend to a dealership to get her oil changed and she was told she needed a new timing chain assembly. The reason upon questioning the diagnosis? According to them, there was a lot of oil under the engine and they didn’t know where it was originating from so they wanted to pull the front of the engine apart. This level of diagnosis, defaulting to the most expensive option, is becoming commonplace in my experience.

Watch your power steering fluid level in the reservoir. If it isn’t dropping, you do not have a leaky rack.

If you’ve had the car over 2 years and not added power steering fluid - I think you are OK. Some places top off the fluid when they do a oil change or routine service. Keep an eye on it yourself and you should be fine.

I found out why I have never checked the PS fluid, it’s hidden on the back side way down, you can hardly see it or get to it…what a stupid place to put it…

I thought I had a rack leaking, ended up being a rusted out line. New lines about the same price as your estimate, differnt car though.

What happens if you overkill the PS fluid?

You mean overfill, I assume.
It just spills out when turbulence causes expansion. And it makes a sticky mess.

The way the system works is that the pump continues to circulate the fluid, and when you turn the wheel the “spool valve” on the rack assembly directs the fluid to one side or the other of the piston contained in the rack. The other side of the piston is provided an open path back to the reservoir, and the pressure difference pushes the piston. The pressurized side leaks if the seals are failing.

I recommend just filling it to the indicated FULL line and monitoring it for a week or two.

The shop said they toped it off but now the steering seems a bit stiff.

Now when I turn left at slow speeds you can hear a sound and it’s a bit sluggish, turning right there is no issue. Only thing the shop did was rotate the tires and change the back brakes and top off the PS fluid. What might all of a sudden cause this?


Your car was old and made noise before you learned of the oil stains on your rack and pinion steering gear. If the leak is not making a mess and your not having to add fluid leave well enough alone.