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Replacing the Rack and Pinon

I have a 2002 Kia Sedona Mini van at 175000 and have been told that my leaking fluid is coming from the rack and pinon on the van. I got a quote from the dealership of a little over $600 for full replacment including labor. I was wondering in replacing an item like that is it:

  1. Best to go with new over a used part?
  2. How difficult is this to do?
  3. What is a fair/avg cost to replace this item.

My goal is to keep the van for about another 25,000 miles before trading it in, so which is why I was wondering if going used my be a better choice and given the price the dealership is wanting, can this be done by a general mechanic?

How often do you need to add fluid? If adding a few ounces at each fuel fill up keeps the fluid level high enough to avoid noisy operation and difficulty steering you might buy a quart of fluid and just keep driving and topping it off. As a first time DIYer replacing a rack and pinion would likely be more than you want to tackle.

I would not use a used part. The seals are likely to be bad too. I would fill it to until I trade it.

There’s no need to go to a dealer for fairly routine out-of-warranty work like this.
Go to an independent shop (not a chain!) and get a second estimate.
try “Mechanics Files” above to find a good shop.

As of yet I have not seen any reduction in fluid levels in my PSF resevior. That is what was baffling to me but the dealership said the leak was coming from the seals and that it can take alot of loss to show any loss of fluid in the resevior. I found this kind of weird, but the dealership has always been good folk when dealing with the car. I also asked them why the leak isn’t constant and they said it doesn’t always leak, that depending on the weather (colder is not good) and how I drive can impact on how much leaks out.

At that slow of a leak, I’d just keep an eye on the level. If if starts to squeal when you turn…it real low. Try to avoid waiting until it squeals though. Find a spot under the hood to keep a bottle of PS fluid and just keep it topped off.

If it gets bad and you need to replace it…get a new one, and any independent mechanic can do the job.


I would recommend checking the level and topping it off regularly. It might last well beyond the 25,000 miles you plan to keep it. And those seals leak worst when steering in tight situations at low speed. There is minimal pressure on the system when cruising down the highway.

And BTW. The maximum pressure occurs when the wheel is turned to its limits causing the pump to whine. The pressure at that point is at the limit of the pressure regulator which is in excess of 2,000 psi on some vehicles.

I agree with the others. Dealers are famous for this. The tiniest seepage leak can result in a drop to form and they will alarm you that you have a leak that must be addressed. Since you haven’t noticed any reduction in fluid level I’d just keep an eye on it and top it off if necessary.

The leak has been occuring now for about a month plus. At this point my resevior is still showing at the max level as I have not had to have any. Back earlier in the year I removed all the PSF from the reseivor with a turkey baster and replaced it with fresh new fluid, and was planing on doing it again but was thinking maybe this time replacing it with PSF stop leak, but the dealership said I shouldn’t. I have a thing of PSF in the van and check the fluid levels usually 2-3 times a week along with all my other fluids. So far I have seen nothing steering wise be it nosie or lack of ease of steering.

A seep of fluid from the rack and pinion boot indicates that the leaking seal has been seeping internally for quite some time. I would suggest that stop leaks not be used also. Just continue to monitor the fluid level and drive on.

Thanks, I have a full jug of fluid in the van when needed…any idea why it’s pinkish color? The replacement fluid I am using is clear, but now the fluid in the resevior is pinkish red so not sure why it is that color.

You should be using the fluid recommended by your owner’s manual for the power steering system. I don’t know Kia’s specs, but usually that’s automatic trans mission fluid, which is usually red. Using the wrong fluid could exacerbate your problem and cause sudden total failure of the seal and loss of your power steering.

I agree with the others. As long as you monitor your fluid level and use the correct fluid you should be fine. The seals in the PS rack are O-ring type of seals rather than diaphragm seals. O rings don’t fail suddenly and catastrophically like diaphragms do. They tend to gradually increase in leak rate until the rate becomes unacceptable.

Pinkish fluid indicates that automatic transmission fluid or some other variety of hydraulic fluid has been added in the past. Years ago that was the fluid used in power steering systems but lately it has been replaced with a vehicle specific fluid. It is best not to use ATF in power steering but at this point it’s not worth worrying about.

The fluid I used as replacement was okayed by the dealership, they said that it would work just fine, but coudln’t really explain why the older fluid was reddish pink.

Why is it pink? I’d say a previous owner put the wrong fluid in.

Did I do any harm to the system back last spring by removing the old fluid in the resevior and replacing it with clean new “correct” PSF given I didn’t get all the old stuff out and now it’s mixed?

Nope. You did the right thing. You could, if you’d like, flush the system pretty easily by emptying (with a turkey baster) and refilling the reservoir a few times, running the engine and turning the wheel left & right a few times between cycles. A P/S system continually circulates the fluid, directing the pressure to one side of the rack’s piston or the other only when the steering wheel is turned.

Any idea how many quarts of fluid a PSF system might hold, or where I could go to find out?

I just replaced the power hose and most of the other low pressure lines on my car. The system went empty, but a quart of Dextron 3 was more than I needed to refill and I have some to top off with. Last year, we did an engine swap on a minivan that required the steering rack to be completely disconnected, which drained the reservoir and hoses. That van also only needed less than a quart of fluid.

Your owners manual will tell you the fluid to use. Many cars now use the same transmission fluid required by the car. The days of buying something called power steering fluid are pretty much over.