CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Seeping Steering Rack on 2006 Toyota Highlander

We just took our 2006 Toyota Highlander in for its 70,000 mile maintenance at the dealership. The maintenance manager said that the mechanic observed some seepage from the seals of the steering rack and suggested replacing it for about $1,300 for part and labor. We have not noted any steering problems; e.g., drifting to one side or the other. We have not heard any chirping from the powersteering unit etc. The car has been driving like a charm since we’ve got it. I asked the maintenance manager if this was a safety issue and he said, “No.” I can see from a quick Google search that there have been some failures in the steering rack for this make and model but that there was no recall issued. Do we have a real problem; or does the maintenance manager need to make a boat payment?

The only problem with seepage at the rack is that it may start leaking faster. You could run out of fluid which would disable power assist as well as allow the pump to run dry. You will still be able to steer but it will require a lot more effort especially when moving slow and parking.

So keep an eye on the fluid level in the reservoir and parking spot for dripping. If the leakage gets a lot worse, replace the rack. You can go a long time and save a lot of money by just topping up the reservoir.

Hope this helps.

They make P.S. fluid with stop leak that will swell the seals a little and perhaps stop this “seepage”…It’s worth a try…

I’ll bet you half or more of the 7 yr old steering racks on the road are seeping. I wouldn’t touch it - these guys are fishing for work.

Check it once a week or so. If you’re not having to add any fluid then you have no problem. If you have to add once in a while, start adding this: http://www.lucasoil.com/products/display_products.sd?iid=28&catid=9&loc=show

Its kept the steering rack on my van on the road for about 60K miles. I went from having to add every couple of days to a couple of ounces every few months at this point. In your case, I’ll bet you’re not even losing a measurable amount.

Thanks a lot for your collective help and for confirming my suspicions!

Part of any major scheduled maintenance service includes checking the vehicle for leaks, worn chassis and brake parts, and so on. Pointing out a problem (even a minor one) does not denote anything crooked going on.

The alternative to that would be the mechanic not inspecting the steering or brushing a minor leak off while saying nothing and then being accused of not doing his job if a problem develops shortly afterwards.

The steering can certainly leak and not exhibit any symptoms at all other than visually and not all automotive problems to be repaired at customer expense means a Recall should be issued.

Monitor your power steering fluid level in the reservoire. When you get to the point where you need to keep topping it off, then you can decide. If you’re not losing fluid, than the shop is seeing some other fluid weeping and migrating down onto the rack…so monitor ALL your fluids for awhile, as you should be anyway.

It isn’t unusual to find some amount of weepage at the rack boots as a car ages. It also isn’t unusual for a small amount of weepage to last for years without rack failure. Know too that if a seal should blow out, you’ll not suddenly lose your steering. It’ll just take more effort.

If you do find you’re losing fluid and decide to get this done, shop around. The cost can be reduced substantially by using a rebuilt rack.