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Steering Failure

After a little less than a week of clunking noises the steering on my daughters 2004 Malibu completly failed. The steering wheel moves the steering column, but not the tires. NHTSA has done 2 investigations and issued 8 TSB’s on the steering system, but no recall. My question is if there is a way to determine if it is the rack and pinion system or the power steering control module. It seems many people have replaced multiple components on their cars without resolving steering problems. I am hoping to avoid that. Thanks!!

First, I believe that manufacturers issue TSBs not the NHTSA, and they are NOT the same as a recall. They are only suggestions to the techs of common symptoms and problems.

Second, Why didn’t you take this to a mechanic when it was making a clunking noise? I hope your daughter wasn’t driving when the steering failed.

Also, its not a problem with the power steering, as there is direct mechanical linkage from the steering wheel to the rack (so steering works even without power steering). Someone is gonna have to take a closer look at this. I would start by seeing if the steering column going into the rack rotates with the wheel in the car. If it does, I think you are looking at the rack, if not maybe one of the U-joints on the column.

Good luck, and next time you hear scary noises get them checked out immediately. Either you do it or pay someone else to.

Daughter is away at college and did not mention new noise until Sat. evening. Steering failed Sunday evening when thankfully she was in a gas station parking lot where the car still sits. I mentioned investigations and TSB’s ( and that there were no recalls) to help readers understand why I might have a question rather than just take it to the dealer. Some people have spend thousands on repairs and still have steering issues.
Thanks for the tip about steering column and wheel. I am just hoping it is mechanical vs electronic/computer module. Once you fix a broken part they usually stay fixed (at least for a while)!