Steering is harder to the left than to the right

I have a recently purchased '05 Civic 1.7.
I’ve noticed that the steering takes significantly more effort to turn left than to the right. Turning right, even when moving at a good clip, I can turn using 1 finger. It takes a decent grip to make the same turn to the left. I’ve also tried this from sitting still - same thing.

The alignment, as far as driving goes, seems pretty straight. I’ve also had a Honda shop that I trust from experience look into the issue to see if there is any physical signs of damage, bent parts… anything. They are very confident that all parts related to the front steering and suspension are in good shape and that both wheels are even.

I am a little stumped as to how any physical damage would only affect turning the wheel in one direction. I wonder if there is something that would reduce the effectiveness of the power steering in just one direction???

My first suspect would be a damaged steering rack, with the damage limited to the area of the rack that is used when turning left. However, this will only get worse, until the point where–one day–you will suddenly be unable to make a left turn. I urge you to take the car to a different mechanic, as this is a safety issue.

My own guess would be a ball joint. Binding in one direction only would point me in that direction.

The shop you went to, if t hey say everything is in good shape, to what do they attribute the symptom?

^Thanks VDC. I’ll have that looked at.

^mountainbike, they looked at the ball joints and other related components - but it came down to a matter of, “how much do you want to spend to have us continue diagnosing this” after I’d spent more than I wanted to replace catalytic converter. They didn’t charge me for looking at the steering yet, they said that I should get an alignment - that it’s possible that the person who did the alignment before I bought it forgot to zero out a setting before switching to the other wheel and tightened something 180° off. (They have no alignment equipment at this shop. They said, “If that doesn’t fix it, bring it back and we’ll look at the expensive stuff.” I don’t doubt them, per se, I just want a second opinion…

So, this is ME trying to save on a bunch of unfruitful efforts and get down to a more likely culprit.

I’ll point out that the steering is very responsive and smooth, aside from being harder to turn left. There is no “play” in the wheel. There is no shaking at any speed. There are no spots in turning which are stiffer than others. There is no time at which the car seems to fight back against the turn. It’s just harder to turn the wheel to the left than to the right. Even if I turn all the way right, it is harder to turn back to the left than if I turn the wheel all the way to the left and then turn right.

Any other thoughts folks?

When you turn the steering wheel, you are moving a little lever inside the steering box. That lever pushes on one of two valves, one for the left and one for the right, depending on which direction you turn the wheel. As the rack gear inside the steering box moves, it moves the lever back to the center position and the rack stops moving, until you move the steering wheel again.

I would guess by your description that one of those valves is partially clogged. It could be that one of the power steering hoses has had a little de-lamination on the inside and a chunk of rubber broke free and got into the left valve or some debris got into your power steering reservoir and got stuck in the valve.

I see a remanufactured rack in your future. It is not too difficult to just remove the rack and clean out the valves, but it is very time consuming so the labor may be too high and a reman rack becomes the more economical choice.

Try this. Either raise the front wheels until both are off the ground or roll the tires onto something slippery (lay a stack of newspapers in front of the front tire; roll the tires on top the pile; and work from there.) Without the engine running move the steering wheel from the right to left and left to right. If the effort is still dissimilar, you have a mechanical problem. If the effort is the same both ways, the problem is in the rack. It could be a leak in the power piston or hang up in the valving that requires additional movement one way than the other.

^Keith: that sure makes a lot of sense. Especially so because the steering to the left was noticeably easier (still harder than right, but not as hard as yesterday) when I went for lunch a few minutes ago.
^Researcher: I was just thinking that I should try that… and to do it both with the engine running and without.

I will report back when I have results.

The problem might be with the spool valve in the rack and pinion assembly.

The spool valve is what directs the hydraulic pressure from the power steering pump to the pistons in rack and pinion assembly to provide power steering assist. If the spool valve has failed where it doesn’t provide this hydraulic pressure when turning left, you’ll get no power steering assist.


Spool valve is what I was attempting to describe. I couldn’t remember the name.

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to report back… busy, lazy, finally got it figured out. Ended up that my wife just recently hit a curb and a sign post, so we had to take it in to the shop for that stuff anyhow.

As it turns out, the rack (which Honda is calling the “mechanical steering gear assembly”) was bent in such a way that when the piston pushed one direction it wasn’t able to fully engage and therefore it was affecting both directions in that it was too much to the right, making it easier to steer than it should be and too little to the left, making it harder to steer. I’m told the bend was very slight, and they had a hard time diagnosing it until they tore the whole thing down.

They also noticed that what my regular mechanic said was true; some ding-dong did an alignment before I bought it and had set something (forgot which setting) off by 180° (probably a result of forgetting to zero out the equipment when switching sides).

Thank you for reporting back to us, Stubborn Puppet, and for confirming that my guess was correct.
Steering rack replacement can be pretty expensive, so if you don’t mind, could you tell us how much you had to pay for that repair?