Rack and Pinion Replacement Cost [DIY & Pro Install]
Rack and pinion steering mechanisms make driving modern cars much easier. Turning comes quickly and easily, which is why rack and pinion mechanisms are so important.
Like most car parts, racks and pinions have a lot of moving parts, so there are many places where something can go wrong. Eventually, you need to replace your steering system.
Overall, you can expect to pay around $1,800 to fully replace a rack and pinion steering system. Like most car issues, the exact price will depend on your car’s age and your mechanic’s location.
You can expect to pay between $1,200 to $1,500 for parts and between $300 to $1,000 for the labor.
Rack and pinion systems can vary greatly from model to model. So we put together this comprehensive guide on the costs of replacing a rack and pinion steering system.
What Is a Rack and Pinion?
Rack and pinion systems consist of two major parts: a linear gear called the rack and a circular gear called the pinion.
The point of a rack and pinion system is to efficiently transform rotational motion from the steering wheel into linear motion to turn the wheels.
When you turn the wheels of a rack and pinion system, the gears connected to the wheel turn and cause the linear gears to move as well. These gears connect to inner and outer tie rods that connect to the axles.
Rack and pinion steering systems are common in most modern compact and midsize sedans and SUVs. Larger trucks and wavy-duty vehicles typically use a recirculating ball steering system rather than a rack and pinion system.
Rack and Pinion Replacement Cost
You can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000 to replace a rack and pinion system in a car. Most owners end up paying approximately $1,800, though the price can vary significantly depending on the age, make, and model of your car.
Rack and pinion replacement is a complicated process so it generally costs more than other types of car repairs.
Here is a table showing the average cost to replace the rack and pinion steering system in several popular models.
As you can see, lower-end consumer models are generally less expensive to repair and maintain. Luxury brands like Audi or BMW consequently will be much more expensive to replace.
Labor costs are tricky to pin down. Rack and pinion replacement is difficult and requires expert knowledge of car steering systems.
No matter where you go, you will likely pay a premium for rack and pinion replacement services from a mechanic.
One way to save money on replacement costs is to check with multiple different mechanics in your area. Some auto body shops may give you a discount on services if you get a lot of work done on your car all at once.
Also, if you can get service from a certified mechanic, any replacement you do may be covered under their warranty policy.
Additional Rack and Pinion Replacement Costs
The rack and pinion system has other parts that you will likely need to replace when replacing the main gears. Here are some common additional costs associated with replacing a rack and pinion steering system.
Tie rods go at the end of the new steering rack. So if you are replacing a full steering system, it makes more sense to just buy new tie rod ends rather than reusing the old ones. Tie rod ends will run you anywhere between $20 to $100.
Power Steering Lines
Power steering lines provide fluid to the steering system for lubrication. If your rack and pinion are damaged, odds are you have to replace your power steering lines as well. You can replace your power steering line for around $300 for parts and $200 for labor.
Power Steering Pump
In addition to the lines, the power steering pump circulates lubricant through your steering system. A power steering pump for most modern models of cars will cost you between $100 to $200 for parts, and an additional $200 for labor costs.
Power Steering Reservoir Tank
The power steering reservoir tank holds the power steering fluid while it’s being circulated through the system. Over time, your tank can break down, same as the other components. A standard power steering reservoir tank costs around $175 to replace.
Lastly, if you are replacing your steering system, then you will most likely need to have your tires realigned before you can hit the road. Fortunately, tire alignment is cheap.
You can get your tires aligned at a local mechanic for around $70.
Adding all these additional costs together, you are looking at a potential $1,000 extra for replacement costs.
If you are revamping your car’s entire steering system, then you are looking at an easy $3,000 in repairs.
Can I DIY Replace My Rack and Pinion System?
Like almost any car repair, you can replace a rack and pinion system on your own if you have the know-how. We do not recommend replacing your rack and pinion on your own unless you have previous experience working with such systems.
Here are some tips if DIY replacing your rack and pinion system.
Secure Your Car
You should always make sure that your car is secured when you are working under it. Use a strong jack and make sure that your car is on stable level ground and has the emergency brake engaged.
The last thing you want is your car falling off the jack while working on it.
Double Check Measurements
Rack and pinion gears are fitted to millimeter precision, so make sure that the parts that you buy line up perfectly. If they are even just a few millimeters off, the gears may not fit properly together and will not work.
Double Check Leaks
Your work will likely cut across the power steering transmission line. Once you have the parts installed, double-check the seals in the system to make sure there are no leaks.
If you are leaking steering fluid, your gear will wear out faster.
Steering Rack Replacement Cost
A vehicle’s steering rack is what keeps it on the road. The steering rack transmits the steering wheel’s rotation to the wheels. With an improperly functioning steering rack, you may not be in full control of your vehicle’s direction. So, if you are having a problem with your steering rack, you should get it resolved right away.
The overall steering rack replacement costs vary widely from vehicle to vehicle. If you take your vehicle to a shop to get your steering rack replaced, it can cost anywhere between $500 and $1500 for lower-end vehicles. For higher-end vehicles, the steering rack replacement cost runs between $1300 and $3500. If you buy the part and do the work yourself, your steering rack replacement costs can be as little as $200 to $300.
Steering Rack Replacement Cost By Shop
The table below shows the average total steering rack replacement cost at various mechanic shops.
|Supplier||Steering Rack Cost||Labor Cost||Total Steering Rack Replacement Cost|
Steering Rack Replacement Cost By Model
The cost to replace the steering rack will vary drastically from vehicle to vehicle. This is because we are at somewhat of a transitional point when it comes to steering rack technology.
Most vehicles still use a hydraulic power steering rack, but many newer vehicles use electro-hydraulic power steering racks, even if they are not electric vehicles.
Take a look at this table that shows the average steering rack replacement costs for the most popular vehicles.
|Vehicle||Steering Rack Cost|
Steering Rack Replacement Procedure Explained
It’s not super hard to replace a power steering rack. It’s usually just a couple of electronic and/or hydraulic lines, and a few bolts and basic connections to get it out and back in again.
The problem, however, is that the steering rack is pretty well deeply embedded within the vehicle. There are a lot of other things that have to be moved or disconnected before you can get to the steering rack.
How To Replace A Steering Rack
Replacing a steering rack is relatively straightforward.
Step 1: Locate the steering rack
Step 2: Drain all of the fluid from the power steering rack
Step 3: Remove hoses, electrical connections, and tie rods
Step 4: Remove the old steering rack
Like just about any other vehicle issue, the sooner you get a bad power steering rack replaced, the less overall damage will be caused to other components in your vehicle.
What Factors Affect Rack and Pinion Replacement Costs?
- Gear type. There are three major types of gears that rack and pinion systems use: straight teeth, helical teeth, and roller pinions. Both straight teeth and helical gear systems use interlocking teeth to transfer force. Roller pinion drives use a set of mesh rollers on a track.
- Repair vs replace. Generally, it will cost less to repair a system than replace it. However, if you have an older discontinued model with rarer parts, it may be less expensive to completely replace the steering system than to find the right part.
- Related repairs. Rack and pinion issues are rarely alone. Your mechanic will likely recommend that you also replace parts of your power steering system such as the hose of the pump.
- Vehicle age. Your vehicle’s age will also affect replacement costs. Older cars may have rar, discontinued parts that will be expensive to replace.
Signs I Need to Replace My Rack and Pinion
Here are some common signs of a bad rack and pinion steering system.
Tight Steering Wheel
Most cars have a smooth steering action, so one of the most obvious signs of a broken rack or pinion is difficulty steering and turning the wheel. If it takes significant effort to turn your wheel, then you should see a mechanic at the first chance.
Grinding When Turning the Wheel
Rack and pinions fit together with interlocking gear teeth. If the system is broken, these teeth become unaligned and start grinding against one another. Broken gears can also scrape against your axles.
Leaking Steering Fluid
Another common sign of a broken steering system is leaking steering fluid. If you see a puddle underneath your car, it could be a leaking steering system. Most steering fluid has a reddish-brown color and smells somewhat like fish oil.
Burning Oil Smell
One last sign of a broken steering system is the lingering smell of burnt oil. Oil in the gears can heat and start to smoke. Burning oil is a bad sign so if you smell it, take your car to a mechanic as quickly as possible.
How Often Should I Replace the Rack and Pinion?
Rack and pinion steering systems are generally meant to last the entire life of the car. So if you take care of your car and maintain your steering system your rack and pinion may never need to be replaced.
Even so, it may be a good idea to check up on your system after 100,000 miles or so. You can greatly extend the life of your main drive gears if you keep your power steering fluid system clean and in working order.
Try to replace your power steering fluid once every 75,000 miles, but you should replace it earlier if you drive a lot.
If you forget to replace your power steering fluid, you could damage the other parts of your rack and pinion.
Is Replacing a Rack and Pinion Worth It?
Rack and pinion replacement is a complex and costly procedure, so many car owners naturally wonder if it is worth it. If your car is already on its way out and the steering blows, it may be hard to justify spending another $2,000 to get the rack and pinion gears replaced.
So before getting your steering system replaced, we recommend looking up the current market value of your car and see how much it is worth.
If your car is not worth more than a few grand, then it may be a better idea to put that money into a new car, instead of replacing your old one and dealing with even more issues in the future.
On the other hand, if you plan to keep your car for a while or have a newer model, rack and pinion replacement can be cost-effective and let you get more out of your car.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to replace a rack and pinion steering system?
You can expect to pay about $1,800 to replace a rack and pinion steering system. The exact cost of repairs will depend on the age of the car and the location of your mechanic.
How often do you have to replace a rack and pinion?
The exact amount will depend on your specific car and its history of maintenance, but you can usually squeeze about 100,000 miles out of a rack and pinion steering system before it goes bad. Rack and pinion steering systems could feasibly last the life of the car if maintained properly.
Can you drive with a bad rack and pinion?
Technically yes, your car will still start with a bad rack and pinion. However, steering effectiveness will be greatly reduced. We do not recommend operating your car while it has a broken rack and pinion steering system.
What are the signs of a bad rack and pinion?
Common signs of a bad rack and pinion steering system include difficulty turning the wheel, clicking or grinding sounds coming from the drive, or leaking or smoking fluid under the hood.
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Rack and pinion steering systems are one of the core components of modern cars, so if your system is failing, then you need to get it fixed as quickly as possible. A broken rack and pinion steering system affects your ability to drive and is dangerous.
This part of the car is more expensive to repair than other parts, so make sure that you know the price. Call your local mechanics to get a quote and compare prices.