Your car is equipped with a steering rack. Essentially, this is what translates the rotational movement of the steering wheel into lateral movement to control the front wheels. The rack is mounted under your car, behind the engine, but it cannot be attached directly to the frame/subframe, as this would cause serious vibrations to travel up the steering wheel.
Instead, the steering rack is mounted using a series of bushings (steering rack mounting bushings). These are made from a combination of steel and rubber and are designed to hold the steering rack firmly in place while dampening the noise and vibration created by driving along the surface of the road.
Your power steering rack mounting bushings are in use every time you drive your car. They’re also exposed to severe heat and cold, water, road salt, debris, sand and many other threats. Obviously, this takes a toll, particularly on the rubber portion of the bushings. Eventually, the rubber will become dry and brittle, shrink and crack. The steel portion can also be affected, particularly if rust and corrosion set in, or they’re damaged by an impact with an object. With all that being said, there’s no firm lifespan for your bushings. More frequent driving and exposure to the elements will lead to faster failure, though.
Once your bushings have become worn and start to fail, you’ll notice a number of problems, including increased road noise, less responsive steering and other problems. This creates a serious safety situation. Knowing a few symptoms to watch for can help you head this problem off before it becomes a real threat:
- Clunking from the steering wheel when turning
- Additional vibration in the steering wheel while driving
- Steering wheel jerks
If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to have your steering rack mounting bushings inspected and replaced if they’re worn or have failed completely. A professional mechanic can help to replace any parts necessary.