By definition a bushing is engineered to absorb impact or provide stability between two supporting joints. The steering rack mounting bushings may not be a household mechanical component, but without them, smooth driving would not be possible. However, if these bushings wear out completely, it can cause additional vibrations to occur, loosening other mechanical components and potentially causing an unsafe driving condition.
Unlike other mechanical bushings, the steering rack mounting bushings are engineered to move side-to-side as they are attached to the power steering rack and the vehicle frame. Its frequent movement causes additional wear and tear; and when not properly maintained or serviced, can wear out prematurely. In order to avoid this situation, it's recommended by all automotive manufacturers to have your steering rack mounting bushings inspected during any suspension related service.
There are a few warning signs that if noticed, should inspire you to contact an ASE certified mechanic so they can inspect your vehicle for potential damage to your steering rack mounting bushings.
1. Clunking sound in the steering column
When you're driving and you hear a "clunking" sound coming from the front of your car, it's typically caused by a loose or worn out bushing. This sound is common with worn out stabilizer bar bushings, upper control arm bushings, and the steering rack mounting bushings. The "clunking" sound will be noticeable when driving over a speed bump, cracks in the road or cement seams typically found in bridges and tunnels. You can also feel this clunking sound in the steering wheel as a rough or aggressive "bump".
If you hear this sound or anything similar to it, contact a mechanic as soon as possible as it indicates something in your suspension or steering is coming loose and needs to be repaired immediately.
2. Inconsistent steering or jerking movements in the steering wheel
Occasionally you'll notice that your steering wheel will make jerking movements or sudden turns to the left or right when not directed by you. This is typically the sign of loose bearings in the steering rack and the result of the steering rack literally moving without input. Obviously this is a potentially dangerous situation that could lead to an accident, so if you notice your steering wheel moving on its own, contact a local ASE certified mechanic as soon as possible.
3. Clicking or popping sounds while steering
Another common symptom of a broken or failing steering rack mounting bushing is a clicking or popping sound when you turn the steering wheel to the left or right. When the bushing is worn out, it creates travel or "free play" in the steering column, which can twist or misalign the steering box and supporting components. This can cause the joints in the steering box to make a "popping" sound. You'll also notice this "pop" in the steering wheel. If this happens, it's commonly associated with bearings that have completely worn out and can lead to significant suspension component failure. You need to have your steering rack mounting bushings replaced if this occurs.
Get the bushings replaced while a mechanic inspects the suspension system
The most common symptom of a problem with the steering rack mounting bushings is when a mechanic is completing maintenance or service on your front end suspension including suspension alignment, CV joint or boot replacement, replacing struts or shocks or replacing the power steering booster. If the mechanic informs you that the steering rack mounting bushings are worn out, please permit them to replace them while they are completing the other work. This will save you time and a lot of money in the long run.
Anytime you hear or notice any of the above symptoms we've described, you should contact your mechanic as quickly as possible. Worn out steering rack mounting bushings can be easily replaced without having to fix or repair other steering system or suspension components. However, when they break, it can cause multiple parts to break along with them. Be proactive about your steering system integrity and maintenance, as it could reduce the potential of accidents or additional parts damage.