How often should I have my steering system checked?
Safety is a huge concern with both of these systems since a brake failure can keep you from stopping your vehicle, while a steering failure can cause you to lose control of it. Most modern vehicles are equipped with rack and pinion steering systems, while older and larger vehicles such as trucks are equipped with a steering gear box.
When a rack and pinion is used, the rest of the steering system is fairly simplified by using only outer tie rod ends and inner socket assemblies. When a gear box is used, there can be a large number of other steering arms used.
The more steering components there are, the higher the chance of having a failure. Many newer vehicles have also eliminated the standard hydraulic power assist system, replacing it with electric assist steering. No matter which type of steering system you have, regular inspections should be done to prevent any serious failures.
If you notice any noises, such as popping or knocking when going over bumps or turning, then you need to have your suspension and steering checked immediately as you do not want to have a serious failure. If your vehicle is driving fine, then you should have your steering system inspected every six months. The vehicle should be put on a hoist and the steering components checked for any excessive free play.
The tie rod ends and socket assemblies are equipped with ball-type joints. Over time, these will wear out allowing the steering to become loose. When this occurs, you will feel some looseness in the steering wheel followed by some noise in the steering. As it gets worse it will begin to wear out the tires and eventually it can break. If any looseness is found in any of the steering components, then they must be replaced.
If the vehicle is equipped with a rack and pinion, then it also needs to be inspected. It is mounted to the vehicle with rubber bushings. If the rubber bushings are worn or have oil saturated on them, then they need to be replaced. If the rack and pinion is leaking any power steering fluid from it, then the rack and pinion should be replaced.
Other than visually inspecting these components there is not much else to do maintenance wise unless there are grease fittings. Some older vehicles and some trucks have grease fittings on them which allows for lubricating these parts with a grease gun. This is typically done at every oil change.
If your vehicle is equipped with hydraulic power steering, then you need to have the power steering fluid changed regularly. Many manufacturers do not have a specified mileage for this, but it is a good idea to have it done about every two years. Having the power steering fluid changed regularly will increase the life of your power steering pump your steering gear, and the power steering hoses.
Keep in mind that newer vehicles have a manufacturer specific fluid in their power steering systems. If you do not use the correct fluid, you can have some serious issues such as noise from the power steering pump or a lack of power assist. If there are any leaks in the power steering system, then they should be repaired immediately. If they are not repaired, then the system can run out of fluid causing the steering to get very hard to move which can be dangerous.
Regularly, inspections of your vehicle is the best form of preventative maintenance. Many people overlook the steering and suspension system and only realize there is a problem when it is too late and a problem is already occurring. Modern steering systems tend to last much longer than that on older vehicles, making them somewhat maintenance free. By identifying small problems before they become big, not only will you keep your vehicle safe, but it will help you to avoid spending extra money on multiple parts failing and from having to purchase new tires because they wore out excessively. It is ideal to have a certified mechanic, like one from YourMechanic, inspect the vehicle routinely as that can prevent serious issues with your vehicle.
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