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The steering wheel is linked to a shaft on the steering gear (also known as a rack and pinion) by an intermediate shaft and a steering column. The steering column is the upper portion of the system and the steering wheel bolts onto the top. The steering column has a universal joint in it that allows it to pivot freely when turning. The lower part of the steering column attaches to the intermediate shaft on splines that fit tightly together for a crisp, responsive feel when driving and the upper part of the shaft is bolted to the underside of the dash. The upper part of the steering column contains the tilt steering mechanism, as well as the ignition housing. If the steering column universal joint begins to bind, the column tilt mechanism doesn’t lock in place, or the splines on the shaft wear, the steering column will need to be replaced.
Replace the steering column at the earliest sign of failure. The steering column is integral to your control of your vehicle. It may be necessary to replace the intermediate shaft at the same time if the two parts are seized together.
Waiting for symptoms to worsen before replacement can put you in a dangerous driving situation. Steering failure can result if you delay replacing the steering column right away.