My RAV4 2004 steering rack leaks, can I ignore it?

Thursday August 06 2020

Hello Paul, during wheel alignment recently, the technician advised that my 2004 Toyota RAV4’s steering rack leaks oil and should be replaced because it causes steering noise and stiffness. What is the danger of delaying the fix? Betty

Hello Betty,
A steering rack is an important component of the rack and pinion steering system. When it leaks, it is one of the signs of failure and should be replaced soon. The steering rack converts the rotational movement of the steering wheel into a linear motion or simply put, a metal bar which is moved left or right by the steering wheel to turn your car wheels.

The steering system relies on a pump to pressurise the steering hydraulic fluid which helps the steering system to move the load of a vehicle on the wheels.

This fluid tends to be very hot as it cools and lubricates the hot steering pump and rack. The hot steering fluid, if not serviced over a long period, will begin to overheat as it loses its ability to maintain a higher boiling point.

This overheating steering fluid burns the steering rack seals and they start to leak.
It is expensive to repair a used steering rack and one needs specialist tools, a new seal kit and technical knowhow. Remanufactured steering racks from reputable sources are a good compromise as brand new ones are prohibitively expensive.

A damaged steering rack feels tight, makes grinding noise, leaks oil and loses precision. Eventually, it can break with potentially disastrous consequences if ignored.