Paul, I drive a Toyota Harrier 2005 model. Recently it started making rattling noises on bad roads, steering wheel feels wobbly and is leaking steering oil. My mechanic inspected it and said that I have to replace the expensive steering rack and tie rod ends but I am not yet financially ready. What is the danger of driving this car like this for atleast two months? Anne Kyohairwe
Hello Anne, your mechanic may have a point. From the symptoms you describe you need to replace the steering rack and tie rod ends. The steering rack has the gearing that makes it easy for you to pull the wheels left or right when you turn the steering wheel.
This steering gearing is bathed in steering fluid (ATF oil) for cooling, lubrication, protection of seals and performance. Steering fluid ages with time and needs to be renewed. If left unserviced this aged steering fluid starts to overheat and damage internal seals or metallic gears.
This causes internal noise of damaged gears or leakage of steering fluid through damaged seals. If the steering rack leaks oil and is driven around dry it will loose the hydraulic effect and become hard to steer. This will cause seizure of internal gearing which can lead to catastrophic steering failure. Other moving components of the steering system such as the steering pump will get damaged when they run dry without ATF.
Tie rod ends are steering linkages screwed onto the steering rack. These connect the steering rack to the wheel carriers (hub). Tie rods have a ball and socket system (ball joints) which wear out overtime due to age, bad roads, accidents or loss of grease due to torn rubber boots. When tie rod ends fail completely you may loose steering or experience collapse of a wheel.