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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all

Mk1 1999 2.0 petrol focus estate.

Yesterday I was reversing out of a parking space, had the steering on a hard left, when I went to straighten up I heard a 'clonk' noise and the steering suddenly became very stiff when turning to the right. Strangely though it still works when turning left but there's no power assistance going right at all and it's very heavy. Both wheels still steer together so no issues there and it drives fine, seems to be related just to the power assistance rather than a mechanical issue. When having the steering on a hard left I can hear a sort of hissing/hydraulic noise which I never noticed before, it's quiet though but I haven't been listening for it so it may have been there all along, when on hard right I cannot hear it though.

I've checked the fluid level as soon as it happened which is fine, I've done about 30 miles today and the fluid level is still the same so wouldn't think there is a leak at all. I had a quick look under the car and can't see anything unusual either.

I've spoken to a knowledgeable friend of mine and described the symptoms, he suggested it's probably a seal gone on the steering rack and it would need a new rack, this was just a verbal diagnosis though and I haven't yet taken it anywhere to be looked at.

My main question is, is is still safe to drive like this? I don't mind it being stiff to steer I can cope with that but would be worried about anything else breaking that could cause an accident.

I'm reluctant to spend any money on the it at the moment as it's only got to last me until the end of this month when I am buying a new car to replace it.

Could anyone advise what the issue could be and also how safe is it in the current state?

Kind regards
Rob
 

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Advice seems to be accurate on the rack failure, that noise at the end of travel would be typical at EACH end when working properly.

The mechanical portion should still be solid, safety depends on whether you can move it easily enough to steer as needed.
 

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Possible broken torsion valve in the rack. Blown center seal should affect both ways but not necessarily.

Now you know a very good reason why you never HARD right or left, holding against that internal rack limit can damage the rack. One generally hits the end limit and then back off just a little bit, holding it hard in place is what does it. A basic hydraulic system no-no there.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ah i see, wasn't aware it did damage, woops! The car is getting to the age now where things are failing quite often so hopefully it will last me until the end of the month. I only paid £500 for it two years ago so it's served me well.

Yes i can move it easy enough to steer and I'm ok with that. By the way is steering rack and steering gear the same thing? From looking online people suggest steering gear, I guess it's just another name for it.
 

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"Steering Gear" is a more general term, and if I may say so a "British" term.

By American idiom that could refer to any or all parts of the steering mechanism, while the "rack" is a particular type of component (vs.a steering "box").

I think in the British usage you mention it refers to the gear drive assy., of whatever type.


I hear that term more here for nautical usage, and it includes everything from wheel to rudder.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hi again,

That's quite strange actually sailor, I'm British and grew up playing with cars a lot (my mother's other half during my childhood was a mechanic) and I'd never heard 'steering gear' before. You learn something new every day :)

I've finally had a chance to have a look at the car, got it up on the ramps and found what I believe to be the problem.

On the right-hand side of the steering rack just on the inside edge of the rubber gaiter there is a metal pipe coming out of the rack on a 90 degree elbow which has come detached (the elbow is in place still but the pipe detached from it), not sure if it's snapped or just come apart (don't know how it's usually fixed), either way it's just dangling there. Strange thing about it though is there's no sign of any leaked oil, the area is completely dry despite being plenty of fluid in the reservoir, is that normal? It is visible when looking through the wheel arch on the back side of the wheel and through the spokes of the alloys.

Found a picture on google and circled the area:


Another interesting thing, after parking on a steep slope today, the steering seems to have 'evened out' considerably, the side that was stiff before is now noticeably better, and the other side which was previously working is slightly stiffer so it feels like the same amount of pressure when steering both ways. I'm confused by the whole situation now lol
 

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The tube is merely an equalizer, it allows the pressure to equal up on both ends of rack. A rack in normal good shape will have no fluid in it, only a blown seal on one end puts fluid in the tube. When bellows even full of air compresses on one side it would blow out the rubber, it leaks threw that tube to the other side which is expanding at same rate the other is contracting so things stay the same. Open loose tube end merely lets dirt get inside rack.

Whatever is broken in rack is simply shifting around to make the effect better or worse, don't think it's fixing itself, could be dangerous. If that valve previously mentioned in a bad world broke loose and jammed completely, meaning dead locked up steering in one direction, that would be fun eh? Longshot and not likely but I'd be getting that fixed ASAP. The changing of the effect says it could happen, what if it gets worse instead of better???? Cracked torsion valve then deflecting as it cracks worse could do that, if it breaks completely loose and plugs one port then you got serious troubles. Could simply be a center seal shredded to act as a one way check valve too. Not as bad but still needs fixing, it WILL fail completely driven long enough.
 

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That's quite strange actually sailor, I'm British and grew up playing with cars a lot (my mother's other half during my childhood was a mechanic) and I'd never heard 'steering gear' before. You learn something new every day :)
That shows how good my guessing was on language, for cars I'd only seen that in older or European usage (in print), so I figured it might still be in use there.

amc covered the tube, unfortunately though obvious it isn't an issue that would contribute to the problem.

Cheers
 
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