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Let’s make this a little easier to understand by breaking it down. There are two parts to “rack and pinion boot.” There’s the “rack and pinion” portion, and the “boot” portion. Let’s start with the former. The rack and pinion (also known as the steering rack) is a critical part of your car’s steering system. Let’s go for the simplified version, shall we? Imagine those scooters you rode around as a kid. So, they’ve got the handle bars, which are like a steering wheel. And they’ve got the wheels. And they’ve got a long bar connecting the two, right? That’s pretty much what your car’s rack and pinion is. The steering rack is connected to the steering shaft, which is connected to the steering wheel. And it’s also connected to the steering knuckles, which are attached to the wheels. As you turn the steering wheel, the two ends of the rack and pinion move to control the wheels of the car, and then your car goes where you ask it to. In theory, at least. So, that brings us to part two: The “boot.” You know what a boot is, yeah? Well, that’s pretty much what the rack and pinion boots are, too. The rack and pinion has two rubber boots, with one on each end. Just like the boots on your feet, they serve to protect the rack and pinion. The boots keep dirt, dust, detritus, and all forms of liquid and moisture from entering the rack and pinion. It’s an important job. Rack and pinion boots rarely need to be replaced. The rubber is very durable, and unlike some other rubber components in your car, the boots aren’t subject to much wear and tear. But occasionally they will need a replacement, at which point both should be replaced at the same time.
So, the rack and pinion boots are responsible for keeping all the nasty stuff out of your rack and pinion. Which means if they stop showing up to work, your steering rack no longer has its security system in place, and anything can waltz in there. Over time, dirt, moisture, and debris will begin to collect in your steering rack, which will impact your car’s ability to steer. So, here’s a piece of good advice: If you ever find that the steering in your car doesn’t feel right, you should get your car looked at. Not sure if you realized this, but the ability to steer is kind of a crucial part of your car. On the rare chance that your rack and pinion boots die, hopefully they’ll be detected before your steering is impacted, or else you may need to replace the entire rack and pinion.
As your rack and pinion boots fail, there will be visual evidence. The boots may be cracked, split, or straight up broken, and they may also have some oil on them. Now, look, I’m not expecting you to be under the hood of your car, checking on your rack and pinion boots every morning. You probably won’t ever notice your rack and pinion boots, healthy or not. But a technician might, and if they do, they’ll let you know that the rack and pinion boots need to be replaced.
Unless your car feels unsafe to drive, a busted rack and pinion boot isn’t going to keep your car from being safe. However, the issue won’t magically resolve, and the longer it is avoided, the more damage it will do to the steering rack. So, do the smart thing and get your rack and pinion boots replaced if needed.
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