You need a rebuilt rack and pinion steering gear. If you slide that small clamp off and use a small pick to pull the plastic accordion boot open a little, you'll find the power steering fluid will come pouring out. The seal on one end is leaking, but there's an air transfer tube between the boot on each side, and the fluid will go through it from one side to the other. There should be only air in there. The boots are to keep dirt out, not to keep fluid in.
The car will need to be aligned after the rack is replaced. As far as doing it yourself, I was a suspension and alignment specialist for many years and replaced a lot of rack and pinion assemblies, but those were on Chrysler products. Most were very easy. On GM products, ease of service is WAY down on their list of priorities. If you need the car right now, take it to a mechanic. If you want to try to tackle it yourself, get a copy of the manufacturer's service manual first and read through the pages of procedures, then look at the list of special tools you'll need.
Unlike everyone else, a lot of service procedures on GM cars require dropping the cross member with the engine and transmission on it. If you do that, you must do something to note how it is positioned because it has to be bolted in, in exactly the same orientation. If it is off-center as little as 1/16" it will cause miserable handling problems that an alignment will never fix. Only more experienced mechanics will know what to look for and how to correct it, but they won't check that either until after the initial alignment and test-drive. They usually don't, but they can legitimately charge you for making the corrections, and a second alignment, unless they are told they need to check this first. The alignment angle is called "steering axis inclination", (SAI). All alignment computers measure it automatically, but we never look at those numbers unless we're looking for an elusive cause of a problem.
On a good day, if there's little rust on the car and it's on a hoist, the job can take as little as half an hour on some Chrysler products, and as long as 3 1/2 hours on a few models. Your car falls somewhere in between. Given that you'll be crawling around on the ground, and you'll have to scramble for the tools you don't know you need yet until you get under there, you can expect to spend a weekend on this project. You'll still need to have it aligned. To make the car drivable, you have to set "toe" for each wheel as close as possible. That is set by how many turns the inner tie rod is screwed into the outer tie rod. To save time, the outer tie rods don't have to be removed unless new ones come with the rack assembly. Typically you only get outer tie rods with a brand new rack, and you only can afford a brand new rack when the car is under warranty and the bill is being paid by the manufacturer. Count the number of revolutions it takes to remove each inner tie rod from their outers, then install the replacements the same number of turns. The alignment won't be close and you can expect the steering wheel to be off-center, but you'll be able to drive to the alignment shop without scrubbing the tire tread off.
Monday, October 13th, 2014 AT 4:35 PM