2004 Jeep Liberty rack and pinion seal leak

  • 3.7L
  • 6 CYL
  • 2WD
  • 32,000 MILES
I am told by a mechanic that the entire rack and pinion unit must be replaced, that the seals cannot be fixed/or replaced individually. Is this true? I am trying to avoid a few hundred dollars expense here. Thank you!
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Thursday, June 11th, 2015 AT 8:28 PM

1 Reply

That is absolutely correct. No mechanic is going to do you the disservice of trying to replace the seals, then have you be angry when you have to come back because they're leaking again. There are a lot of assemblies we can repair for our own cars, but we understand we have only ourselves to blame when the repair goes sour. In this case you will find that if you ask for a seal kit at any local auto parts store, no one has such a thing in stock. There are some places were you can order them from, but you won't find anyone with the knowledge on how to do the repair or the special tools needed.

The next problem is to replace the seal, if we could, requires removing the steering gear from the car, rebuilding it on the workbench, reinstalling it, then performing the alignment. Replacing the gear requires removing it, reinstalling the new one, and doing the alignment. Rebuilding your old steering gear would take two or three hours once it has been removed. Professionally-rebuilt and tested rack and pinion assemblies with a warranty cost a lot less than paying for three hours labor to rebuild the old one.

You also must understand the seals rarely fail from wear. One of the accordion boots can have a tear in it allowing dirt and water to get inside. That can lead to rust or nicks on the shaft, and those are what can nick a seal. Failure to find those things will lead to the new seals leaking, then you have to start all over. Parts can wear out too that hold the shaft in place. At first that can lead to sloppy steering, but that shaft wondering around will allow it to move away from the seal and will result in fluid leakage.

The only time I am aware there was ever an attempt to repair a rack and pinion assembly was in the late '80s and early '90s when GM had a 100 percent failure rate. Those racks didn't leak though. They lost power assist until they warmed up. GM came up with a temporary fix to save money, and that required installing a new valve assembly. The intent of the repair was to get the car out of the 50,000 mile warranty. After that, when the problem occurred again in a few thousand miles, it was up to the owner to pay for the proper repair which required replacing the entire assembly with one that was designed properly to avoid repeating the original cause of the problem. GM is one of the worst when it comes to customer-friendly business practices, and this was one of them. Chrysler is one of the top in the world when it comes to putting customer needs ahead of profits, but even their rack and pinion assemblies get replaced, not repaired. I don't think we can even buy the seals from the manufacturer because Chrysler doesn't build their units. They buy them from a supplier, already assembled.

Your vehicle will need to be aligned when the rack is replaced. That's because two of the adjustments are on the rack. Those are the two that set the wheels straight ahead when the steering wheel is straight. Those adjustments are called "toe".
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Thursday, June 11th, 2015 AT 9:08 PM

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