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Alex, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Subaru
Satisfied Customers: 1158
Experience:  ASE Certified Master Technician, L1 Advanced Level Specialist
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My steering wheel is jerking to the left

Customer Question

My steering wheel is jerking to the left. It has gotten worse quickly, ( 3 days -20-30miles). It has to warm up before it begins jerking. !996 Outback...225,000 Miles.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Subaru
Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Hello. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'll be assisting you with your question.

Once the engine is warm, will the steering wheel turn to the left by itself even when stopped?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi Alex...No it doesn't turn by itself. In the course of normal steering, the steering wheel just jerks rapidly to the left then back to nuetral.



Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Sorry for the delay. When the steering wheel jerks to the left, does this happen going straight down the road on a smooth surface? Or does it only tend to happen when you hit a bump or dip?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

It isn't related to road surface, direction of travel, speed, or braking. Just happens at any time, and will continue even while breaking.



Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Sorry for all the questions. I'm trying to get the best description possible. When the steering jerks to the left, does it also steer the car to the left? Or just the steering wheel itself?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
It does steer to the left. Constant correction needed to stay straight.
Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Based on this information, I would suspect a problem with a rack and pinion that is leaking internally. If the internal seal is leaking, it could be allowing fluid pressure to the right side of the rack and constantly forcing the steering gear to the left. It also makes sense that it would be a hydraulic problem since it only happens when the engine is warm. One test I would try is remove the power steering pump belt to disable power steering and test drive the vehicle. If the condition improves with the power steering pump disabled, the problem is most likely with the rack and pinion.
Customer: replied 5 years ago. more piece of info....I left it at the dealer this morning. After I said I didn't believe that the jerk was caused by the Cv's...they then said it also needed a new steering box, (another $1000). I said that made more sense. They needed to order it and it would take a week if I could leave the car. My BS detector was in overdrive!! So this afternoon I went back and paid for the diagnosis and brought it home. I found on theXXXXXthat it all of a sudden for the first time in 3 days was driving just fine. I couldn't make it malfunction...but it smelled like oil burning. I popped the hood. They had filled the pump resevoir to the top of the neck and ATF was running all over the engine. Could they have done something to fix the jerking problem in that short of time?





Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for the extra information, Jerry.

At this point, the problem is obviously hydraulic and has nothing to do with the axles or anything mechanical. They may have topped off the fluid, but it's hard to imagine they just overfilled it and left it. It may have over-flowed on its own, due to the hydraulic issue. I still suspect a problem with the rack and pinion, but there could also be a restricted power steering line or pump causing the fluid to back up.

Also, $1000 seems steep for a rack and pinion (steering gear) replacement. A remanufactured rack can be had for under $300, and labor should be a maximum of $300 for this job as it only calls for 3.0 hours labor, book time. I'd get some estimates from some independent repair shops who won't require you to install a brand new unit from the Subaru parts counter.
Alex and 5 other Subaru Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago. makes more sense...I appreciate your thoughts



Expert:  Alex replied 5 years ago.
Thank Jerry I hope you get it fixed. Please come back and let me know what happens. Thanks again!