The steering wheel is able to connect to the steering gearbox because of the intermediate steering shaft. On each side of the shaft, there is a joint which supports the angle that is in between the steering gear and shaft. This is what enables the wheels of your vehicle to turn with ease.
Underneath the dashboard section of your vehicle lies the intermediate steering shaft. Although every steering system has this shaft in it, each system has a different way of using it.
How an Intermediate Steering Shaft Works
The intermediate steering shaft of a “rack & pinion” steering system allows the rack and steering wheel to stay connected. The shaft of the power steering system allows the rotary valve and steering wheel to stay connected.
The shaft of the recirculating ball system allows the steering gearbox and steering wheel to be connected. If you have problems while trying to turn the steering wheel, then the intermediate steering shaft in your vehicle may be to blame.
Symptoms of a Bad Intermediate Steering Shaft
So, what happens when there is a faulty intermediate steering shaft? The symptoms are usually easy enough to notice.
First, you will likely hear a clunking sound or popping sound as you try to turn the steering wheel. The longer you drive the vehicle while it’s like this, the worse the sounds and symptoms will get.
Soon the steering wheel will start to bind as you turn it, which means it will be harder to turn. This will make the driving conditions a lot more dangerous, so you don’t want the problem to get this bad.
It is better to just take your vehicle to the auto mechanic as soon as you begin hearing those noises early on.
Common Causes of Failure
There are four needle bearings on the intermediate steering shaft. Grease is packed and sealed inside these bearings. This means you don’t have to maintain the bearings, so they should last throughout your vehicle’s lifespan.
However, there can be a problem if the grease in any of the bearings begins to dry out. Corrosion will form when moisture is present. This then prevents the bearing from doing their job.
This is the most common reason for why the intermediate steering shaft will go bad, due to its position within the engine bay.
If your intermediate steering shaft fails, then you will have to replace it. There are certain model cars which have the shaft as a separate unit. In other models, it is integrated into the steering system.
The typical cost to replace the shaft will be somewhere in the vicinity of $200 to $350 in most cases. Of course, you’ll probably pay double that at a dealership service center so it pays to find a good independent shop for steering shaft replacement.
Note that it is very important in certain vehicles for the position of the intermediate steering shaft to be marked on the intermediate shaft splines and the steering rack shaft. That way, it will be known how to position the newer u-joint.