My daughters 99 Ford Taurus recently started having steering issues. Noticed it on a recent ice covered road.

Here is the issue: you go down the road & sometimes the driver side front wheel is pointing to the left while the passenger side front wheel is pointing to the right. Then the next thing you know, the driver side is pointing right & pass side is pointing left.

I noticed that the cv shaft on passenger side was bad so I changed it. The problem still persisted after I changed the shaft.

Any suggestions on what the issue could be? I should also add that I believe she may have hit a curb at a pretty good speed (although she denies hitting anything) judging from the big dent in the steel rim on the passenger side front.

  • 1
    Ah, kids and their cars. Did she not realize that the giant dented steel rim would give her away? lol Just beware that rim. If the dent is big enough, the tire may leak there.
    – cdunn
    Feb 18, 2016 at 20:53
  • Is this rack and pinion steering or recirculating ball?
    – cdunn
    Feb 18, 2016 at 20:56
  • not really sure on that. i am a DIYer. Have pretty good mech skills.........but def dont know it all!!!!! hHow do i tell diff between rack & pinion or recirculating ball?
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:00
  • The CV shaft does not exist, there is a CV joint which connects to the axle, which did you replace? Feb 18, 2016 at 21:01
  • 1
    A cursory search shows rack and pinion parts for the 99 Taurus. So it's very likely rack and pinion. Also, the "CV Shaft" would be a drive shaft, and have nothing to do with steering..
    – cdunn
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:40

4 Answers 4


I have seen these symptoms caused by a snapped rack in the steering rack. if this is the case with your car, it is very dangerous and the car shouldn't be driven until the rack is replaced.

Put your keys in the ignition to turn the steering lock off then jack one wheel up at a time and try to 'steer' that tire with your hands. You should be able to see the movement of the track rod that comes out of the end of the steering rack. One wheel will probably steer without the steering wheel moving, whereas the other wheel will move the steering wheel at the same time.

There isn't really anything else in the steering components that could be broken and allow the play that you are talking about and yet move both wheels when they are both jacked up and without it being visible from the outside.

The likely reason that a snapped rack can move both wheels when jacked up is because the rack will be fairly air tight due to the bushes and grease at each end of the rack. When there is no load on the wheels, when jacked up, the working side of the rack will act like a piston and drag the broken side using air pressure.

  • Thank you for the input HandyHowie. How would i go about checking if thats the problem?
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:36
  • Thank you for the input HandyHowie! How would i go about checking to see if that is my problem..............without taking it to a shop???
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:46
  • @steve I have added to my answer
    – HandyHowie
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:55

Here's a diagram of a rack and pinion steering system:

Basic Rack and Pinion Steering

As you can see the rack connects the two front wheels. Which means if they are turning independently something in the list from @rpmerf or the rack itself is broken. It's also very clear that the car is not safe to drive since the wheels can go their own independent ways. That's a crash waiting to happen. Highway speeds would be especially dangerous.


The steering rack connects to the front wheels through inner and outer tie rods. The inner tie rods thread into the steering rack, and the outer tie rod connects the inner tie rod to the wheel. If one or both of the tie rods are broken or stripped, you will have no control over the steering for that wheel.

If you take the wheel off you should see a threaded rod behind the axle that connects to the wheel carrier on the inside of the brake disc.

  • This is a very weird situation with the steering. When i have the car in the air, the wheels appear to turn equally with each other. Although it does look like it def needs an alignment. The problem increases when its on the road & im driving. Thats when they want to fight each other & go in opposite directions sometimes but other times it seems as tho they are working in tandem & responding as they should. When i had that pass side tore apart lastnite i did not notice anything with the tie rod as far as being broke or bent.
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:13
  • If she hit something with the pass side could it affected something on the drivers side?
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:15
  • I may have misunderstood the problem. Are you saying that when the wheels are off the ground they seem to turn as they should, but when they are on the ground they do not? If so, it might be that the impact stripped the threads from the tie rods. They could still have enough interference that everything seems normal when in the air, but when the wheels are on the ground, the force required to turn the tire causes the tie rods to slide into each other, allowing the side with the damaged parts will turn whatever way it want. Feb 18, 2016 at 21:52
  • 1
    That is correct. When wheels are off the ground everything seems ok except maybe a slight alignment issue. When they are on the ground is when everything goes goofy.
    – steve
    Feb 18, 2016 at 21:57

Jack up the front end and feel/look for any damaged suspension parts - tie rod ends, ball joints, bushings, sway bar linkage. Turn the wheel and see if the wheels move together. Verify that rim is straight, I would bet its not. Replace anything broken, and get an alignment done.

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