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I can't afford to get ripped off by a "dealership" or mechanic so I came to see if I can be a little more informed on whats going on to my 1996 legacy outback. (I love these cars, they are reliable and durable) Thanks so much in advance, and please correct me if I am wrong. So I have been on a road trip for a month or more and I am assuming due to regular mountain and heavy load usage (northern California sharp turning roads) I am now hearing clunking noises every time I steer left coming from the driver side front left tire area usually happens when going 45-65 mph, sometimes when going slower. I've also noticed its happening when I am decelerating or hitting the brakes. When it first hit me I was on the highway going 65 mph and my steering wheel started jerking like never before. I pulled over next town and did some internet research. I came up with a list of possible things it could be:



  • tire alignment
  • steering rack
  • axle
  • ball joints
  • cv shaft
  • cv axle
  • cv joints
  • inner/outer tie rods
  • wheel bearing
  • lower ball joints​
I then went under the car and took some pictures, I am not too car savy but enough to do the work myself if it isn't re-building a motor. I need help figuring out what's causing the noise so I don't get ripped off if I have to go to the mechanic. From other forums and posts I have read it seems to be something I definitely need to take care of as soon as possible. The torn boot is in the front left driver side.


  • I have noticed atf fluid leaks and sits in a puddle sometimes (can't be good?)2_zpsfaxsobcd.jpg
  • Another angle 3_zps4smds5wn.jpg
  • Torn Steering rack & pinion boot or inner tie rod boot I believe? 4_zps75qah41q.jpg
  • Another angle of the torn boot 6_zpstupdanmt.jpg
  • This is again the same torn boot, except this time in the photo the steering wheel is turned to the left as far as it can go (this is the way when it makes the clunking noise) It seems to be the Rack and pinion teeth that is being exposed? (This is where I get confused, is this the steering rack and pinion boot or is it the inner or outer tie rod boot? please help) How bad does it look? 12_zpsmtck03ve.jpg
  • Again, another angle with the steering wheel turned to the left as far as it can go.10_zps0wjkag8d.jpg
  • CV Axle boot (closest to the wheel) I believe, with the steering wheel turned to the left. Does it look bad? 9_zps59tpbbb6.jpg
  • Again, another angle of the CV Axle boot (closest to the wheel) same position.8_zps1v6qgzfv.jpg



So, what I am thinking it has got to be either a bad CV axle or CV joint? Or a bad inner/outer tie rod and boot. Or a torn Steering Rack & Pinion boot with a bad overall steering rack (Although I hear its rare). I am low on funds and really need to just get down to the nitty gritty of the problem and fix it. What must be done? I need your advice, tips and help. Thank you! :burnout:

Edited by louipaw
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The power steering fluid leak probably just need to tighten the line fitting. Minute and really not something to be stressed out over right now.


The steering rack could be the source of the problem but I wonder.  Few months ago returning from a trip my 95 started pulling to the left. Also a a slight steering wheel shake the got more noticeable the closer I got to home.  The wheel shake turned out to be a broken belt in the left front tire. 


Went and replaced the rack and that turned out to be a bitch of a job. Fittings are almost impossible to get a wrench on and  one of the bolts the hold to rack to the frame snapped off.  Nothing I tried to remove the snapped bolt worked so finally drilled it out and used a timesert. Installation was no picnic either. Had a terrible time reconnecting all the line fittings. 


Your rack does look bad and should be replaced but don't expect it to be a few hour job.

Edited by john in KY
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Thanks for the quick reply, I will check and tighten if need be any of the line fittings in the daylight tomorrow as well as inspect the front left tire of any broken belts. I am thinking of replacing the front left cv axle, replace the old torn appart steering rack and pinion bellow (I know I should and will eventually replace the whole rack, just tight on funds at the moment) and getting a new tire in hopes of getting rid of the dreaded clunking noise. If I do end up putting a new steering rack bellow does anybody know if it needs any inside and how much lube/oil? specific kind?

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I have been reading countless forums, they help a lot. I will replace the steering rack boot (bellow) with a new one as soon as possible. Deciding on replacing the inner and outer tie rod and/or the complete front cv axle/half shaft. I would like to do all of the above now, but don't know if I can afford at the moment. I will have to save up some funds, and get an OEM steering rack. If not ill resort to the junk yard or an internet source. Any suggestions? I read around cardone makes decent rebuilds, apparently they claim to be oem. I also read about the temporary saran wrap/duct tape fix over the clicking or semi-torn cv boot. Some say original subaru cv axles are pretty durable up to thousands of miles with clicking in the right conditions. Some hope for my axle to stay on for a couple weeks if need be. 

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Clean & replace the boots.


The CV joints are pretty tough.  If you remove, clean, inspect and reboot them they will most likely be fine.  Same with the rack.


If it's just in one turn direction and comes and goes when you turn/apply a load, it's most likely the bearing in the knuckle.  You can get a used knuckle and install it pretty easy.

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Good deal Imdew, thanks for the advice. I will reboot the cv axle, and steering rack. And replace the inner and outer tie rod with oem if not to expensive, or aftermarket, whats your take on that?  I will look into getting a used knuckle. 

Edited by louipaw
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You can inspect them for play.  A good used rack from the yard would be about the same as buying the boots and tie rods.

Do you have a self-serve yard near you?


Go pull a good rack, a good learning tool

Then do yours.  Make sure you don't cross thread the power steering line fittings when you hook them up.

You should be able to start them by hand and just tighten them with wrenches.  Remove the little bracket that holds  the lines apart when you are installing the lines.

Make sure the little o-ring is on the end of the rack line side.

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I would guess ball joint or the bushing on the rear of the control arm. The control arm bushing is filled with a silicone fluid which leaks out when the bushing goes bad. If the bushing is covered in grease or has a thick greyish oil dripping off it, the bushing needs to be replaced.


Jack up the wheel, grab it at 9&3 o'clock and rock it and listen and feel for clunking.


With the wheel turned all the way to the left, grab the inner tie rod end where it's attached to the rack and try to push it up and down or forward and back.

If it moves around more than about 1/8" and produces a clunk sound from the rack housing, the support bushing in the end of the rack is worn and the rack will need to be replaced.

Edited by Fairtax4me
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