Need info on rack & pinion

2004 Hyundai XG350, 65K miles. I already laid out the big bucks for the 60K mile service which I was told included some sort of hugely expensive timing
belt or timing chain replacement. That was several months ago. Took the car to the dealer for the state mandated annual safety inspection required to get new license plate stickers. The service dept would not pass the vehicle, saying that "The vehicle needs a new sterring rack & pinion as it is making a banging noise and the boots are leaking. Estimate is $744 plus tax." They said the car was a danger to drive. We told them we had been thinking of getting another car anyway, and they lent us a 2011 Sonata for the night as a test drive. We ended up bringing it back and telling them we would have to think on it. The more we thought, the more we were inclined to keep the XG rather than rush into something.
Needing to get the sticker, we drove across the street to the Bridgestone independent dealer, did not give them any hints, and the car passed without issue. Hmmm.
We've been dealing with the dealer since 2004, and our other vehicle is a 2008 Veracruz. They've always been extremely courteous and accomodating, and we've been very pleased. I was all set to schedule the car to have the work done, but we decided to get a second opinion. We contacted an independent garage which was recommended to us by several people. They are known for doing a lot of work on foreign brands and we got several strong recommendations. I called the guy to set up an appointment, explained what I was told, and he sounded incredulous that the steering could have gone bad at only 65K miles. We took it there yesterday, they put it on the rack, and said there was nothing wrong with the rack and pinion steering, but that the upper control arm was extremely loose and the car should not have passed the inspection on that account. All it took was a little torque application to tighten down the control arm, and we were safely (?) on our way, no charge.
So I called the service manager at the Hyundai dealership today and explained to him what happened. I told him I did not know what to think, but I was inclined not to do business there again and have a discussion with the general manager to explain why. But I wanted to see what he thought first, since I did have a good history with them. The service manager said the technician who worked on his car was a trusted, long-time employee, and if he said it was bad, it was bad. But since I felt as I did, he suggested I bring the car in next week for us to look at together.
Now I'm a skilled computer guy, but with cars, not so much. What I would like to know is, when I'm standing there under the car with this guy, what should I look for? And how would I know if what he is telling me is true? I recall seeing some old reports on 20/20 where a mechanic could giggle this and flex that and convince you that you had a major problem with something. Any hints on how I would know if the steering is really worn out to the point of being dangerous to drive?
FWIW, we had been complaining since well before the end of the 60K mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that the car would periodically make terrible creaking sounds, but for whatever reason those finally dissapated. More recently my wife, who is the promary driver of the car, has been complaining of banging noises which I maybe heard once, but those too had become less frequent. Heck, they might have been the control arm.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far, and if you have some hints for me, I would appreciate it.
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First, let me state I'm a bit cynical and I tend not to trust very many dealers or independent shops. Over the years I've seen too many people taken advantage of because of unscrupulous or incompetent mechanics. Too many stories to go into here.
It is possible, but unlikely that the rack and pinion have to be replaced at 65,000 miles. It is also possible that the technician in question gets a bonus for work done. Keep in mind also that the Bridgestone guy does brakes and shocks all day long but is not interested in doing a more involved job and was happy to make a few bucks for the sticker.
Have them show you what is the problem, but alos have them show you the specification that says how much play is allowed or whatever they cite as the reason it is defective. Opinions are just that, specifications from the servie manual is what matters to me.
OK, one quick story. Guy says he it taking his car to a shop for a new alternator and voltage regulator as both were diagnosed bad. Another guys says "BS, they don't both go bad at the same time" and goes to check the car. He tightens the belt and car now charges properly. Much money saved.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

I agree that it is unlikely that both go bad at the same time, but that doesn't mean that both won't have to be replaced at the same time. Many new alternators have an integral voltage regulator and normal procedure is to replace the entire unit when either goes bad. I suspect the labor cost to open up the alternator to replace the internal regulator would be greater than the cost of a replacement alternator.
However, a loose belt is not a good reason to replace an alternator! :-)
Matt
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This was an older (1970's) car with separate pieces. Could have been either lack of integrity or lack of knowledge.
Had a similar situation when I took my Mercedes to the dealer because the electric cooling fan did not work. They replaced both the fan and the thermostat. Of course, I questioned it and asked to see the parts to test them. "Sorry sir, they seem to have been discarded but we'll adjust the bill. "
Same dealer different problem. Cruise control would just stop working. They replaced a $400 circuit board that looked like a turn signal flasher. I did not think that was the problem but he insisted. Paid and left and the problem re-occurred minutes later so I turned around and went back. I took the bill and flipped it over and drew the electrical schematic of the cruise control system on the back of the paper. I showed him why he was wrong and what the problem likely was. They fixed a $25 switch and I was on my way with a credit.
Another lesson is never buy a Mercedes unless you are filthy rich or the company you work for takes care of maintenance. When I changed jobs, first thing I did was dump that 300D.
There are some fantastic mechanics out there, but there are many no so good. If you do find a good one, stick with him and smile when you pay the fairly priced bill.
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wrote

OK, follow-up. I took the car back to the dealer and they put it on the rack. Technician showed us where he thought the concerns lay. This time, he said that there was only a hair bit of movement. Though he said any movement was not good, this seemed to become a minor issue. The main concern in their mind was the presence (which they said was there but I could not see clear evidence, compounded by the fact that it was a drizzly day) of fluid which they said was leaking from the boots, though 'the boots were just dust covers'. The said the seals were leaking, and the danger was that under pressure the seals could just blow and we would lose steering. They said the seals could not be replaced, that the whole rack was once sealed (or in this case, not so sealed) unit. It was an all or nothing replacement.
True or not true? To me and my limited knowledge I've been able to glean from the web about R&P steering, it seemed like if it was serious, we would be losing power steering fluid on a regular basis, and there might be signs in the steering experience. They seemed to indicate my wife could lose the ability to steer altogether, and it could happen suddenly rather than present warning signs once could feel over time.
To me, this sounds like either excess caution or an attempt to drum up a $744 service bill.
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Congratulations. You have won a weekend trip for two including two night as a nice hotel and three meals a day. The value of the trip is $744. We hope you enjoy the weekend away. .
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On 2/24/2010 10:59 PM, Wayne Maruna wrote:

If the boots are leaking you should be able to see some evidence of that (such as what might look like an oil stain or something) either below or on the bottom of the boot(s). As far as the steering rack & pinion - have you noticed the"banging noise" while turning or going straight, also do you hear anything when you turn the wheel or does it feel like it is binding or jerking?
Finally, look for someone who specializes in front end work and get their opinion as well.
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