Rack and Pinion Steering System

A tiny gear that makes all the difference in steering

I drive a 2008 Chevy Malibu LT six cylinder. I’ve always called it my God Car because of the amazing circumstances that allowed me to get it. My first car was a 2005 Chevy Malibu, which I owned for three weeks before I had a super exciting wreck. And God provided in some pretty miraculous ways to allow me to get the 2008 Malibu. When I got in July 2008, it had 17,000 miles on it, and since I drive more than 100 miles nearly every day, as of today, it has around 130,000. And it’s still amazing.

But the steering had started to make some funny noises, especially after I high centered my amazing car on a snow drift in my yard last winter.

Lawn ornaments by Chevy

Lawn ornaments by Chevy

I had the steering shaft replaced because of the original noise, and everything was good for a while. Until it started making another noise, but because I’m a minimizer and because cars just make noise sometimes, I didn’t think much of it.

And then . . . . on March 7 I was coming home early from a dentist appointment and just as I turned off K96 highway onto my blacktop road, my car stopped steering. I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t turn the wheel at all. My first thought was that the power steering had gone out.

I was so thankful I had gotten off the highway because having no control of your steering going 35 with nobody around is a lot different than going 70 with traffic around you. The long and the short of it is, I got it home, and the steering came back randomly. My dad took it out and drove it around pretty crazily to get it to do it again. It hung up on him a few times, enough to convince both of us that it needed to go in.

So we took it to my mechanic, and he called me the next day.

Rack and Pinion Steering System

Rack and Pinion Steering System

The mechanic told me that a piece of the rack and pinion steering system had broken. And he’d never heard of an instance where a piece of this system broke and the driver wasn’t in an accident.

The whole situation really worked out, and I don’t subscribe to coincidence. Every piece of this puzzle fit together perfectly, even down to me having the $$$$ to replace the whole steering system in my car.

But I got to thinking . . . what exactly is a rack and pinion system? I’m not much of a car person. I know enough about them to be dangerous, and I know enough about them to get them started again when they won’t run . . . or how to diagnose small problems with them. So I talked to my dad (car guy extraordinaire) and I did some Googling. Thus the strange picture at the left.

See that small gear? The Pinion Gear? That little gear moves up and down on the Rack so the car can turn. And if that little gear wears out and can’t grip anymore (or breaks, as in my case), your car won’t turn.

Isn’t it funny that something so small can determine how you steer a car?

Today’s verse is James 3:8, but you should read James 3:1-12.

But no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.

Our tongues are small things, but they have incredible power to hurt or help others. Just like the rudder on a ship or a bit in a horse’s mouth (or the pinion gear in a car’s steering system), your tongue can change the direction of your whole body or of someone else’s whole life. The words we say are powerful; they can damage, they can destroy, they can build up, they can encourage. And we don’t respect the power of what we say enough.

Just like that tiny gear breaking in my car’s steering system, my words can have disastrous consequences if I don’t grasp the full reality of how they can hurt someone else.

James 3:2 that if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. The tongue is the hardest part of ourselves to control. I know it’s difficult for me to watch what I say. I have a lot of opinions, and I usually think other people need to know what I have to say. But I’m not always careful in how I say it.

The long and the short of it is this: the tongue may be small, but it can change your whole direction if you let it. It’s powerful enough to keep you straight on course or send you hurtling into the ditch out of control.

So keep your words in check. Watch what you say. Respect the power that words have in your life and in the lives of the people around you.

And if your car starts making weird popping noises, have your mechanic check your rack and pinion system. =)