After 195000 miles, the steering wheel became harder and it was hard to make tur on 1999 Toyota Camry

After 195000 miles, the steering wheel became stiffer and it was hard to make a simple turn on a street. Moreover, there was a slow power steering leak and OCCASIONALLY, the steering wheel would not re-coil (it wouldn't turn back to where the wheels would be straight). The steering wheel sticks and stays in one place after making a turn (I have to manually return the steering wheel back straight). I noticed that the U-joint behind the firewall was full of gunk and I decided to clean it (sprayed it with brake cleaner, followed by penetrating oil - this is the dumbest thing I did in my life!) and now the steering wheel almost never coils back to the straight position after making a turn. The rack and pinion was changed (due to the leak I mentioned earlier) and this solved the leak problem but did not affect the steering wheel issue. My question is, can I try to grease this U-joint at this point or do I have to replace it? (it is $400 - available from Toyota only!)

by in Corona, NY on October 11, 2011
2 answers 4 comments
ANSWER by on October 11, 2011
did anyone check the pump for proper pressure?? we replace the 2 as an assembly. as far as the shaft, it comes out under the dash board after you take out the pinch bolt on the rack. then you can see if the joint is frozen or not. I have never replaced one in more 40 years. Roy
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COMMENT by on October 11, 2011
Thanks for your response. Yes, the pump was checked during the rack and pinion job and it seemed fine. During the rack and pinion job, I was informed that the u-joint was frozen. My question is, if the u-joint is frozen, can it be greased? I am wondering if I can grease it or do something to the U-joint without actually removing it (because I think that creates all sort of other problems i.e. the alignment) so is it possible at all to grease the u-joint without removal? Thanks.
COMMENT by on October 11, 2011
yes, it can be cleaned as long as there is broken pieces. the other reply apparently has replaced these units. I remove them when doing the rack and clean them up. by that, I mean loosening the cups and adding lube to the rollers. Roy
ANSWER by on October 11, 2011
We have seen and replaced the steering coupler numerous times. The coupler shaft has u-joints on them and we have seen them fail.
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COMMENT by on October 11, 2011
Thanks for your response. So when you did see them fail, did you always replace them with a new one or did you try applying grease to it? And is it possible to apply grease without actually removing the u-joint? Thanks.
COMMENT by on October 19, 2011
The u-joints on this shaft are NOT servicable.