Some vehicles contain an intermediate shaft connecting the steering column to the gearbox/rack and pinion system. Symptoms of a failing intermediate shaft include noise, looseness, and binding.
Worn and binding steering couplings bind about every half-turn. Binding or looseness occurs when one of the four bearings in the universal joint is worn or has become contaminated and lost its lubrication. The lower joint typically causes this problem because it’s in the engine compartment and more exposed to the environment.
Intermediate shafts contain two collapsable interconnected parts that can make a clunking and popping sound when worn. The joints have a shield to protect them from the environment and prevent premature wear.