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The car would not pass inspection because of slop in the steering rack which also caused some uneven, front left tire wear.  After a second trip to the garage to inspect the worn-out parts, I okay'd the replacement of the rack. The weather was freezing and I knew that I would not be crawling around on my back in my garage trying to fix this anytime soon.  Total cost was $761, see the breakdown below.  Ouch.  This is one of the main reasons we work on our own cars.  If you trust your shop, it can be nice to let someone else do the work when you have the dough-re-mi to spare.

    Inspection/Emission/Sticker    $46
         Steering Rack Assembly $210
                                    Fluids    $6
                              Alignment  $70
                                       Tax  $43

The steering wheel took noticeably less effort to turn afterwards.  Otherwise, everything felt the same.  The car drove straight and smooth before the work, and still does.