Mechanics

Rack and Pinion Replacement

How to Replace a Rack and Pinion

If your vehicle is equipped with a rack and pinion steering gear, the last thing you want to hear is that it needs replaced. Not only is the part expensive, but also it requires many hours of labor to replace.

The vehicle’s rack and pinion gear is mounted under the hood of the vehicle. It is attached to the firewall. Therefore, its positioning makes it somewhat difficult to access and work on. Even though today’s rack and pinions are very dependable, they can go bad and require replacement.

If you experience what feels like the steering is sticking or losing power assist, that can be an indicator that the rack and pinion is failing. There are bushings that wear causing the rack to stick or become difficult to operate. Also, this usually includes leaks where the inner tie rods are located that may or may not be seen as a result of the dust boots retaining the fluid. Regardless, when they go bad and you need to replace one, it can be done at home with the proper tools and some time.

Parts and Supplies needed to Replace a Rack and Pinion

1. New rack and pinion gear

2. Power steering fluid

3. Power steering hoses (optional)

4. Protective clothing

5. Eye protection

Tools needed to complete this job

1. Floor jack

2. Jack stands

3. Ratchet and sockets

4. Screw drivers both phillips and straight

5. Pliers or vice grips

6. Ball joint fork

7. Hammer

8. Large pan to collect fluid

9. Tape measurer

Instructions

Step 1. Park the vehicle on a flat firm location making sure the front wheels are pointing straight. Turn the key off so the steering wheel locks.

Step 2. Disconnect the negative battery terminal and allow the vehicle to cool.

Step 3. Using the floor jack, lift the front of the vehicle and place jack stands in a safe location.

Step 4. Once you have secured the vehicle on the jack stands, remove both front wheels and set aside.

Step 5. Locate the rack and pinion, the power steering hoses, and the steering shaft coupler.

Step 6. Remove the seal around the steering coupler and unbolt the steering shaft pinch bolt.

Step 7. At this point, you need to remove the outer tie rod ends from the steering knuckles. Remove the cotter pin and nut from the tie rod and using the ball joint fork and a hammer, separate the tie rod from its mount. NOTE: At this point, you will need to identify any parts that will hinder you from accessing the rack and pinion mounting bolts.

Step 8. Next, loosen the power steering hoses. Make sure you have a large pan under the vehicle to catch the power steering fluid.

Step 9. Once the lines are loose, unbolt the rack and pinion from its mounts.

Step 10. Remove the power steering hoses and allow the fluid to fully drain into the large pan.

Step 11. You may find it difficult to remove the rack even after it is unbolted. If all bolts are off, it will come out, but may require some persuasion. Remove the old rack and pinion from the vehicle.

Step 12. At this point, lay the old rack and pinion flat on the ground. You need to measure the overall length from one end of the tie rod to the other end.

Step 13. Next, you need to adjust the new rack and pinion to the same length as the old one. Turning the new tie rods will allow you to adjust the length. Make sure to lock the tie rods in place when you reach the desired length.

Step 14. Now it is time to install the new rack. It is important that you center the rack perfectly so the steering wheel is centered when driving straight.

Step 15. Once in place, reattach and tighten the steering shaft connector.

Step 16. Replace anything that was removed to access the rack. NOTE: If you plan to replace the power steering hoses, this is the time to do it.

Step 17. bolt the new rack to the mounts and reconnect the power steering hoses. Make sure to replace any old o-rings.

Step 18. Now, reattach the tie rod ends to the steering knuckle. If you removed cotter pins, make sure you replace them with new ones.

Step 19. Once you are sure everything is back together and tight, replace the front wheels and tighten them to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Step 20. Now, remove the power steering return line and place the end of the hose into your collection pan.

Step 21. Reconnect the battery, fill the power steering pump with fluid, start the engine, and then shut it when fluid begins coming out of the return hose. Refill the power steering pump at this time.

Step 22. With the front tires still off the ground and the engine off, turn the steering wheel all the way from the left to the right. This will help remove any trapped air from the system.

Step 23. Examine the fluid. If there are air bubbles in it, allow the vehicle to sit for ten minutes and repeat step 22 until the fluid looks free of air.

Step 24. Lift the vehicle and remove the jack stands. NOTE: An alignment is mandatory. Then job is done.

Best Practices

  • This is a good time to replace power steering hoses. 
  • Make sure all components are tight. 
  • We strongly recommend an alignment after this work.

If further assistance is needed, our certified car repair technicians are ready to answer your car questions. Also, gain manufacturer specific instructions and information by clicking - Auto Repair Manual

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AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2013-08-16)