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
, 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 gear2. Power steering fluid3. Power steering hoses (optional)4. Protective clothing5. Eye protectionTools needed to complete this job
1. Floor jack2. Jack stands3. Ratchet and sockets4. Screw drivers both phillips and straight5. Pliers or vice grips6. Ball joint fork7. Hammer8. Large pan to collect fluid9. Tape measurerInstructions
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.
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Article first published 2009-07-28 (Updated 2013-08-16)