Saturday, July 31, 2010

Replacing a Steering Rack on Your GM Vehicle (Front Wheel Drive)

This could go for any front wheel drive car, save for some Chrysler LH or GM J cars, but this is for any 1997 to 2006 GM minivan, sedan or crossover S.U.V.. The latter includes the Pontiac Aztec and Buick Rendezvous, for this is no hard copy service manual and the information isn't very detailed, but requires removing the stabilizer bar. This is across the board with GM cars , but I'm going to give you a quicker way to do this with minimal swearing and breaking parts, I'm also going to give you some suggestions of what to do and what not to do.

A word of warning; I am NOT an expert on these things, but when presented a $600 bill for a part that nearly broke my arm today, it was time to get busy. The best bet is to call a competent mechanic and you will have to take you car to one to get the alignment checked. This job is a pain in the part you sit on, and you can cause personal injury, death or property damage if you screw it up. Even if you follow this to the letter, you could still break something or someone, so use some common sense if you think this is over your head. Be careful and take your time as this isn't a job to rush. I have no control over the quality or lack therof of your work. Do this or any repairs at your own risk.

First of all, it's common sense to use jack stands and not work under a car supported only by a jack. You will need a three ton floor jack, two ton jack stands at a minimum. You'll also need a good socket set and an 18mm flare nut wrench for the hydraulic lines a pry bar and a hammer. First thing is to raise the car with the floor jack and place your jack stands under the front of the sub frame as high as safely feasible. Remove the front wheels and loosen the jam nuts on the tie rod ends, holding the inner rod with a 13mm end wrench. Remove the ball stud nuts and tap the steering knuckles where the studs go in with a hammer. These should pop right out of the knuckles and you'll unscrew the tie rod ends, counting the number of turns. Take note of the turns and place each end to the corresponding side on the floor with the stud and jam nuts. Next, unscrew the coupler after lifting the dust boot off the rack. It takes an 11mm socket. Then remove the heat shield and the two bolts holding the rack in.

The next step is tricky and dangerous. You'll need to use the jack to support the sub frame before you remove the two bolts in the rear. Do this like you're jacking up the car from the front, but place the head of the jack in the center of the rear of the frame. Take out the bolts after you've supported the frame, and drop the frame no more than 5 inches. If you let it fall too far, you risk breaking something. You need just enough space to undo the hydraulic lines. Remove the lines slide the rack out.

Putting the new in is pretty much reversing the procedure. Count the number of turns as you put the tie rod ends on and secure with the jam nuts. Use new "o" rings on the lines and remember to index the input shaft to the coupler. This means centering the rack by turning it from lock to lock, counting the number of turns and dividing that by two. When everything is put back together, fill the reservoir with clean power steering fluid (do not use transmission fluid) and with the wheels still in the air, start the engine. The noise will be really bad. Turn the wheel lock to lock until this noise goes away, making sure to keep the reservoir from going empty. Lower the car and take to an alignment shop to get the toe in set right. You're done. Maranatha!

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