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Old 04-09-2012, 01:38 AM   #1
enslow
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Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

I have written the following for several reasons:
1) I could not see any on-line reference to replacing a steering rack for the Lesabre/Olds-88/Bonneville. There are several YouTube videos for other vehicles, but nothing like the H-body.
2) This will give you an appreciation of what you are paying for when you have some one else do it for you. Believe me, the labour is worth it, especially if you're not comfortable working underneath the car.
3) The DIY knows that unexpected difficulties will cause delays and frustration. I've seen mechanics encounter this too. My experience outlined here should prepare you for most of the problems you may encounter, and how to get around them.

Safety note:
If you have done things like ball joints, end links, sub-frame insulators, or other similar suspension related items, you may very well possess the skills to tackle a rack. If you've never done any suspension work before, I'd think twice about the job.
Some cautionary notes:

1) If you are the least bit unsure of how to properly and safely support a unibody car on jack stands, do not attempt this job. You will be spending significant time underneath a car supported on jack stands. People have been injured or killed working underneath an improperly supported car. To make things more complicated, you will be lowering the subframe, adding further dangers.

2) You must be good at following instructions without taking short cuts. One omitted step could compromise the structural integrity of the steering and suspension system. Failure here could cause a serious accident and kill some one. If you haven't already, get a factory service manual for your car. With what you will save in this job, you can afford to get a manual. A Haynes manual may be beneficial, but it does omit several important points that could lead to a failure of the power steering system.
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Old 04-09-2012, 01:54 AM   #2
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

I highly recommend changing your power steering pump and lines. The cost of a new pump is small compared to doing this job, I'd just do it. I'd also install new tie-rod ends and ball joints, and while you're under there, change the end links.

Power Steering Pump:
1) Disconnect the negative battery terminal (7 mm, I think).
1_battery terminal.jpg
2) Use a turkey baster to remove fluid from the PS reservoir. Have a jar as close as possible to you while you do this because it will drip.
2_Turkey Baster.jpg
3) Remove accessory belt. Turn couterclockwise until belt slips off alternator. Start wrench from a verticle position. My picture shows the wrench too far forwards If you start with it too close to the front you won't be able to remove the wrench after.. (15 mm long handled 3/8" ratchet works well)
3_Tensioner.jpg
4) Jack up and support vehicle on pinch seam. You will not be able to support the vehicle on the sub-frame because you will be lowering this later.
5) Remove front wheels.
6) Remove the first 4-5 rearward push pins from front right fender skirt. Fold off to the right. You may have to temporarily remove the ABS wire from the clip to move the skirt far enough.
7) Detach the return line (the one with the spring clip) from the PS pump. A heater hose tool is VERY useful here. Place end of hose into a jar.
heater hose tool.jpg
8) Turn the steering wheel from stop to stop until as much liquid comes out as possible.
9) Remove pressure line (3/8")
10) Remove two PS pump bolts (13 mm). Access through the holes of the pump pulley. The top bolt is in about the one o'clock position, the other at the 5 o'clock position. A magnetic pick up tool is really handy to pull the bolts out once they're loose from the threads.
PS pump bolt.jpg
11) Detatch electrical connector clip.

Last edited by enslow; 04-09-2012 at 02:40 AM.
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Old 04-09-2012, 02:48 AM   #3
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

11) (cont) here's a picture of that electrical clip.
11) electrical clip.jpg

12) Remove PS pump through wheel well opening. I tried from above and I'm convinced it's easier from below.
12_PS through wheel well.jpg
13) Place in suitable drain pan, and leave a drain pan underneath to catch drips from lines.
13_PS pump removed.jpg
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:07 AM   #4
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Rack:
1) Vehicle should already be supported on jack stands on the pinch seam if pump was removed. Lines should be drained.

2) Lock steering wheel in the straight ahead position. From here on, do not use the key to release the steering wheel lock.

3) Push back rubber boot and remove pinch bolt at steering gear.
Attachment 45498
4) Unplug compressor cutout switch. (I believe this is for Magnasteer)
5) Detach outer tie-rod ends from steering knuckle.
6) Loosen front two subframe bolts. You will want to loosen them quite far. If you remove the bolt, then reinsert 4-5 turns, it should be stable, but low enough to allow the back of the cradle to drop 3".
Attachment 45499
7) Place jackstands underneath the frame. Leave about a 1/2" gap between the cradle and jack. Remove the four rear cradle bolts. You will see the cradle drop to the jackstand. It may not drop until you do the otherside.
subframe lowered.jpg
Here's where I was probably more careful than necessary. The sub-frame is quite stiff and will not drop much until the last bolt is removed. Keeping the jack stands within 1/2" below the subframe as I loosened it allowed me to slowly drop the sub-frame safely in small steps. Remember, you are also lowering the engine/exhaust etc at the same time. Make sure no engine components bind with the firewall.

8) Use your hydraulic jack to lift the cradle off the jack stand. Adjust the jackstand underneath the cradle so it can drop another inch. Alternate this procedure until the cradle has dropped 3 inches. If it won't drop, the front bolts haven't been loosened enough, or the other side isn't loose enough. Careful to leave enough threads in the front bolts to hold the front of the cradle on.
9) Don't be alarmed if the mid steering shaft seems to pull down with the rack. It's designed to slide up and down some. Simply push the lower steering shaft upwards until it pops off the rack.
rack lowered.jpg
10) Detach power steering lines from rack. Place drain pan underneath to catch drips. (I'm doing this later. The nuts are frozen so I'll have to use some penetrating fluid.)
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:23 AM   #5
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

11) Remove heat shield from between exhaust and rack and clamps holding PS hoses.

12) Remove high/low pressure lines from rack (18 mm). You may need to spray some penetrating fluid onto these nuts. It also helps to put your wrench fully seated on the nut and give the wrench a firm tap with a hammer. The nut can then be removed by hand with the wrench.

13) Remove the plastic clamp holding the high/low pressure lines. If removed from the PS pump, remove the lines completely.

14) Remove 3 rack bolts from right hand side of rack. (one is in the cross frame hole. I missed this one the first time and wondered why I couldn't get the rack out. It is removed from behind (through the frame)).
Attachment 45504

15) Remove 2 rack bolts from left hand side of rack. This image shows a top view, just to the right of the lower steering shaft.
Attachment 45503


16) Wiggle/slide rack out driverís side wheel well. (No need to remove wheel well skirt.)
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:49 AM   #6
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Installation: (not many pictures. I was trying to get the job done at this point).

Preparing the new rack:
1) Don't bother to count threads as every YouTube and Haynes manual says. If the new rack has different tie-rod ends, this method will NOT work and give you a giant headache. It did to me. Instead, measure the old rack from tie-rod end to tie-rod end. Set the new tie-rod ends so that they sit the same overall distance apart, and if you can, the same ratio of threads. (example, if the old rack was 9 and 12 threads out for a total of 21 threads out, and the new one needs to be 30 threads out total to get the same distance from tie-rod end to tie-rod end, make the new one 12 and 18 threads out, respectively. This should get your alignment pretty close so you can get to the shop.) Snug the nuts against the new tie-rod ends.
2) Transfer any hardware over.
3) Wiggle the new rack into place. Begin by starting the two LHS bolts from the top. Don't torque down.

If the bolt holes don't line up well, you may have to use a ring clamp to pull the rack on the RHS down to line up the bolts. You should be able to tighten the ring clamps to position the rear nut of the rack in line so you can see the hole through the crossmember, but probably not be able to install the bolt. I had to use two u-bolts set vertically, one 1/4" bolt going through the frame crossmember near the top, and one underneath the frame crossmember. Then by tightening the u-bolt, you can pull the rack down so the nut hole lines up with the frame crossmember. You may have to tap the rack from above or the side to position the nut.

Be sure to avoid tapping lines, or putting the clamps on the hydraulic lines.

This part took me an entire day. Knowing the trick with the u-bolts to squeeze the rack into place, I would probably be able to get it in much quicker. Once the nut hole is in position, tighten the ring clamps further so the rack doesn't shift as your remove the u-bolts. Remove the u-bolts so you can install the proper bolt through the crossmember. First thread the bolt backwards through the nut so you know it will thread smoothly. If it doesn't thread easily, exercise the bolt so that it works smoothly, then install the bolt properly from the frame crossmember. You may have to loosen or remove the other bolts along the way to get this to work. In the end, you should be able to get all 5 bolts in place.

4) Snug each bolt down, but do not torque yet. Remove each bolt (one at a time!) and add ring of locktite around the bolt. Reinstall and torque to spec (50 ft-lbs). A trick may be to apply the locktite without actually removing the bolts, but this may be tricky. Whatever you do, DO NOT REMOVE the bolt that goes through the crossmember. Just back it out so you can apply some locktite to the inner threads of the nut, then torque down to spec.
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Old 04-09-2012, 03:53 AM   #7
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

1) Install line fittings: torque to 20 ft-lbs. This is a little tricky because I don't have a torque wrench that would go over a fitting. You just have to guess. The tricky part is starting the fitting into the rack. The rack looks like it's aluminum, so the threads will strip easily. Trying to start the fitting into the rack threads too some time and fiddling. Of course, the more fiddling you do, the greater risk of cross threading.
2) As you engage the lower steering shaft, have a wrench ready (I forget the size, but metric worked best) so you can turn the pinion shaft to match with the steering shaft. Use locktite on the pinch bolt.
3) Sub-frame bolts: torque to 75 ft-lbs. I'm regretting not getting new insulators for the subframe now. I think some of the insulators are getting soft, and some of the metal cups that cover the insulators are rusted badly, perhaps even cracking. A few never seemed to come up to torque and just kept turning, compressing the insulator. I did get them up to 65 ft-lbs, but a couple didn't get up to 75 ft-lbs.
4) check the alignment some way so that it will be safe to drive to an alignment shop.
5) Install the wheels and get it to the alignment shop.
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Old 08-25-2012, 07:47 AM   #8
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Nice process description enslow!!

How bad was the condition that led to replacing the rack? Was it excessive play? or leaking fluid? This is far beyond anything I could tackle in our modest one car garage. Each time I go to the Parts counter at the dealer, they print out a diagram of the system in question. It's a simple matter for them to 'click-and-print', and the diagrams can just as easily be FAX'd to you.

This diagram for the 97 Riv was scanned a few minutes ago.




Hope it can be useful to others.

Does anyone put new seals in these? or replace the entire unit?


-Ed

Last edited by edwinn; 10-19-2013 at 06:32 AM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 01:42 AM   #9
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

What I understand about putting in new seals is that it doesn't address wear issues. I don't know enough about racks to know if there is excessive wear, and knowing myself, my own work may leak.

The 1st reason I did the rack was because it was leaking. The reason I did it this year was because I was having to replace ball joints that a previous shop had botched up, badly too. I knew I'd need an alignment, so I went ahead and did the rack.

If you have anyone do the job for you, make sure they use thread locker on all mounting bolts (required as per factory service manual), install new hoses, and a new ACDelco pump. Also, the pump should be first primed by hand. My pump is noisy. There is no air in the system, but the pump is a Fenco one, not ACDelco.
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Old 09-10-2012, 08:41 AM   #10
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Quote:
Originally Posted by enslow View Post
What I understand about putting in new seals is that it doesn't address wear issues. I don't know enough about racks to know if there is excessive wear, and knowing myself, my own work may leak.

The 1st reason I did the rack was because it was leaking. The reason I did it this year was because I was having to replace ball joints that a previous shop had botched up, badly too. I knew I'd need an alignment, so I went ahead and did the rack.
Thanks man!

Was able to take the car out-of-state for a nice drive yesterday, around the D.C. Beltway and up into Maryland on I-95. After the wheel balancing and rotation, I'm getting a complex vibration above 65 or 70 (definitely at 75) that seems like it's coming from the front end at times (in the steering wheel) and other times the rear (floor vibration.) It seems to be ok when driving straight and level but any camber, driving around a turn at speed or steering force (to hold the turn) sets off the vibration. Inflation is 32 psi all-around and there are known warped rotors (rear worse.)

What does that sound like to you? The tire store provided data on the "out of balance" condition, and I'll check to see if the worst wheel is on front.. driver side.

Interestingly.. the dealer called this morning offering a 10% discount on a steering rack which is ~1.5k job. How much influence can a rack with play have on vibration? There was no vibration before wheel balancing.. only rotor vibration when braking.


-Ed
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:01 AM   #11
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

There's nothing spinning in the rack, so I'd say your vibration is not rack related. Swap your wheels front to back and see if the vibration moves with the wheels. This will separate the vibration from wheel/tire and other drive train issues such as cv joints, etc.

If you do go for a rack, remember to have new hoses and a pump installed too. If you have a cooler, either make sure they flush it or get them to install a new one. Any contamination will destroy a new rack.

1500 for a new rack? Wow, I saved thousands doing my own work! I also changed my high pressure line, ball joints, pump. I can sure say I KNOW why they charge so much. It wasn't easy.
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:23 AM   #12
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Quote:
Originally Posted by enslow View Post
..remember to have new hoses and a pump installed too. If you have a cooler, either make sure they flush it or get them to install a new one. Any contamination will destroy a new rack.
A new pump and hoses? A new seal was installed in the pump a few years ago. Why a new pump and hoses? I may be missing something from your OrigPost. A new cooler (and all the rest) will run the cost up sky high. They will have to address the steering shudder if going that far into it.


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Old 09-11-2012, 08:09 PM   #13
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Re: Steering Rack Re and Re (1997 LeSabre)

Hee hee. I guess that's why I learned to do the rack myself.

Any contamination in the pump or hoses could find its way back to the new rack. I learned that old hoses can deteriorate on the inside, or swell and restrict fluid flow. In terms of parts, a new pump would run me about $100, hoses another $100 at the most I think.

If the mechanic is good, he'll at least flush the lines and pump thoroughly before install the new rack. However, I've learned that flushing only removes so much material. In the chemiistry lab, we accept three washings before we consider the fluid is a flask is fully rinsed. In the real world of hydraulic systems, contaminants can cling to hose material, and other points inside the system. Flushing will certainly do a good job and give you a good system, but I personally don't guarantee it.
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