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03 LeSabre: Rack & Pinion replacement

09-01-2018, 05:57 PM
The bracket on the rack & pinion that bolts it to the subframe has broken on my son's 2003 LeSabre. The bracket appears to be an integral part of the rack housing. I would love just to clamp it down somehow and be done with it, but that seems very risky.

How difficult is it to replace the rack on that car? Is there room to get it out without disconnecting exhaust or the subframe? Do the inner tie rods have to come out to get it out and back in? I would like to be a rack with inner tie rod ends already installed.

09-01-2018, 09:13 PM

Tech II
09-01-2018, 11:36 PM
Fairly easy.......

Steering wheel centered and locked.....

Jack up car....

Remove both front wheels.......

Pop off the outer tie rods from the knuckles.........

Remove the intermediate shaft bolt and separate the intermediate shaft from the spool valve stub of rack.....note the direction of the indentation in the stub shaft....

You are going to lower the REAR of the subframe about 1", for clearance room room....so the bolts will be loosened not removed.....you can put blocks under the rear of the subframe, about 1" below for safety....

Remove heat shield from sub frame......

Remove the plastic clamp that holds the PS lines to the rack.....

Now the hard part.......you will need an 18mm crows foot and long extension ratchet, to break the PS lines from the rack........

Now remove the bolts from the rack......I usually pull it out the driver's side....

Since you centered the steering wheel, the rack is centered, provided you didn't pull on the tie rod end.....

place your new rack next the old rack....make sure the new rack is centered with the stub shaft indentation the same.......now take a measurement end to end of the old rack with the tie rod ends on....take another measurement of the driver's side tie rod end to the side of the spool valve......when you transfer the tie rod ends, you want to get the same measurements........

Just loosening and counting the turns until the tie rod end comes off does not work, because someone during the life of the car may have replaced an inner tie rod that wasn't the "exact" same length, or the new inner rods on the new rack may be slightly different......so measure first.....

You just have to be close, because you WILL NEED AN ALIGNMENT......when you reinstall the rack, even if your measurements were exact, there is play, left and right for the rack which will affect your steering wheel center......so just get it close.....the rack will only change toe in/out.....but toe is the biggest destroyer of tires....so get an alignment....

09-02-2018, 04:07 PM
Thanks, Tech II, once again.

Things were going well until it was time to remove the power steering lines from the R&P. Tried to use what I had - an 18mm tubing (flare nut?) wrench - for over an hour to no avail. Was able to remove the smaller nuts to get more room, but the large important ones are really stuck. Sprayed penetrating oil. Went and bought crow's feet set and long extensions...about to try that.

"note the direction of the indentation in the stub shaft...."
I didn't note this but i'll take a closer look.

I hope to be posting my success very soon. But car repairs always take 3x the time that I expect.

09-02-2018, 05:27 PM
I'm confused on where to put the crow's foot and extension. From the top or the bottom. There doesn't seem to be enough room to put the crow's foot on the nut then get an extension on it. The socket is still behind the vertical tube to the steering shaft.

That nut is deforming from trying to loosen and hasn't budged.


09-02-2018, 06:54 PM
Those nuts finally broke loose when I used vice grips. Now I have the old rack out.

I carelessly let the tie rod ends move while removing it, not realizing that I should have kept them in place to measure in order to get close on the tie rod ends. The new rack is even on both sides.

My concern is syncing the steering wheel with the rack/pinion. I guess I'll proceed with counting turns and let the shop correct it when aligning.

Any guidance is appreciated.

09-03-2018, 01:04 PM
Job is just about done. Turned into a bigger job than I expected, but that's often the case when I do something for the first time. Here are a few observations for those who are looking to do this.

I never was able to use the crow's foot wrench with extension; I concluded that the wrenches I bought have the hole for the 3/8" drive too close the wrench opening. (Bought at NT national discount tool chain.) So just getting the fittings off and then back on took hours.

Be very careful taking the old rack out to not move the ends. I let them move, so was unable to measure as directed in the procedure above.

Don't forget to move the plastic collar from the old rack to the new before installing. I did forget and how to take the new one out. Could not apply enough force to snap it in after it was bolted in.

Have at least two quarts fluid available, maybe 3 - 4, for flush and fill.

The instructions with the new rack describe a complicated bleed procedure using a vacuum pump which I haven't done and may not due. Hoping that just running car and moving steering back and forth is adequate. Comments?

I may be a bit long-winded, but it's somewhat therapeutic to post the results with the hope that someone may benefit from my experience (i.e., pain and suffering).

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