Procedure for Changing
your Rack and Pinion
If you're approaching 100,000 miles on your
original rack and pinion and haven't had any trouble with it, count your
blessings. My first rack went bad at about 17,000 miles, way back in 1987.
I remember taking it to several dealers for quotes. I believe they ranged
from $650 - $900 to replace it. Then I finally found one dealer that told
me that the racks were made with defective seals and they were under recall.
That dealer replaced it for nothing. This second rack lasted until about
120,000 miles, at which point it started leaking badly. The boot on the
driver's side was also ripped, which probably resulted in its demise. Once
the boot is damaged, dirt will get into the seals and it's just a matter
of time before they begin to leak. The driver's side seems to be the one
that is the most prone, but mine was leaking a little bit on the passenger
side as well. This procedure was written to help "do-it-yourselfers" repair
this nasty problem at reasonable cost. I just completed the procedure for
my 85 turbo, but it is probably accurate for all 84-89 models, but I make
no guarantees that there won't be some minor inconsistencies. Below are
some questions that you probably have before you try to tackle this job:
What are the symptoms of a bad rack?
The usual symptom is fluid leaks. The
fluid will drip out right below the boots on either end. If you're
in doubt, put a newspaper under them for a night and locate the source
of the drip.
Excessive play in the steering can also be a symptom of a bad rack, as
well as other front end handling anomalies. However, most often these
problems are usually not the rack, and are more likely to be bad tires,
warped rotors, bad ball joints, bad springs, bad strut cartridges, bad
tie rod ends, or shot bushings.
How much will I have to pay for
a new rack?
You probably won't be able to afford a new
one. The dealers will probably quote you in the $500 range for a
new rack. You probably want to get a rebuilt one. I got a TRW
rebuild (TRW P/N 15768R) at a local auto parts chain store. I negotiated
them down to $141 with an $80 core charge because they advertise that they
will match the competition's prices. I had gotten a $141 quote from
a competitor for a "no-name" rebuild brand. My TRW rack came with
a lifetime warranty.
I pays to shop around. Other auto parts stores were quoting prices
as high as $320 for the same TRW rack. I also understand that Strano's
has rebuilt racks for $199.
Other that the usual jack stands, jack, metric
sockets and wrenches, screwdrivers, etc., the only thing that you may want
to consider investing in is a scissors type tie rod remover. I'm
told that you can use the "pickle" fork type, but you may wreck the outer
tie rods when you try to get them off. They run about $40 each, so
the scissors type tie rod remover is probably a good investment.
If you can't find one locally, order it from J.C. Whitney (1-312-431-6102).
It's their catalogue number 81FX2149N, and sells for $14.95. You'll
also need a couple of funnels a few short pieces of 5/16" tubing for the
I would also strongly recommend the Nissan Service Manual. I bought
mine when I got the car for about $30 and it has been infinitely useful
over the years. For the 1985 300ZX, it's Nissan P/N 20116.
The Haynes manual is also useful.
Will I need to get a wheel alignment
Yes. Counting threads exposed on the
inner tie rod will get the car to the point that it is driveable,but will
not get you close enough to do without an alignment, and will almost never
get the steering wheel centered unless you just get plain lucky.
I opted to get a "lifetime" alignment for about $100. "Lifetime"
means that you can take it back as often as you want for another alignment.
Since I plan to keep the car for a while, and I may need to replace the
bushings on the front suspension and ball joints pretty soon, I thought
it was a good investment.
How long will it take me to do this?
It took me about six hours, and 1),
I'm not a mechanic and have no car service training whatsoever, 2),
I don't have the greatest tool set in the world, 3),
I don't have a lift or air tools, 4), I had never done this
before, and 5), I basically didn't know what I was doing. Armed
with this procedure, you can probably do better.
Not if you have a good pair of jack stands
and have them positioned in the right place so that there is no danger
of the car falling on you. You should also wear a pair of safety
glasses because when you are under the car using tools, there is always
dirt and debris falling in your face. But don't attempt this if you
don't have good jack stands, or if you have no mechanical aptitude.
The procedures below are pretty detailed and written for a novice with
no prior experience. If, after you read this procedure, none of it
makes sense to you, you should probably take it to a shop to have the work
Here is the procedure in 46 easy steps:
Removal of Old Rack:
Jack the car up and put it on stands. Make
sure you do this right and put the stands on the right hardpoints as illustrated
in the Nissan Service Manual or Haynes Manual. If it falls on you, you'll
get a toe tag.
Remove the splash guard (10mm bolts)
Remove the front wheels.
Remove the cotter pin, and the nuts from the
outer tie rod ends. Pop the outer tie rods loose with the scissors tool
mentioned above. This tool makes it relatively easy.
Using a small pocket knife or something similar,
count the number of threads exposed on the inner tie rod on each side.
Write this down so you don't forget.
Remove the outer tie rod ends from the rack,
and examine them for excessive play. If they are bad, now is the time to
replace them. Mine were still pretty good after 120,000 miles. Make sure
you remember what side of the car they came off.
Remove the fastening nut from the inner tie
rods to reuse on the new rack. My new rack came with its own end nuts,
but they were of a different thickness and would throw off the thread counting.
Next loosen the bolts on the upper and lower
steering wheel linkages. You will have to turn the steering wheel to get
these bolts lined up in the right position to get a socket on them. You
may want to spray them down with WD 40 first to help break any rust loose.
The upper one is near the turbo charger if you have a turbo model and can
get a little rusted.
Once you get these bolts loose and the rust
broken free, you should be able to push the shaft of the lower linkage
up into the joint on the upper linkage, while prying the lower joint off
the rack with a screwdriver. You don't have to take the shaft out of the
Next remove the two bolts (10mm, I think)
retaining the two hydraulic lines to the crossmember. You will need to
do this in order to get the lines free enough to remove them from the old
rack and put them on the new rack.
Now, remove the four bolts securing the right
and left clamps that hold the rack to the crossmember. Note that the passenger
side clamp is symmetrical and doesn't have a front and back. The driver's
side isn't like that and can't go back either way, so note carefully how
it went on. My car had a shield and small bracket mounted to the driver's
side rear clamp mounting bolt. I found it easiest to remove the shield
as well, as it provides more room to remove the rack. You'll have to experiment
with the right wrench extensions to get to the clamp bolts because they
are in an awkward position. As I recall, what worked best for me was a
½" ratchet with a ½" to 3/8" adapter before the socket. The
adapter seemed to give me just the right height to get in there.
Unscrew the two hydraulic line connectors
from the rack. Have a drain pan ready to catch the runoff. It will drain
quicker if you open the power steering reservoir. As it's draining, run
some of the fluid through a paper towel and examine the towel for any signs
of metal shavings or small metal particles. If you see any of these, its
bad news and you should change the PS pump as well. If you don't, your
new rack will probably have a short life.
Jacking Up the Engine:
You will now need to jack the engine up in
order to slide the rack out on the driver's side.
Remove the nuts on the bottom side of the
motor mounts. These are very easy to get to from the bottom, and are much
easier than trying to remove the nuts from the top of the motor mount from
Get a sturdy piece of wood about 7" x 7" to
put between the jack and the oil pan sump. I used two 7" x 7" pieces of
¾" particle board on top of each other. The wood is need to distribute
the load on the oil pan so that the jack doesn't crush or dent the pan.
Gently jack the engine up enough to get clearance
to remove the rack. You should only need to raise it an inch and a half
or so. As you are jacking up the engine, check several times that nothing
is binding, especially the rubber air intake from the air flow meter, the
lower radiator hose, and the fan blade against the radiator shroud. None
of these were a problem for me, but best to check.
Slide the rack out the driver's side. You
are now more than half way done and are through the hardest part.
Installation of new rack:
Rebuilt racks are not shipped with new bushings.
Remove the bushings from the old rack. Mine were in pretty good shape and
there was no reason not to reuse them. I had to slit the passenger side
bushing with a razor to get it off. No real problem because new bushings
come with the slit anyway.
Make sure the new rack is centered with the
pointer directly at the center marker. Your rack probably has some instructions
Put the bushings on the new rack and slide
it into place.
Re-install the steering wheel linkage. You
will need to make sure that you get it aligned properly. Have an assistant
hold the steering wheel centered, and with the rack centered (pointer on
marker) snap the linkage on top of the rack knurled shaft. Do not tighten
the upper and lower linkage bolts yet.
Install the clamps over the rack bushings
and tighten them in place.
Now tighten the upper and lower steering wheel
Check that the steering wheel doesn't bind
and freely turns. If there is a bind, you may not have the rack at the
right angle and it may need to be rotated a bit. You'll have to iterate
on the previous two steps.
Lowering the Engine:
This isn't quite as easy as it sounds, mainly
because the motor mount screws probably won't go back into the holes. You'll
have to lower the jack slowly until the motor mount screws just barely
contact the mounting bracket, and then use a big screw driver or prybar
to wedge the engine a little to get the mount screw to snap into the hole.
I had to do this on both sides. The bracket hole is oblong and there is
a tab on the motor mount that fits into the oblong hole on one side. Make
sure the tabs snap into the holes.
Start the nuts on the motor mount screws and
tighten them finger tight. Now let the jack down all the way. Tighten the
nuts down securely.
Reinstalling the Tie Rod Ends:
Put the nuts back on the inner tie rod ends,
counting off the number of threads that you wrote down when you took them
off. Put the outer tie rod ends on and snug them up against the retaining
Snap the tie rod ends back into the knuckle
arm. Best to put a little anti-seize on them in case you want to get them
out in a few years and don't want them to cold weld. Tighten the nut down
to spec and put in a new cotter pin.
Tighten the retaining nut against the outer
tie rod ends, so that you can get to the alignment shop without it coming
Flushing the System:
You really should flush the system. In fact,
my rack instructions said that my warranty was voided unless the system
was flushed. The reason that you need to do this is in case you have any
dirt or fine metal particles in the system, they will get into the seals
on your new rack and cause it to leak prematurely. Start by getting 3 quarts
of ATF ready. You will also need two one foot pieces of 5/16" ID hose.
You can get this at your local hardware store for about a quarter. Get
the clear plastic kind if you can.
Loosen the clamp on the fluid return hose
coming out of the side (not the bottom) of the PS fluid reservoir and remove
the fluid return hose. Put a golf tee in the hose opening to prevent dirt
from getting in. Put one of the foot long pieces of hose onto the coupling
coming off the reservoir. Bend the opposite end of the hose and clamp it
with a C-clamp.
Remove the strainer from the reservoir and
clean it. Brake cleaner works very well. Let it dry thoroughly and put
it back in.
Put a funnel in the PS fluid reservoir.
Put a catch basin under the car on the driver's
side where the hydraulic lines are dangling near the steering wheel linkage.
Put the other foot long section of hose on the end of the hydraulic line
that comes from the pump. This will be the line that screws into the rack
nearest the rack body and farthest from the steering wheel linkage coupling.
Position the hose in the basin carefully. The fluid will squirt out with
pretty good force in the next step and if you don't have the hose positioned
properly, you could have a mess.
Start the car and let it idle while you pour
2 quarts of ATF into the PS fluid reservoir funnel. Pour to keep the level
in the reservoir relatively constant as the pump moves the fluid out the
reservoir, through the pump and down the line into the basin. After you
have finished pouring the second quart, quickly turn the car off. You have
now flushed the reservoir and PS pump.
You now need to flush the return line. Remove
the golf tee, and use a narrow necked funnel or plastic turkey baster to
pour ½ quart of ATF down the return line into the basin.
Hook the return line back up to the reservoir.
Screw the hydraulic lines into the new PS
rack. Be careful not to strip the threads on the rack or hydraulic line
connectors. Re-install the bolts that hold the hydraulic lines to the crossmember.
You have now completed installation.
Bleeding the System:
The system now needs to be bled. You'll need
another quart of ATF. Fill the fluid reservoir with ATF to the proper level.
With the car not running, turn the wheel all the way to the left and then
all the way to the right. Do this about five times and recheck the reservoir.
Fill it to the proper level, and repeat this procedure until no noticeable
fluid level change occurs.
Start the engine and repeat the above step
with the car idling.
Replace the splash guard.
Put the wheels back on the car and take it
off the jack stands.
Drive over and get an alignment.
Return the old rack to recoup your core charge.
You are now finished!
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