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97 Lesabre Steering Rack Re and Re

7762 Views 18 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  enslow
I have almost decided to replace the steering rack and pump. I have not seen any detailed instructions on the main bonneville/lesabre/88 forums. I'll try to take pictures and make a step by step re and re for this. It actually doesn't look too bad to do. I can see the pinch bolt, and that looks like the hardest part to undo. The only scary part will be dropping the subframe. I'm going to consider getting an engine hanger. Anyway, if I can get a good step by step procedure going, 3800pro will be the first to get it. I may submit the thread to another forum I like that has a tech section, only because the owners here don't see it fit to have a tech section. (Hint owners... if you get a tech section, this could be all yours... exclusively....)
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Caution: You will be working underneath a car, and dropping the engine cradle. This is potentially very dangerous. Proceed only if you really truly know what you are doing and are prepared to take the necessary precautions.

Here's my plan. It will most certainly change as I discover difficulties and solutions.

Power Steering Pump:
1. Disconnect negative battery cable (7 mm... I think)
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2. Use turkey baster to remove most of the fluid
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3. Remove drivebelt. Turn couterclockwise until belt slips off alternator. Start wrench from a verticle position. If you start with it too close to the front you won't be able to remove the wrench after. My picture shows the wrench too far forwards. (15 mm long handled 3/8" ratchet works well)
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4a. Loosen pressure line, but do not remove.
4b. Remove pump mounting bolts. (13 mm) Access through the holes in the pump pulley. The use of a magnetic tool helps remove the bolts.

5. Detach return line; pour remaining fluid into small jar (there's not much if you used the turkey baster). This heater hose clamp tool is VERY useful!

6. Detach pressure line (3/8"), drain into small jar.
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7. Remove PS pump through wheel opening (don't bother to try from the top, I already tried that. It really is easier from underneath). Leave in your drain pan that you thought head to place under the car.
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Power Steering Pump Part 2:

Here's one clip no one tells you about: look carefully just to the right of the low pressure return fitting on the PS pump. This electrical connector must be removed from the pump.
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Removing the pump from the wheel well:
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So far the rack replacement is going well. I'm at step 12 in my procedure. Other procedures do not clearly tell you how to drop the sub-frame the 3-4 inches. The bolts will come right out when the sub-frame is only down 1/2" which means I will have to use my hydraulic jack to ease the sub-frame down. Pictures will follow.

Here's more to my procedure:

Remove Rack: Part 1
1. Disconnect negative battery cable. (already done if changing pump)
2. Set parking brake.
3. Raise vehicle, support on jack stands on pinch seam. (You will need to drop engine cradle, so supporting on sub frame is not an option this time.)
4. Remove wheels. If you need a picture of this, you should run from this job and call a pro)

5. Turn steering wheel (engine not running) to push fluid out drain lines. (Make sure the return line is pointing into your drain pan.)
6. Lock steering wheel in straight ahead position.
7. Push back rubber boot and remove pinch bolt at steering gear.
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8. Unplug compressor cutout switch. (I believe this is for Magnasteer... I'm a poor man so I can't afford Magnasteer)
9. 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.)
10. Detach outer tie-rod ends from steering knuckle.
11. 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".
12. 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.
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13. 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. (careful that leave enough threads in the front bolts to hold the front of the cradle on.)
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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 (I assume... If I'm wrong on this and it's supposed to be firmly in place, let me know.)
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Remove Rack (Part 3) I haven't taken any pictures of step 14 as I was getting tired and it was close to quitting time. Step 15 and 16 is not yet complete.
14. Remove heat shield from between exhaust and rack and clamps holding PS hoses.

15a. 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.
15b. Remove the plastic clamp holding the high/low pressure lines. If removed from the PS pump, remove the lines completely.
16. Remove 2 mounting bolts from left side of rack, 2 clamp bolts on right side, one bolt horizontally through sub-frame crossmember. The horizontal bolt must be accessed from the rear, not the front. The nut you see on the from is welded to the frame. Bolts are 18 mm.
17. Wiggle/slide rack out driver’s side wheel well. (No need to remove wheel well skirt.)
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I'm onto the installation now. I'll be fitting a new pressure line on, but I'll have to reuse the low pressure one.

I've begun to bolt the new rack into place. However, I've encountered a problem. The bolt that goes through the subframe crossmember to clamp the rack down from the side won't quite go through. I've managed to squeeze the rack into place using a ring clamp around the body of the rack (carefully avoiding hydraulic lines), and I've got the hole positioned so that I can almost get the bolt in. If I could get about a 1/32 or even 1/64" more down, it would probably work. I've tried tapping it down from above, I've got other bolts installed, but loose so the rack can move.
I FINALLY got that bolt in. Here's what I had to do:

1. Install the four vertical bolts loosely, leaving a good 1/2" slack.
2. Install a screw type hose clamp to secure the rack to the cross member. I used a 4x4 and 2x4 block of wood underneath because the clamp I was using was quite large. Tighten just snuggly, but not too much yet.
3. Temporarily install an M10-50 bolt from the front (instead of through the cross member). It will push the rack flange out a little.
4. Tap the bolt from above, wiggle the rack until the bolt pops into the cross member hole.
5. Tighten the hose clamp tightly.
6. Remove the M10-50 bolt and install a carriage 5/16 bolt through the cross member and rack nut. Install a couple of u-bolts so that they will pull down on the carriage bolt. Install a second carriage bolt underneath so that as you tighten the u-bolts it will put downwards pressure on the rack flange nut. From above, tap the carriage bolt down. Remove the u-bolts and check the alignment of the rack flange nut. If not down far enough, try again. If it's too far to the passenger side, it can be tapped from the wheel well side.
7. Install the bolt. It felt like it was cross threading, so I threaded the bolt from the front side and exercised the bolt many times. Finally it was able to go in properly from the cross member.

This one bolt took me at least 4 hours.

My boss fired me because I'm taking too long on this job.

Oh wait, I am the boss. If I fire myself, there will be no one to finish the car. I guess I'd better rehire myself and cut my wages in half.
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Reassembly is pretty much the reverse of the disassembly.

1) Use threadlocker on the rack bolts. This info seems to be missing in all manuals, except for the FSM. The FSM states that threadlocker MUST be used.
2) Rack bolts: torque to 50 ft-lbs. I probably overtorqued them a little because my swivel connector for my 3/8" set is a cheapie and kept letting the torque wrench slip off the bolt at about 30 ft-lbs. At least you're torquing into steel, so if you're off a little you won't strip threads nearly so easily as if you were torquing into aluminum.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) I really would recommend replacing the PS pump and hoses if you do this job. If the rack was shot, all the wear particles would be suspended in the fluid going through the lines and pump. For a couple of hundred more you can have a pretty much new steering system.
7) If you're doing this job yourself, I'd recommend not saving tie-rod ends. They have to come off anyway, why put old ones on?

I have yet to install the pinch bolt to complete the underbody stuff. Then I'll need to install the pump, tie rod ends, and stablizer end links. Then I'll fill and bleed the air out of the system and take it in for an alignment. If all goes well tomorrow, I'll be able to take it in on Tuesday. I was hoping for Monday.

All in all, I didnt' find this job too bad. It was a pain working without a hoist, but it was easier in some ways than doing a UIM/LIM job. I can see why it would have cost me a grand or more to do all the work I've done (ball joints, end links, tie rod ends, rack, pump, hoses). With the money I've saved, that's a heck of a lot of yarn I owe my wife!
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My neither the FMS nor the Haynes manual made any mention of using Locktite on the pinch bolt. However, when looking at the pinch bolt, there was one tiny drop of Locktite added during the original assembly. This makes sense. This is a bolt you do NOT want to come loose, just like the rack bolts.

I used red Locktite (permenant type) on the rack bolts, I'll use blue (medium strength) on the pin. The red stuff might be a mistake for the rack bolts, because it's not meant to come loose. If you do this yourself, you may wish to consider the blue stuff for the rack. No one else even recommends Locktite, so blue should be plenty.
Today I installed the PS pump:

1. Remove pulley from old pump, install onto new pump. I recommend using a pulley puller/installer. This makes a good time to clean the old pulley.
2. Clean the threads of the bolts. There may be some old thread locker on them, or caked on grease/dirt. I used a small screwdriver and carb cleaner.
3. Insert the PS pump through the wheel well opening. The fender skirt should still be placed aside.
4. Rest the PS pump and insert the wire connector into the mounting hole.
5. Find or make a metal 1/8" diameter rod/pipe. Fit the rod through the bottom hole of the PS pump, then place your eye so you can see the bolt hole in the block. Insert the rod into the bolt hole and slide the PS pump into place.
6. Wiggle the top bolt into place. You will have to lift and wiggle the PS pump to do this, but it should go in easily. Tighten the bolt enough so that the PS pump hang in place, but has some slack.
7. Remove the rod and insert the lower bolt. Wiggle the PS pump until the lower bolt starts. I used a small amount of thread locker (medium strength) on the bolts. I forget the torque, I'll add this later.
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I was going to connect up the lines and purge the air out, but I found that NAPA actually has the low pressure hose in the warehouse. It should arrive tomorrow and I should be able to complete the assembly tomorrow.

What's left:
-replace low pressure hose (involves removing the heat shield and hose retainer, but there's enough room for me to do that.)
-install tie-rod ends
-grease the new fittings.
-fill system with PS fluid, purge the air (I already installed the accessory belt).
-Take the car in for alignment.
This is my first experience doing anything related to alignment myself. I counted the threads remaining on the old rack on each side and set the nut to the same number of threads on the new rack. When I inserted the tie-rods to match the nut, the wheels were point out quite far. Both wheels are point out, so it's not as if the rack came turned to one side.

I didn't note how the wheels looked when the load of the car was taken off, but I sure don't remember them being turned out so far. If the wheels should be straight unloaded, with the tie-rods connected, the counting thread technique to keep the alignment straight cannot be trusted. A close alignment will have to be set some other way.

So, I guess my question now is, should the wheels be straight and parallel with tie-rods connected, but unloaded (jacked from the frame in the air)?
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It looks like I may be right about not being able to realign by counting the threads. Seach for "10mm of toe" and you will see this chap had the same problem. He turned out to have 30mm of toe. I can't imagine not noticing 30 mm of toe. I'll adjust the toe as best I can before taking it in tomorrow.

For now, back to work....
It looks like I may be right about not being able to realign by counting the threads. Seach for "10mm of toe" and you will see this chap had the same problem. He turned out to have 30mm of toe. I can't imagine not noticing 30 mm of toe. I'll adjust the toe as best I can before taking it in tomorrow.

For now, back to work....
You have been busy man!

With the outer tie rods I also noticed the toe was still out a bit, I did not check it though, I was going to use a cheap digital caliper, a level tied to my steering wheel to ensure the wheel is totally straight, two jack stands, and some string to adjust my toe to get it a little closer before taking it in.
There is a YouTube video I can find if you want to cheaply check your toe, if it is off they sit the wheel on a ceramic tile grease sandwich basically, that lets you turn the tie rod to adjust the toe with the car on the ground.
I was going to get a plumbob and make marks on the concrete floor where the centre of the tire was on the leading and trailing edges. Then I'd measure from dot to dot on the leading edge, dot to dot on the trailing edge. In the end, because I was finishing at 1:00 am, trying to get the car ready for tomorrow's alignment, I just used a straight edge on the fender side and visually checked to see how far off the tire was from being straight. Crude, but it'll get me to the shop.

I drove it down the street tonight just to make sure it would be drivable. It actually has a pretty good straight feel, and certainly didn't feel like I was a snowplow. The Austrailian guy must have chewed up his tires. 30mm toe is a lot!

If I did this again, I'd forget about counting threads. Everyone says to count thread when doing a rack. It's a total waste of time, and extremely misleading. Next time (maybe my 99 Lesabre in a few years) I'll screw the tie rod on until it holds the knuckle in a fairly straight position by eyeball. I can then adjust the inner tierod later, but I would only be adjusting it a few turns instead of 15. And to get one turn, it takes about 5 cranks of the tierod.

Yes, William, I have been busy. It's been hard on my wife, but I've tried to save a little time for the family. Today we went to the mall and took the kids for a little train ride, then a snack at McD's. And my wife bought yarn.
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Here's a summary of the front alignment (rear was done too, but that's not relevent to the work I did):

LF Toe before: 1.40°; after 0.00° (spec range = -0.10-0.10°)
RF Toe before: 0.50°; after 0.00°

LF Caster before: 3.6°; after 3.0° (spec range = 2.5-3.5°)
RF Caster before: 3.7°; after 3.0°

LF Camber before: -0.1°; after 0.3° (spec range = -0.3°-0.7°)
RF Camber before: 0.6°; after 0.3°

The toe was pretty darned good considering I did it with a straigh edge on the side of the fender. I made no attempt to adjust the caster or camber.

Overall, I would do this job again. It was easier to do than the UIM/LIM, but it take more patience. It also wasn't too comfortable working on the garage floor all the time.
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Grumble grumble....

The Fenco steering pump is quite noisey. It has quite a loud whine to it. I'll check the lines for any leakage though. The steering is acting like it gets an airbubbble once in awhile. I've bled it according to the GM service manual.

I found a place in Bellingham where I could have gotten an ACDelco rack. I may get an ACDelco pump if this Fenco one causes trouble.

It's crazy that I have to go to Bellingham to get parts. I can't even get them here if I wanted to pay through the nose!
Yesterday I noticed a sucking sound as I removed the PS pump cap. This means there was a slight vacuum. I don't have a vacuum adapter to aid in the bleeding of the PS system. I tried bleeding the system again. After about 15 stop to stop cycles of the steering (engine off), the steering felt better. I then turned the engine on and repeated the stop to stop steering. After I completed the bleeding, I checked underneath and found a little PS fluid on the pressure line. I tightened the pressure line nut slightly. It felt quite tight already, so I don't know if I'll have to change the o-ring, or if the reservoir is leaking. I'll be ticked off if the reservoir is leaking. The pump is still noisy.

Does anyone have experience with Fenco pumps?
I'm still using that Fenco pump. It's still a little noisy, but not like before. I experience a slight of power steering assist at low speed steering occasionally.

Next time I replace a rack, I'll do the first bleed of the pump by turning the pump by hand. Then I'll turn the steering wheel from stop to stop with the engine off, vacuum on the pump reservoir, and turn quite hard at the stops (engine off). Then I'll do the same cranking the engine, but still not running. One thing that happened was that air was trapped at the ends of the rack. It would slowly bleed out and came me to have to bleed the system. Perhaps there is a way to bench bleed the rack.
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