Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Got 99 Problems, But a Steering Rack Ain't One.

I got off work a little early today for the holiday, and I figured I'd make use of the extra time to start work on the steering rack. It's my last major teardown project!

There's nothing really wrong with it, thankfully. It's just dirty and needs new tie rod ends.

I would like to have some idea of the alignment, so I took pics of the threads after removing the ends...


Check out these tie rod ends. The bummer is that they work fine, but the boots are toast.

The steering rack boots (the "gaiters") are fine, so I'll keep them...

The pinion (the turny part to which the steering shaft is connected) is what runs the rack (the long part that's hooked to the front axles). Turn the pinion, and the rack moves. That's why it's called 'rack and pinion' steering. It is very precise, and this car really handles like a go-cart. You can drive it with a finger, and point it at a fly and hit it between the eyes.

The pinion comes out the back. There is a bushing on each side and a retaining cover, and a retainer that locates the rack and keeps it from rattling around one on each side).

Next, the tie rods come off. The rod and ball are a single unit that screw in to the rack, and are locked in place with a lock washer. Getting that lock washer off looked like it would be impossible... but then I found a chisel that is exactly the right size to fit in the slot, and it was cake. Here it is in the photo along with the (now removed) rod. I'll sacrifice a cheap chisel to the cause.

Here's the steering rack, all disassembled. Everything inside is in pretty good shape, and it was nice and tight (but not stiff) before I took it apart. So no problems here...

So why did I do this, other than to clean it? I took it apart because I had filled the rack with grease at some point in the distant past. The rack doesn't take grease. It's filled with 90 weight oil. But it has what looks like a grease fitting... so that's what I did. It still did have some "oil" in it, which oozed out as I took everything apart. You can't remove the grease without disassembling the rack. Good thing I was already planning on it.

The dumb thing in this design is that there are no seals to keep the oil in. The rubber boots are what do the job, and as soon as they split, you're done. It should take grease. I might change to a lighter grease, but we'll see.

I won't fill it back up with oil (or grease) until I get ready to install it. It's really easy to fill when it's off the car. Darned near impossible when installed, though... because you need a special "grease gun" that can use oil instead, and I'm too cheap to buy one.

I'll run what I can past Master Blaster and clean it all up nice, paint, and then reassemble (stay tuned!). This was pretty gross, but not as bad as the rear axle was. That was the dirtiest job so far.

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