Replaced my steering rack yesterday - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource

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Old 06-22-2005
n3elz's Avatar
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Replaced my steering rack yesterday

...and was too tired to post about it, lol! Well, partly. I also had some other things to do. I'm on vacation but there is so much to catch up on.

Anyway, the rack...and I don't mean this as a how-to -- just some notes on what the procedure is.

My stock steering rack started leaking a couple of months ago around the top of the tower where the steering shaft enters. It's been getting worse and I was going though a quart or more of power steering fluid (transmission fluid) each week.

For a month or so I've had a new steering rack I bought on eBay, BUT -- it's for a 90's vintage Explorer. It was brand new and I got it for $65.00 including shipping because the guy had the wrong part number on the auction. ALL Ford truck power steering racks end with "3504" in the part number. But this guy had taken the number off the CASTING of the housing, which is 3550 in the last 4 digits. So, it wasn't possible to cross reference it.

I took a chance and bought it.

Bottom line: it fits perfectly but has different hydraulic fittings. I bought a new power steering hose for about $8, and salvaged a return line fitting from a JY. I used my existing cooler.

One other thing: it's a slightly different ratio and turns quicker and has a firmer "feel" -- I actually like it a LOT better.


A note about steering racks and cost: they will run you anywhere from $120 to over $200 new, depending. Now, that is your FINAL cost. Most of them have a $100 to $150 or so CORE CHARGE which will be added to that. Then you will get that back when you return your old unit, if it's rebuildable. Figure being out-of-pocket initially for a new unit at least $250.00

Now, I didn't fancy that, so I looked for a way around it and found the brand new but mislabeled Explorer rack and took a chance I could adapt it. Less than $80.00 for all the parts needed when I was done is incredibly cheap -- but the labor to install it is exacting and time consuming, just to let you know, lol!

They are a pain in the butt to install. I didn't remove the wheels. I just undid the tie rod ends from the spindles and removed the ends. Then I kicked the front wheels in the front so they both toed-out all the way. That gave me the room I needed. It's nice having a lifted truck when you have to do this stuff! Oh, make sure you count how many turns it takes to take off each rod end, as you'll want to reinstall them to the same point.

You have to remove the front sway bar, also. Oh, and the skid plate if you've got one has to come off.

Steering shaft comes off easy, just one bolt.

Two nuts hold the cooler in place and then you undo some hose clamps, drain everything down, and remove the cooler. Unhook and cover the power steering pressure hose. Make sure you cover every hose end and orifice that you intend to reuse -- hydraulic systems and dirt are NOT compatible.

The fittings on late model trucks do not thread on. They are o-ring type that simply plugged in and retained with a metal plate from behind. Both fittings eome off with a single nut and there is a stud on the rack for it. My new rack was thread on fittings.

If you do deal with thread on fittings, beware the teflon seals that are all the way back on the back edge of the fitting. They can be damaged during disassembly way easy and won't be reuseable. You mght want to get some before you start this.

Then the big nuts you access through the cross member and remove, then pull the studs out the top. The nuts are 15/16" and so is what looks like a nut but is NOT on the top of the stud.

You need to turn this pig so the tower faces forward, or you'll never get it out. To do this, you MUST remove the rubber shock isolators in the mounting rings of the rack. They are two piece and you just have to pry them up, th top one first, it's pretty easy.

The bottom one comes out easier if you pound/pry out the metal busing in the center. It flares at the bottom, so pound it down from the top, then pry it out. A little penetrating oil before you begin helps it slide out easier -- it's a very tight fit after it's been in there awhile.

Then the lower rubber bushing prys out. Now you have enough clearance to turn it, but it still ain't easy.

Once the tower is facing forward, you can slide it towards the passenger side until the drivers side tie rod can pop out. They tell you to turn the shaft until the rack is steering all the way to the passengers side, but I found that unnecessary. It's a wresting match from hell no matter how you do it, lol.

DO NOT unlock your steering wheel and turn it during any of this. If you get it too far out of "center" you can damage the "clockspring" mechanism that carries horn, airbag, and cruise control signals to the steering wheel.

If you have a rack to reinstall, make sure you count the turns from lock to lock so you can make sure it's centered when you install it.

Reinstallation is the reverse of assembly. Keep everything clean near the fittings and clean the area before retightening.

Like I said, not a how-to, but maybe it gives you a clue if you have to do this.

When you fill the system and start it up, it's going to make horrible noises and you're going to be sure you screwed up. I did. But no, it just takes awhile for all the air to work its way out. While it does, the fluid will churn into froth and make the pump groan while until it all bubbles out.

Fill the reservoir up, then start the vehicle and IMMEDIATELY add more fluid. Most of it gets pumped down into the rack and the reservoir empties right away. Don't turn the wheel until the level is fairly stable.

Now turn the wheel back and forth until the air works out some. It will feel stiff, chattery, and just plain wrong. After a couple of cycles lock-to-lock, turn off the truck and let it sit with the reservoir uncapped. The air will finish bubbling out and the frothiness will go away. Check and top up the level, then restart it and it should be smooth. It will probably find some more small air pockets as you drive it, so do any small top-ups as necessary.

Don't overfill or you will have no airspace for expansion and build up excessive pressure in the reservoir when the unit gets hot.

You will need to get toe-in adjusted on your front alignment, or do it yourself like I do. Either way, get it done.

That's it. Hope that's a good "overview". I also hope you don't have to do this!
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Old 06-22-2005
gatorblue92's Avatar
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Join Date: Jun 2004
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im glad you didnt have too many problems getting it installed b d
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