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Power vs. Manual rack?


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27 replies to this topic

#1 ystrdyisgone

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 03:53 AM

So my little subie's power steering rack is starting to weep out the DS boot. I have also begun to notice symptoms in the steering wheel itself, shaking at higher speeds, and a general looseness that wasn't present before.

Back when I first got the car (185k, now at 193k) I accidentally topped off the reservoir with standard ps fluid. This was by recommendation of an oreillys worker.

I was informed a couple weeks later by a subie mechanic that the seals in these old cars(ea82) don't respond well to standard ps fluid and i should have used atf? I think he said atf, any validity to this?

Anyway, I'm debating whether or not to switch to a manual rack. Wondering how difficult such a task would be. I have also heard of people converting their existing rack to a manual? Though this may not be an option for me, as mine is already showing signs of looseness?

As always, thanks for any input provided!

#2 jj421

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 04:16 AM

I've recently converted my EA82 to manual steering.

 

First off, when I bought my car, it was leaking power steering fluid. Before I even got home from purchasing it, I bought and put in power steering fluid with stop leak. Worked great! Although I noticed it leaking about a year later. From what I've read, it's recommended to put in P/S fluid if you notice any problems with ATF. Better wait for someone else to chime in on that.

 

A manual rack swap is really easy! The hardest part is finding one. You'll only find them in '85/'86 DLs, and some GLs. I got mine out of an '86 DL. Get everything: the u-joint that connects to the steering column, brackets that hold it on, the tie rod ends. The swap itself is as follows:

 

- Jack up the car.

- Remove front wheels

- Hammer out outer tie rod ends

- Disconnect two power steering lines from the pump

- Disconnect two power steering lines from the rack (on the driver side near where it attaches to the steering column)

- Loosen belt(s)

- Remove power steering pump (three bolts in between the pulley and IACV)

- Undo the bolt on the steering shaft

- Remove skid plate

- Undo the two brackets (four bolts total) holding the rack onto the crossmember

- Maneuver the rack out

- Maneuver power steering lines out (I believe there is a bracket on the cross member on the passenger side)

- Raise manual rack into place

- Install brackets and skid plate

- Install bolt on steering shaft

- Install outer tie rod ends

- Install new, shorter belt(s)

- Put the wheels on and lower the car

- Get an alignment

 

I wouldn't recommend keeping your power steering rack and "converting" it to manual steering. It'll be hard to turn the wheel; much harder than it is with the manual rack.

 

Also, with the manual rack, you'll need to get a smaller belt (or two, like I run two belts in parallel). I am an O'Reilly guy, but Autozone had the best deal for belts in my opinion. 

 

Oh, and you are gonna want the proper alternator bracket as well. For me and the belts I purchased, I need the outboard alternator bracket. My car originally had an inboard alternator. So you'll wanna keep that in mind too.

 

I love my manual rack! The weight I've saved and deleting the extra pulley has given me some gas mileage (you might not notice it as much; it depends). I haven't noticed a power increase though. But I get 30 MPG easily. If I drove economically, I can get 35 (although I also don't have A/C). So this is also an advantage of converting to manual steering.


Edited by jj421, 30 July 2013 - 04:24 AM.


#3 caspice

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 06:39 AM

The cap on top of my old Power Steering pump says ATF only. Mine was leaking from both the pump and the rack when I got my EA82.  PO had been using power steering fluid which eats the seals.

 

Good writeup on the conversion process. One point of clarification regarding coverting a power rack to manual is your inference to it being harder to steer. Do not confuse the difficulty of trying to turn a power rack when the car is not running. The reason a power rack is harder to turn when the car is off is due to the FLUID in the steering system that is not being circulated by the pump. When you convert a power rack to manual you drain all of the FLUID and remove the lines...open verse closed system. The converted rack is now operating under the same principle as your manual rack, but with quicker gearing.

Slop in you steering can be caused by a number of issues. Also check for Tierod endplay, bad control arm bushings, bad steering rack mounting bushings, loose lug nuts, unbalanced tires, bad cv joint or half shaft. If it just a little loose in the steering response trying tightening the steering. There is an adjustment bolt on the pinion housing.

Any other symptoms that are singling out a bad steering rack?


Edited by caspice, 30 July 2013 - 07:01 AM.


#4 Gloyale

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 11:00 AM

Just get a non-leaking power rack.  It's the same work if not less (no swapping alt brackets, belts, steering couplers)....and the power racks are easy to find at wreckers, and actually still available new and reman from someplaces.

 

I can deal with manual steering on a Brat or a Hatch.....but in an EA82.......there are SOOOO many power racks out there, just seems like a no brainer.



#5 ystrdyisgone

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 02:18 PM

Thanks for the input JJ, definitely paints a better picture of what I'm up against.

Caspice, both front axles are fresh(reman) replacements. Lug nuts are tight, got an alignment done within the last 1500 miles. I do know that one of my outer tie rod boots is collapsed, but there is no play when wiggling the wheel horizontally. Well there is, but the movement is occurring within the rack itself. I'll definitely look into the adjustment bolt and see if that helps.

Gloyale, you have a good point there.. And I did just get two new v-belts. The only reason I was considering a manual rack is the simplicity of it, less things can go wrong. Seeing as my lower PS seals are leaking, it seems just a matter of time before I have to fix something else in the PS system.

#6 AKghandi

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 02:57 PM

i have a 85 wagon with 29" mud tires. it has manual steering and its not bad at all. only time its even slightly difficult to turn is when I am at a standstill. and even then its not bad. I use two hands but im sure someone with a little more arm strength could do it with one

 

I also just switched over to manual on my 87 gl-10 also lifted with 27" tires, I could not remove the ps pump because the bracket goes under the intake mani. so i just routed the pump in a loop with itself.

 

 

 

If you can find a manual rack its well worth it, just make sure you bring a lot of rags, its pretty greasy down there.



#7 Subaru_dude

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 06:22 PM

I would think if you ever go wheeling, it would be nice to have power steering. I drive a 2door dl with manual steering now and I prefer the feel of the manual FAR more than the power steering. But it does get to be a pain parallel parking or making sharp turns. Totally depends on what you do on a regular basis. For road trips, curvy roads, or mild trails manual steering would be just fine. Dense city driving with parallel parking and wheeling on rougher trails, it would make more sense to stick with what you already have the hardware for. I say just look for a non-leaky power steering rack.



#8 jj421

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 09:58 PM

For me, at a standstill, I can usually turn the wheel with one hand. I find that concrete, asphalt, tarmac, etc. have different results when turning the wheel at a standstill. But maybe that's just me. Obviously, on gravel and other loose surfaces, I don't even realize I have manual steering, even at a standstill. The wheel is very easy to turn. I've not had any problems with parallel parking or anything of the like. I'm not that strong, but I don't have a problem turning the wheel. And if I do, Just get moving at a couple MPH and you can turn much easier. However, I could see being in a city with lots of hills wouldn't be the best option for a manual transmission car with manual steering.

 

Also, one thing I love is it's hard to turn the wheel sharp at speed. Maybe it's just me, but I love the fact that it's hard to understeer with manual steering (at least in the dry). The wheel gets really hard to turn right before you start to understeer. So if your physically unable to turn the wheel sharper, you are going too fast for that turn.  ;)

 

I don't do a lot of offroading, so I can't say much. But in my opinion, I love manual steering because I get a better feel for the road. I get a better feeling of what my front wheels are doing, and how much traction they have (especially useful in the snow). You can feel when you lose traction, since the wheel goes from stiff to really really loose. That's something you can't feel as clearly with power steering. If you do more rock crawling and slow offroading, power steering could definitely come in handy, since you're constantly changing your line. But if you're just driving on gravel and dirt roads without technical maneuvering, manual steering is fine.

 

Not sure if you've caught on to my repetition, but it entirely depends on you. Have you driven a manual steering car before? Did you like it? If so, then you probably won't regret converting your EA82. If you've never driven with manual steering, or you don't like it, then maybe just stick with power steering.



#9 AKghandi

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 11:40 PM

i will say one thing about manual steering off road, keep your thumbs outside the wheel, if you hit a rock with a tire it will spin the steering wheel and will slap the bejeabus out of your thumbs... just from my experience.. not a fun situation. 



#10 86 Wonder Wedge

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 10:39 PM

I too have been contemplating a manual rack swap, and interesting point about draining the fluid from the rack to convert it to a manual.. But what about longevity and lubrication? And id think the logic would be the manual rack has quicker ratio since there ISNT an assist... But I'm not near my manuals ATM.

but if that's true, then a drained XT6 rack (quickest of all the power racks, IIRC) would be nice in an EA82, I'd imagine..

#11 caspice

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 11:08 PM

The converted power rack to manual, by way of totally disassembling the rack and removing the center portioning seal assembly, should be packed with a quality grade grease. Install some grease zerks where some of the fluid lines connected on both the main rack housing and the worm gear housing; seal up the unused connectors. Adjust the tensioner bolt on the wormgear housing
Once you have taken it apart for the coversion, any future maintenance needs can be performed relatively quickly since you will now know how it comes apart and goes back together. At this stage you will be dealing with grease, not pressurized ATF fluid.


Sorry for the minor thread hi-jack.

#12 caspice

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 07:27 AM

Attached File  steering.pdf   408.91K   24 downloads

 

I gleaned this from somewhere on the WWW; could have been from another post on this site.  Regardless the PDF provides good information about the Subaru steering system.



#13 dennyt

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 01:11 PM

I removed the power steering pump, got a shorter belt, drained the lines but left them in place on my '94 Loyale.  49,000 miles later it's still doing fine, feels great!.  The shorter belts for my car, with A/C in place but P/S pump removed, are: Alternator belt 7420, AC belt 7365

 

One dark and stormy night, I felt the steering get light coming around a corner at a reasonably low speed. The beginnings of black ice. Wouldn't have felt that with P/S.



#14 Subaru_dude

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 02:44 PM

For me, at a standstill, I can usually turn the wheel with one hand. I find that concrete, asphalt, tarmac, etc. have different results when turning the wheel at a standstill. But maybe that's just me. Obviously, on gravel and other loose surfaces, I don't even realize I have manual steering, even at a standstill. The wheel is very easy to turn. I've not had any problems with parallel parking or anything of the like. I'm not that strong, but I don't have a problem turning the wheel. And if I do, Just get moving at a couple MPH and you can turn much easier. However, I could see being in a city with lots of hills wouldn't be the best option for a manual transmission car with manual steering.

 

I'd say it also depends on the width of your tires. I've got pretty narrow tires and I'm a big strong dude and I have plenty of trouble turning the wheel with one hand so either your big enough to at least say so or full of crap.



#15 AKghandi

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 09:53 PM

with a manual rack and 215/75/r15 tires i can turn them with one hand, its hard but i can do it. so with stock 13s it would be pretty easy



#16 ystrdyisgone

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 02:01 AM

I don't really do much wheeling. Mostly around town driving, but it's nowhere near being called "dense." I occasionally parallel park. The wife and I generally go camping/hiking a couple times a week and sometimes I take it off road, but I don't think it would be considered wheeling.. Thanks for all the input guys, all the info has definitely helped me in the decision-making process. 

 

Caspice, I don't consider that a thread-jack at all, very useful information, directly relating to the subject of the post. 

 

Thanks again!



#17 jj421

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 02:46 AM

I'd say it also depends on the width of your tires. I've got pretty narrow tires and I'm a big strong dude and I have plenty of trouble turning the wheel with one hand so either your big enough to at least say so or full of crap.

 

Well, I've got 185/70/R13 tyres on, which I'd consider pretty narrow (especially compared to people running 14" and 15" rims). Sometimes it's easy to turn the wheel with one hand, sometimes it's not. Going lock-to-lock usually requires two hands at some point, but less major adjustments can sometimes be done with one hand. It all depends....

 

I'm not a very strong guy, but manual steering isn't that much of a chore for me.


Edited by jj421, 02 August 2013 - 02:49 AM.


#18 Gloyale

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 11:38 AM

with a manual rack and 215/75/r15 tires i can turn them with one hand, its hard but i can do it. so with stock 13s it would be pretty easy

 

in the snow moving 5mph. lol

 

Standing still on pavement, or hard cornering at speed is a chore without the assist.

 

I will happily fix a small problem rather than "downgrade" my car.

 

My arms and shoulders take enough beating just working.  When I'm driving I want to be comfortable and not in pain.

 

 

Also, about hard cornering.  I hear some people say that they like to "feel the road" with manual steering.  I don't like the road fighting me.

 

Ever been hard cornering (like tires barking full tilt hard cornering) with one hand trying to grab a downshift and hit a pothole or worble in the road and had the wheel jerked out of your hand?  I have.......no fun and a bit scary.

 

Manual steering sucks, that's why they did away with it.  Good riddins.



#19 AKghandi

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 12:54 PM

I have always liked manual steering, in fact most of my cars have been that way. I don't mind the exercise. I'm young I can afford to put a little more effort into turning.

 

 

and no i have Never been at 100% in a turn, have never had the need. but i can see where you're coming from. but, almost all race cars are manual steering... and cmon you never shift in a turn.



#20 Quidam

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 01:23 PM

Do you like AT or standard trans? This is the kind of discussion going on here IMO.

 

I had an '86 GL wagon with the variable ratio rack and I'd like to have another. 4.8 turns lock to lock with the first turn of the wheel in the variable zone...easy turning.

 

The manual rack in my car now is 4 turns lock to lock, non variable.

 

A converted power rack has like 3.7 turns lock to lock and is harder to turn then either of the manual racks.

 

The manual rack for say an '86 hatch is 3.7 turns lock to lock. Harder to turn than all the above except...it's in a lighter car.

 

I have no problem with and prefer a manual rack in these cars.

 

Nothing wrong with someone wanting power steering and AT. Nothing wrong with me wanting manual steering and stick shift either. Everyone has the option to be happy, either way.

 

Doug


Edited by Quidam, 05 August 2013 - 05:04 PM.


#21 caspice

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 09:39 AM

Attached File  VL_POWERSTEERING_RACK_DIAGRAM.jpg   118.85K   34 downloads

 

Just wanted to post this diagram for everyone's informational benefit.



#22 BoxerRebellion

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 10:24 AM

@ystrdyisgone - You mentioned shaking at higher speeds. Given the time frame, chances are that the rack is the culprit. However, a shaky steering wheel can also point to wheels that need balancing. It's a cheap fix at a shop, if not free and at the least... Wouldn't hurt anything.

 

Just a thought.

 

Cheers.



#23 ystrdyisgone

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 04:12 PM

attachicon.gifVL_POWERSTEERING_RACK_DIAGRAM.jpg

 

Just wanted to post this diagram for everyone's informational benefit.

Awesome, thanks caspice!

 

So is the adjustment bolt you were referring to called "Rack pad adjuster/Lock nut" or "Lower bearing retaining nut/screw?"



#24 ystrdyisgone

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 04:14 PM

@ystrdyisgone - You mentioned shaking at higher speeds. Given the time frame, chances are that the rack is the culprit. However, a shaky steering wheel can also point to wheels that need balancing. It's a cheap fix at a shop, if not free and at the least... Wouldn't hurt anything.

 

Just a thought.

 

Cheers.

I did just get an alignment/balancing about 1500 miles ago. But it may be something to look into once I've ruled everything else out. Whether that is it or not, my front end still needs a good combing through.



#25 Gloyale

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 04:26 PM

I

 

 

and no i have Never been at 100% in a turn, have never had the need. but i can see where you're coming from. but, almost all race cars are manual steering... and cmon you never shift in a turn.

 

Rally cars are definately NOT manual steering.

 

Race cars that race on prepared tracks have manual steering.

 

Grabbing an upshift as you exit a turn is commonplace.  Almost as much as grabbing a downshift right as you enter a turn to induce oversteer.

 

I'm glad you are happy with what you got.  I just wouldn't want to drive it everyday.






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