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The Gentleman's Express: Tech-Tips from the JIOC

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Reseal Steering Rack

Author: EJAG, Dec 1980

Judging from the letters and comments in the EJAG News, power steering leaks are a common ailment on an XJ6. My ’72 model was a leaker and, after hearing the prices quoted by the dealer for parts, I decided to just keep adding fluid. However, when the garage floor reached the saturation point, and I was adding fluid every day, I was forced into action. The repair job turned out not to be as difficult as I feared and I would like to pass along the benefit of my experience.

The first step is to locate the exact location of the leak. M ostlikely it is in the rack and pinion assem - bly (See Figures 2 and 3) and you will have to run the front ofthe car up on ram ps, or jack it up for inspection. Look for leaks at the top of the valve and pinion assem bly (#1) and from the end sealsin the rack housing (#9). Loosen the clips and peel back the bellows (#7) for a good look atthe end seals.

If none of the seals are leaking, you’re in luck, because a leak in one of the lines or fittings is a routine repair job and the power steering pum p is relatively inexpensive. However, let’s assum e that you are one of us unlucky souls and you found a leak in the rack and pinion assem bly. M y advice is to overhaulthe assem bly because, although the seal kit costs about $55 from a dealer, the valve and pinion assem bly alone lists for $800!

The first step is to check the tool box for a set of flare nut wrenches, (they look like box wrenches with a slot in the box to slip over the steel tubing) and a set of snap ring pliers. Sears and other places have them, if you don’t. The second step, if the pinion seals are leaking, is a trip to your Jag dealer to order the seal kit. If your end seals are leaking, there is an advertiser in the EJAG News who will install new end seals for $60 and this may be your best bet. In either case, you will have to remove the rack and pinion assembly from the car.

To remove the assembly, the Haynes manual talks about first removing the steering column. This is, entirely unnecessary. Working under the car, remove the three mounting bolts and loosen the pinch bolt on the little universal joint at the top of the pinion shaft. The entire assembly will drop down and hang from the track rods (tie-rods in American). Note the position of all the rubber faced washers and bushings in the mounting hardware and take this opportunity to replace any that have deteriorated.

If the leak is in the pinion seals, the rack housing can be left attached to the track rods and the pinion valve removed for servicing. Use your flare nut wrenches to move the four tubing connections to the valve body. Do not use open end wrenches; they will round off the corners of the compression nuts. Have a pan ready to catch the fluid that will emerge (a pint or so). Remove the nuts which attach the pinion to the rack. (The illustration shows two, mine had three nuts).

Carefully tap and pry the pinion assembly off and cover the opening to keep out dirt. Also, plug off the ends of the steel tubing lines. Remove the pinion assembly to the work bench and clean all dirt from the exterior. Using your snap ring pliers, remove the circlip at the top of the pinion shaft. Under the circlip is a steel washer. Note which side is up. Under the steel washer is a rubber seal. Pry it out with a small screwdriver. This is as far as you need to go with disassembly.

Installing a new seal is a little tricky. Wet it with fluid and press it into place with a small, dull pointed tool. Make sure it is in the same position as the old one, with the inner lip down the pinion shaft. There is a little ridge around the outside of the seal which must be pressed down evenly all around. If the seal is not seated properly, the steel washer and circlip will not fit back in. The lower pinion seal is in the rack housing (#5).Put your finger down there in the grease and pull it out. Press the new one back into the same position. If your end seals are not leaking, you can now proceed with reassembly.

If the end seals are leaking, the rack housing must be removed from the car. Unscrew the track (tie) rods (#21) from the track rod ends (#23) and ship it off to California. Or, if you area real do-ityourselfer, proceed as follows. Clean the exterior. Remove the large collar from the end opposite the pinion. Remove the inner ball joint assemblies (#21) and withdraw the rack (#15). Make a sketch of the relative positions of all seals, spacers, etc. and install new components from the seal kit in the same positions. Wet all seals, piston rings, etc. with fluid before installing the rack in the housing and remember that cleanliness is next to Godliness. Screw the collar back on hand-tight until you check the alignment, of the mounting holes to the car. You can always tighten it under the car.

Now install the pinion back on the rack housing. There is a large steel washer with an outer lip and an inner rubber edge in the seal kit. This may not have been on your Jag. It slips down over the top of the pinion shaft and acts as a heat and dirt shield for the top pinion seal and is apparently factory installed on later models.

And on the subject of heat shields, does your XJ6 have one between the pinion valve and the exhaust pipes? If not, go look at some other XJ6 to see one. It would be easy to snip a shield out of sheet metal and bolt it to the manifold exhaust pipe flanges. It will prolong the life of the seals. Now install the whole assembly back on the car and refill the power steering pump reservoir. Run the engine briefly and refill the reservoir. Repeat as necessary and turn the steering wheel from lock to lock to expel all the air. If you have removed the rack from the car, it will be necessary to have toe-in or tracking alignment of the front wheels checked. Also your steering wheel may no longer be straight when the car is going straight ahead - if it ever was. This is easily corrected by unscrewing the big black plastic collar just above the dash until the safety screw is exposed. Back off the safety screw a couple of turns and you can pull the wheel right out of the column. (Surprise!) Turn the wheel to where you want it and reinsert it. Screw the plastic collar until it begins to cover the head of the safety screw, and then tighten that screw.

Give a couple of good tugs on the wheel to make sure the screw is in the right position and that the steering wheel will not fall in your lap while you are motoring around the parkway.

And there you are. Sure is nice to have a dry garage floor!

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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