I had a leak in my PS system. Originally I thought maybe it was seals & was going to dump some leak-stop in to see if it stopped. Luckily I decided to take a look anyway. The hard lines on my rack instead had corroded away. Leak-stop may have temporarily plugged the pinhole leak due to thicker fluid, but I'm almost positive that later I would have instead had a catastrophic failure instead. So better to check the issue!
The issue - the hard lines on your SMI power steering rack are leaking. Perhaps due to your salty environment, combined with your lack of using rust-proofing spray. Or you use rust-proofing and they didn't reach the lines, since they are almost perfectly masked by the subframe. Now your lines look like this:
If you go anywhere they wanted to replace the rack, which the local aftermarket part was $900 for. I could get a better deal by mail-order but still had shipping to deal with (along with core return). I'd also just gotten an alignment & new inner tie rods so would have wasted that money too. I quickly tried getting a quote on replacing just the lines, but it was too risky for them to quote (what if the fittings broke off?). So instead was forced to mostly DIY.
However I was (almost) able to do this without removing the rack, and it is possible. This saves you a bit of hassle I think, but it's still a very time-consuming job. If I was doing it again I would have tried harder to convince a mechanic to do the work instead. Overall I suspect it would have been as fast to remove the rack & replace the lines with the rack off the car.
Doing this you'll need a few tools:
- Engine Support Bar
- Ratcheting Socket
- Metric Thread Restorer (if re-using fittings), or M12 x 1.00 die
- M12 x 1.00 bolt or tap for cleaning thread in PS rack
- Angle Grinder + Spare 12mm socket (not 100% needed but useful for making special socket to get flare nut started)
I'd highly recommend also getting the M12x1.00 bubble flare nut fittings. I didn't and had to reuse existing ones which worked OK, but BillR99 was able to find them locally (everyone locally more or less laughed at me for that size).
If you want to do it in-place you absolutely need the engine support bar. If you are removing the rack it's not needed I think (according to people who've done it). However you need clearance between the oil pan for getting a wrench in.
See the VIDA instructions for full details. I've included a few notes from my own experience here:
- No need to disconnect knuckle on PS rack, but remove bolts holding PS rack down as need it to float
- No need to disconnect hoses from PS rack either
- Loosen clamps around PS system to give more flex
- Will need to remove bolts for anti-sway bar, as it IS in the way and you cannot remove/replace lines with it there. If you want to remove PS rack I don't think it's needed although still helpful.
- To get lines off, cut them right at the fitting. This preserves the shape & also allows you to put a 12mm socket on the fitting to break it free w/o rounding it off. You'll have some aluminum in the threads still so use a die or thread restorer to fix them before attempting to put back.
- I had someone else makes the lines (Spryfield Auto in Nova Scotia does this), he needed the original fittings he said though as didn't have replacement ones.
- I used VW Power Steering fluid. It was $30/1L bottle, compared to $46/1L bottle at NAPA for CHF-11S. If you're in Canada I think the VW is by far the best deal (the latest VW stuff is repackaged CHF202 from my research).
Front & Center you can see one side of the line to cut. I'm using a "Close Quarters Hacksaw" where the blade sticks out the front. Be very very careful since there is often lines right behind or beside it you cannot even knick. Note the engine etc is supported from above so there is almost no weight on the jack, otherwise you'd bend the subframe!
This is the easy job on the other side:
You may need to hoist the PS rack up a bit:
Close quarters! Here I haven't actually loosened the anti-sway bar as I did that after cutting the lines off:
The shorter line must come out first before the longer one can be removed:
You can get a ratchet on the 14mm bolt on the anti-sway bar with subframe lowered enough:
Alternatively not a 1/2" drive ratchet fits well into a 14mm open-ended wrench. The box end can then fit on the anti-sway bar bolt:
You may need to get creative with ratchet + extension bars for breaking free the old flare nuts:
And here is the new + old lines:
When refitting lines, the two lines on the long part of the power steering rack are very very slow to get in. You can turn them 1/8th at a time or something sometimes less, and even a ratcheting open-end wrench doesn't help you. It's slow & frustrating. Part of the reason it would have probably been as quick to do this by removing the rack.
I ran out of time to complete the second line (I have to work outside so have a limit to how much cold/wet I can bare). Someone with a lift finished it off for me, but ultimately I still saved ~$1000 or so compared to the quotes I had originally. So moderate success. The person that finished the job did the same thing (e.g. they didn't remove the rack), so it IS possible to get both lines done this way.
For one of the fittings you NEED to lift the engine slightly to get enough clearance on the ratchet. This is why the engine support bar is required.
EDIT: Attached S60 VIDA Instructions