Rebuilding The '84-'96 Corvette Steering Assembly

Curing The Ills That Befall A Worn Rack-And-Pinion System

Andy Bolig Feb 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

Step By Step

These are the necessary parts. Including the rack and tie-rod ends, you’ll want a power-steering rebuild kit and all three hoses. The pump rebuild kit is available at many parts stores under Gates PN 35076, and the other pieces are available through the larger Corvette parts suppliers who advertise in Corvette Fever.

Chris Petris of Corvette Clinic is in the process of installing a crate engine in this car (notice no intake), so we placed the accessories on the engine so you could see the entire process. We’re rebuilding the power-steering pump, so we’ll need to remove the air pump and the alternator along with their brackets.

To remove the pump, you’ll need a pulley removal tool (available at Mac Tools) to get at the high-pressure line and the bolts to remove them.

There are four bolts that hold the pump. Three are on the front of the pump.

You’ll have to remove the pump bracket to get at the one bolt on the rear of the pump.

Chris likes to remove the pump and reservoir at the same time. Remove the screws holding the reservoir bracket and then remove the upper hose clamp using a razor to cut the old hose so you don’t break the plastic reservoir.

Have a shop rag handy to clean up any spilled fluid.

Remove the pressure regulator from the pump.

Note the order in which the parts are removed.

Use a small punch through a supplied hole in the pump housing to push out the spring clip that holds the back of the pump in place.

Then tap the shaft of the pump with a soft mallet.

The pump rotor will push out the back as you tap on the shaft from the front. Watch for little fins to drop out.

Remove the O-ring from the pump housing. A new one is supplied in the rebuild kit.

The ring inside the pump will come out next. We marked a “T” on the top of the ring before we removed it so we’ll know which side should face out once it’s reinstalled. If you put the ring in backwards, the pump will pump backwards.

Inspect the ring to make sure there are no score marks on the inside surfaces. If there are, you’ll need a ring kit from GM (PN 7841845).

There are two more O-rings and a spring under the pump ring. Inspect the spring and replace the O-rings.

Remove the retaining clip from the front of the pump housing and tap out the driveshaft and bearing with a soft mallet. Check that the bearing rolls freely.

There’s a seal under the bearing assembly which must be removed and replaced.

With the pump assembly cleaned and inspected, begin reassembling the pump with the driveshaft and bearing assembly first, tapping them in place with a socket and a hammer. Install the clip to hold them in place.

Put the pump housing in a vise to hold it. Drop the spring back in place, followed by the press plate with the new O-ring installed.

Make sure to align the pin.

Drop in the rotor, making sure it meshes with the spines on the driveshaft.

Next, the ring goes back into position (make sure the side you marked faces out), and install the fins into the rotor.

Install the new rear O-ring and rear pump plate. Make sure the pins align with the holes in the rear plate.

To install the spring clip, Chris uses a press to hold the back plate while he installs the clip. Make sure the clip covers the hole that you used to push it out with the punch. If it doesn’t cover the hole, the next person to work on the pump (probably you) will have a hard time removing the clip.

Install the pressure regulator with new O-rings back in the pump housing.

Install the new supply hose to the pump, and you’re done rebuilding the pump.

Disconnect the two lines on the top of the rack. One line will go to the power-steering cooler, and the other will be the high-pressure line to the pump.

Once the cooler line is disconnected, remove the small screw that holds the cooler line to the rack. If you have a late ’90s Corvette, you’ll need to unbolt the cooler under the car.

Remove the boot that protects the steering universal.

Remove the retaining bolt. Use a small prybar to disconnect the steering assembly. VERY IMPORTANT—On ’90 and newer Corvettes, make sure that you DO NOT turn the wheel with the steering shaft disconnected. If you turn the wheel too far, you can set off the airbag, even with the key turned off. It’s best to keep the steering wheel locked and the key out of the ignition while the steering shaft is disconnected.

Remove the cotter pins and disconnect both tie-rod ends.

Remove the body and suspension mounts for the sway bar and slide the sway bar out the side of the car.

The rack has three bolts that hold it in place, one on the driver side and two on the passenger side, and each bolt has a nut. They may be hard to reach, but they are there.

Once disconnected, the rack simply slides out and then the new one slides right back in the same way. Tighten the single rack mounting bolt to 35 lb-ft and the clamp bolts to 23 lb-ft, and hook up the steering shaft. (Don’t forget to install the boot.)

Install the new tie-rod ends on the new rack and measure the distance between the grease fittings to get the alignment close. You’ll have to get the alignment checked, but this will at least get you to the alignment shop.

Tighten the jam nuts on the tie rod, tighten the tie-rod-end stud nuts to 32 lb-ft, and reinstall the sway bar.

Before you put the cooler back and connect the line up to the rack, it’s a good idea to clean out the cooler with a transmission flush (found at many transmission shops). Once it’s clean, you can connect the lines knowing that no debris will contaminate your new steering assembly.

Next, install the rebuilt pump onto the bracket (not forgetting the bolt in the back of the pump), and bolt the brackets back onto the engine. You can now hook up the high-pressure line from the pump to the rack.

Use the pulley removal/installation tool to put the pulley back on the pump shaft.

The shaft should be flush with the outside of the pulley to keep the proper alignment of the belt.

Install the reservoir and connect up the supply line and cooler line with new hose clamps. Bolt on the alternator and the air pump again, and you’re ready to fill the system with fluid. Fill the system with fluid and start the car. Let it run for a while and add fluid if necessary. Once the fluid level is stabilized, turn the steering lock to lock five or six times to work the fluid through the system. Then turn the car off for 10 to 15 minutes to allow any air bubbles to rise. Start the car and check for leaks and the fluid level.

If everything checks OK, take the car for a drive and find out all over again how much fun it is to take corners.

One of the advancements in technology that makes the C4 such a great Corvette is the addition of rack-and-pinion steering. When these systems work properly, they're great. When they wear out, they start to grab and get stiff. This is often referred to as "morning sickness." Many times, the rack is replaced but the rest of the system is left untouched, often with remnants from the damaged unit still lingering.

All '84-'96 systems are basically the same, except for the steering-fluid coolers. The '90 Corvettes had noticeable shudder and moan problems, so GM installed coolers on '90 and later models to cure the problem. We went to the Corvette Clinic in Sanford, Florida, to get the full story on bringing a Corvette's rack-and-pinion steering assembly back to brand-new condition.

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