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C3 Corvette Steering System - Rack It Up
Installing Speed Direct's Rack-And-Pinion Steering System On Project C3 Triple-Ex
Mar 11, 2010
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Santo, TX 76472
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C3 Corvette Steering System - Rack It Up
With the factory steering components in place, our Stingray liked to dart side-to-side slightly when driving in a straight line or initiating a turn. Since the factory steering was based on 50-year-old technology, we felt it was time to upgrade the car with modern rack-and-pinion components.
The Steeroids rack is a remanufactured GM unit that was mass-produced, so all of the parts needed for routine maintenance or future overhauls are readily available. We chose the power rack for our application, which gives 2.5 turns, lock to lock.
The components in the all-inclusive Steeroids kit are clearly marked, both with a name and a part number to avoid any confusion. This is a well-engineered kit, and all appropriate parts are powdercoated in black.
The first step in this conversion is to completely remove the factory steering components, which is best accomplished with the car on a lift or jackstands. The most efficient method is to remove the entire factory steering system as one unit.
After removing the front wheels, we disconnected the outer tie-rod end from the spindle using a tie-rod separator, commonly called a pickle fork.
We've never really liked the design of early Corvette power steering, especially the steering valve, which is prone to leak and can render your car's steering inoperative if it fails catastrophically. Fortunately we'll be replacing this and the bulky steering box with our new rack-and-pinion.
Since our car is equipped with long-tube headers, we found it easier to remove the pitman arm from the factory steering box, allowing the OE steering components to be removed from underneath the car. Alternatively, the pitman arm could be separated from the steering link, but that method also requires loosening the driver-side header to remove the steering box in our application.
Side by side, the Steeroids rack-and-pinion is obviously a more refined, simpler steering system. We'll be glad to remove the inelegant, antiquated factory steering from our Stingray.
Before installing the new rack-and-pinion, the tie-rod bracket can be installed onto the rack.
These bolts use a supplied locking plate to keep them from backing out.
The Steeroids brackets that will hold the new rack in place simply bolt right where the factory components were removed...
...using the new hardware supplied with the kit.
The new rack-and-pinion unit can now be bolted in place using the supplied hardware, and the new tie rods can be installed. To achieve a ballpark toe setting, measure the total distance between the factory outer tie-rod ends and adjust the new ones to the same dimension.
The inner tie-rod ends can now be attached to the tie-rod bracket using the supplied bolts and lock washers.
The instructions for the kit are very clear, and recommend thread locker on much of the hardware, including the inner tie-rod bolts.
The Steeroids outer tie-rod ends are unique in that they offer several shims to properly adjust for bumpsteer. The trick here is to get the tie rod parallel with the ground with the weight on the wheels.
Speed Direct supplies all the necessary parts with the kit, including the proper fittings and lines to connect the power rack to the factory power-steering pump.
Using the provided U-joints, steering shaft, and shaft-support bearing, the rack can be connected to the car's steering column.
With headers this is a tight fit, but we managed to get our steering linkage installed properly without any cutting or grinding. It may take a few attempts, but by lining up the splines properly, our steering wheel centered perfectly.
Speed Direct recommends filling the power-steering reservoir with conventional power-steering fluid, then turning the wheel back and forth from stop to stop to bleed any air from the system. After the first 1,000 miles, the fluid can be changed to synthetic if desired, but initial break-in should be performed with conventional fluid.
With the installation complete and the system serviced with the proper fluid, we lifted the car back up and rechecked all of our fasteners and connections. The Steeroids kit is a nice fit, and truly bolts in place without any interference, cutting, grinding, or other modifications.
With the wheels bolted back in place, we took our car to the Official VETTE Magazine Test Track and Proving Grounds (the parking lot behind the airport), where we performed various turning maneuvers to test the system. Our initial impression was very favorable, as Project C3 Triple-Ex's rack-and-pinion steering was much more driver-friendly than the factory items we replaced.
The Steeroids rack-and-pinion does increase turning radius slightly, but the benefits greatly offset this slight drawback. Our car handles nimbly and is much more responsive, requiring just 2.5 turns of the steering wheel lock-to-lock. This conversion is one of the best upgrades we've performed so far, making our car safer and much more fun to drive. This is a quality kit and an easy installation, even for a novice mechanic with basic tools.
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