How to change a steering gear (rack and pinion) for I6 EXT 2006 4WD trailblazer

Discussion in 'Article Submissions' started by JerryIrons, Mar 31, 2012.

  1. JerryIrons

    JerryIrons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    14
    Difficulty: Medium (not really hard, but it does take a while)
    Estimated Time: 6 hours
    Part Numbers: N/a
    Cost: N/a
    Equipment needed: jack stands for both sides of front end

    Tools Needed:
    -good assortment of sockets and extensions
    -13/16 deep and regular sockets for gear unbolting

    Note: I had to split this into two postings as I was over the 10,000 character limit.
    Also this is probably good for most trailblazer steering gears and not just mine?

    How to change your power steering gear (aka rack and pinion ). I'm not posting this as an expert, just someone who has gone through this and wants to help others.

    It's very easy to tell when the gear has gone bad. The tell-tale sign is power steering fluid leaking out of one of your rubber boots on either the driver or passenger sides, right from the boot area that covers the inner tie rods. The seals in the rack and pinion go bad and start to leak. The worse it gets the more it will leak out. The boot itself may or may not be torn, but just replacing the boot is ignoring the problem that really needs to be fixed: a new rack and pinion steering gear replacement. It is especially noticable when you jack up one side, like maybe you are rotating tires like I was, and can see the power steering fluid run out like it did to me. :eek: Also the gear itself will have fluid all over it. And finally, and most obvious, you will run low, or out!:mad:, of power steering fluid. Don't ask me how I know. From a mechanical description, the power steering gear connects to the inner tie rods, which connect to the outer tie rods. Below see some shots of my bad gear:
    [​IMG]
    See the puddle starting right below the gear/inner tie rod boot? It's small, it just started leaking but it will get bigger!

    Here is another shot of the gear with fluid all over the place:
    [​IMG]

    This is the second time that I am changing my steering gear. The first time was in September, 2010. At that time I also changed high pressure lines, low pressure lines, my steering pump (I eventually ran out of fluid and killed the pump), along with the steering gear. I contemplated getting one from the bone yard, but decided to get a new reman one (you can only get remans) from Napa, a Cardone steering gear. I wanted to change it once and be done with it for the rest of the vehicles life. Wrong! 30,000 miles later I'm leaking again! The good news was that there is a lifetime warranty on the steering gear, and Napa gave me another with no questions at all. Still a PIA to have to do this again.

    So, if you are changing out your steering gear, I would give serious thought about changing out your high pressure line as well, and maybe the low too as well. The problem is that changing out the high pressure line adds a lot of work, there is a fair amount of stuff to remove to get at it. I swear when they built these cars the first thing that was put on the line was the vehicle frame, followed by the high pressure line and then everything else. Felt that way anyway. Changing out the gear for me is about a 6-8 hour project, eating lunch and taking pictures etc. I think allwin lists it as close to a 3 hour job. This job isn't really all that hard, but it takes a while. There are a fair number of bolts that need to come out, and of course put back in. You will need a decent assortment of extensions for your sockets. One thing to note is that the steering gear that I installed came with new inner tie rods already installed on it.

    I would also think about putting on new outer tie rods. You have to take them off to get at the gear, and when you are done you will need an alignment anyway. See the dollars floating away? I'm not saying you should, but think about it.

    Now during this job, one thing you need to be aware of is that once you have disconnected the steering intermediate shaft you cannot turn the steering wheel. Alignment can be thrown off, and even worse you can break the coil assembly inside the air bag component. (you can actually turn it somewhat, but I think the coil breaks at 2 1/2 turns or 3 ?) GM makes a special tool for this, part number J42640. I bought it myself online, I think it was like $10. If you don't buy the tool you will have to secure the steering wheel with straps, bungee, etc something to keep it pointed straight. Here is a shot of the tool, next to a santa claus pencil for scale:
    [​IMG]

    Here are a couple of shots with the tool installed, the first time I used this I thought it was a little confusing on how it fit and where:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Basically, jack the vehicle up with jack stands on both sides of front. Turn the steering wheel so the wheels are straight. Turn the ignition switch and remove the key. The service manual says turn the switch to the lock position, but these vehicles do NOT lock the steering wheel when you pull the key out. At least mine doesn't. Then the tool goes in to keep the steeering wheel from turning. (or alternate plan).

    So next step is to get the tires off:
    [​IMG]
    See the snow covering the license plate? The fluid you see on the driveway is just melted snow, it warmed up that day nicely. It wasn't because I drank too much coffee. Personally once the vehicle is up I really push on it to make sure that it is steady before going under it. The car jack is just there for additional support, I'm not using it to hold up the vehicle.
    Next, the outer tie rod comes off, here is my outer tie rod. First remove the nut on top:
    [​IMG]
    I used some penetrating oil around that nut because it was rusty. According to my notes I used a deep well 13/16 socket for that nut. Next I put on a gear puller? (not sure of name) to put some pressure and pop the tie rod loose. Here is a shot below:
    [​IMG]
    For one side, I just made it tight, and then lightly tapped with a hammer and it fell right out. (you are pushing the bolt down and out ). The other side fell right out once I started tightening things up with the puller.

    Next, I measured the jam nut distance with my micrometer measure tool, see below:
    [​IMG]
    Even though you are getting it aligned, it's still nice to be close. Especially if you need to drive it a few days before the alignment. (both sides get measured)

    Next, loosen the jam nut. I used a 1 and 1/16 wrench along with a crescent wrench:
    [​IMG]
    I had to hold both wrenches with one hand and take a picture with the other, this taking pictures thing gets in the way sometimes. Then the outer tie rod gets unscrewed and set aside. Remember to keep track of which side you take these off of. Below is an action shot:
    [​IMG]

    Next step, remove the engine shield. The bolts for that thing are 13 MM:
    [​IMG]

    Next remove the steering gear crossmember, it's the metal plate right below the steering gear:
    [​IMG]

    There are 12 bolts total to come off. 10 are on the bottom, 5 on each side. These may take a while depending on how rusty you are. Keep track of which bolts go in which hole, some are different. Here is a shot of 5 on one side that need to come off:
    [​IMG]

    Once you get these 10 off, if you are scratching your head why the crossmember doesn't fall off, there are 2 more bolts on the side. Here is a shot of my socket on one:
    [​IMG]

    It's heavier than you expect.

    Next you get to disconnect the intermediate steering shaft. Your steering wheel is secured and not able to be turned, right? First there are 2 seperate boots covering the shaft. You need to disconnect the upper boot. Here is a shot of the boots still together, I have circled where they join. Basically you just grab the upper boot and push up:
    [​IMG]

    Here is me holding them apart. See the pinch bolt holding the upper intermediate shaft to the lower intermediate shaft? Guess what your next step is.
    [​IMG]

    Correct! Remove the pinch bolt. 15 MM. I got to it from the outside like below:
    [​IMG]

    Then seperate the shafts, because you are coming to what was for me the hardest part of this job. Pushing the lower boot up and off. Here is the boot before it comes off:
    [​IMG]

    You have to grab the bottom and push it up and off. Mine was stuck on there really good. It was tough to get leverage, there is a notch preventing you from turning it a lot, and there is a lip inside holding it on, see those below:
    [​IMG]

    Hopefully you will have better luck than me on this part!
    When you get the boot off, you are left with the lower intermediate shaft accessible:
    [​IMG]

    part 2 is next post
     
    Meiznac likes this.
  2. JerryIrons

    JerryIrons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    14
    part 2:

    That pinch bolt needs to come off again it's 15 MM. Pay attention to how these things are connected, how the bolts are oriented and how the shaft is oriented. Then remove the lower intermediate shaft from the steering gear.

    Next, you need to disconnect the pressure and return lines from the steering gear. It was impossible for me to get a decent picture of where this happens just not enough room. There is an 8mm bolt holding a plate onto the gear. You take the bolt out, and then pull the plate/lines straight out from the steering gear. By the way get ready for steering fluid to run out! The two lines slide into the plate from the sides. I drew a picture of the metal plate if that helps, my drawing is horrible but hopefully it gives you an idea:
    [​IMG]

    You may not even need to deal with taking the lines out of the plate, but in case you are replacing lines that is how they work. Here is a shot of how I got access to the bolt that holds that plate in:
    [​IMG]

    Here is a shot of my lines pulled:
    [​IMG]
    Look closely at what I circled in red. That is the old seal from the steering gear. It is important to note that the new steering gear comes with seals like below, there are two of them:
    [​IMG]
    Now, if you are reusing the original lines, you need to make sure that the original seals are not still stuck on the end of your line like you see in my picture. So clean them off! So if you don't see any seals in the old steering gear when you pull it off, they may be stuck to the line ends. Also, the new seals you will need to install in the new power steering gear. To even add to the confusion, if you are using a new aftermarket high pressure line, like I did the first time, the after market lines are actually bigger in diameter than the original lines, and do NOT use any seals, they are big enough already and won't go in if the seal is in! If you are installing seals, they just press in, metal side out.

    So you may want to take a break and let the power steering fluid run out. You need to flush the system anyway.

    You are two bolts away from removing the steering gear. Before removing these bolts, I supported the gear with my car jack like below:
    [​IMG]

    These are long bolts and there isn't a lot of room in the front. 13/16 are the size, I needed a short socket on one side and an extended socket on the other. Here is a shot of where the bolts are:
    [​IMG]

    The bolt passes through what I circled in red. Here is the bolt itself:
    [​IMG]

    Take those two bolts out, and the gear comes right down and out. It's fairly heavy, but you already know that from carrying the new one!

    So before you install the new steering gear, make sure you remove any caps, and put any new seals that you need in as well. Make sure you flush the existing system as well. Especially if the power steering pump failed and you are changing that too. You don't want any stray particles getting into the steering gear and ruining the seals that may go bad again anyway... So dump some power steering fluid into the resevoir and let it run through.

    Here is a shot of the old and new steering gear side by side. See how the seals are bad in the old one? Power steering fluid has run out onto the cardboard box. That other oil you see on the box is from last night's dinner.
    [​IMG]

    I added in a power steering fluid filter in the hopes of preventing this in the future, here is a shot of it:
    [​IMG]
    This filter is good for transmission or power steering fluid. It has a magnet inside to pick up metal, and also a bypass in case the filter gets plugged up. I added in the return line, but not near the pump. I joined it at the other end near where it plugs into the cooler, easier to get to. If I were changing out my power steering pump I may have put it near that end. By the way, a great tool for cutting power steering hose are your wife's hand held rose pruning scissors, or whatever they are called. They look line mini tin snips, sort of. She still doesn't know I used them. You can buy extra hose at napa, I think it's called oil transmission cooler hose. The fittings are 3/8". Make sure you install it in the correct way, it flows one way back to the pump.

    So the installation is basically just a reverse of what you did. I used the car jack to lift and support the steering gear into place. The 2 bolts that hold the gear on are torqued to 81 foot lbs. I buttered every single bolt with antiseize before I put them back on. The bolt that holds the lines/plate to the steering gear is only put on at 105 INCH lbs. Inotherwords not real tight. The shift shaft pinch bolts are 29 lb ft for the lower and 37 lb ft for the upper. That boot goes on a lot easier, in fact I put a little bit of silicon spray on that lip when I put it back on. Just a little. The white part of the boot needs to be completely covered for a good seal - this is from the manual. The cross member pieces are torqued to 37 ft lbs for the most part except the big fatty suspension bolts - they are 177 ft lbs. Basically real tight. Engine shield bolts are 18 foot lbs. The outer tie rod nuts are 44 ft lbs. Measure those outer tie rod ends and jam nuts to stay close to what you had. To put these back on you will need to do something like this to prevent the tie rod bolt from just turning:
    [​IMG]
    I used the wrench to hold it, and turned the socket the opposite way for things to tighten. The end of that bolt fits a six point 1/2 " I think socket. Remember you need to get an alignment when this is done. If anyone has some tips on ensuring that your steering wheel is straight when all is said and done that would be a good thing to add comments on. I was a little off.

    Lastly, bleeding the system. At this point everything is back together, including the wheels, but you are still up on jacks. You can't just fill up the power steering resevoir and drive off because you have air in the system, you will run out of steering fluid and kill your pump. Chevy has this procedure in the manual that basically says key on engine off, turn wheel stop to stop 12 times, add fluid if necessary. Then start engine, turn wheel left to right, listen for whining/cavitation and add fluid if needed. I'm pretty positive I killed a pump by doing this, I was going from stop to stop with fluid and it just died on me. Remember all those reports of people killing their pumps by doing donuts? Anyway, this is the procedure that I use, and it has worked really well:
    - do the first step with the key on engine off, stop to stop 12 times and add fluid. This doesn't really work that well in my opinion but it's a start. Then, use the key, crank the engine just enough so that when you think it might start, turn it off. Then go fill up your power steering resevoir and repeat. Once it seems like you aren't adding more fluid, start the engine and run for a brief period, turn off and check fluid level. (and check for leaks) Then you can start turning the wheel etc progressively more. It takes a little longer but you will never hear your pump whine once. Then go for a test drive with some fluid just in case, pull in a parking lot and do some S turns etc. Check fluid while there. Drive home and check for leaks and you are done!

    This article is a thank you to Roadie and all the other regulars for all their help over the years. Lots of people on this site are as knowledgeable if not more than any full time mechanic.

    -Jerry
     
    Kurb and Rick Beckmann like this.
  3. bluenvoyerob

    bluenvoyerob Member

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    3
    Very well described write-up! I'll have to tackle this job soon and appreciate the post!!

    Thanks to you and Roadie!
     
    Rick Beckmann likes this.
  4. tomsmith

    tomsmith Active Member

    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you very much for the write up. Used this while dropping my oil pan .. would never have found that 8mm bolt attaching the power steering lines to the rack without it

    One thought though, you don't have to disconnect the lower intermediate shaft bolt to drop the rack. All I had to do was disconnect the middle bolt and the rack dropped out in one piece
     
  5. Hammerdown

    Hammerdown Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    3
    Unfortunately I'm not seeing any pictures. Is there something I need to do to see them? Maybe I didn't wait long enough, they are starting to appear!

    Dick
     
  6. Hammerdown

    Hammerdown Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thanks for the write up. I won't be doing this until next spring, changing to the fast ratio rack.

    Dick
     
  7. jysp

    jysp Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you for the write up it made the job fairly straightforward.

    The tough part I found was getting the 2 bolts that hold the rack. At first I did not understand your instructions I assumed the nut on the was welded on to the inside of that cup, then when I finally managed to turn the bolt I could see the nut spinning. My deep socket would not fit past the CV, I even considered taking the CV out. Then I noticed a sparkplug socket was the correct size and it was a bit shorter. It still would not fit in from on top of the CV but I managed to wiggle it in from underneath the CV. The nice thing with the sparkplug socket is it has the hex end on the back side so I could get a wrench on it to hold it.

    I have a couple of questions:
    1) I'm doing the hoses as well, you mentioned that you did yours earlier. How did you get the brackets/clips (#8 & 10 from the power steering system diagram in your post) off of the original hoses and back onto the new ones? They don't look like they separate, I thought of cutting them off. I called the dealer, they don't have them, he said they have never had them, and no one in North America has them.
    2)How did you attach the hoses to the rack? It's very tight, I can't see how I could get the hoses onto the mounting plate and then get the plate onto the rack. I had a couple of thoughts:
    - if I drop the rack from the drivers side I would be able to get at it from the side, but would there be enough movement in the lines to do this? Did you attack the hose to the rack before you put the drivers side in?
    - if I pull the CV would I be able to get at it from the front?​
     
  8. JerryIrons

    JerryIrons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    14
    I'm not exactly sure by what you mean with question 1, are you referring to the plate that I hand drew? Or do you mean the brackets and clips throughout the lines being replaced? Some of mine were so rusted I just used zip ties to hold my lines down. In fact one line I didn't even remove entirely, I just cut it at various points, and zip tied the new line next to the old one. Not the most professional job, but you really can't tell unless you look closely, and I wasn't about to extend that project out time wise even more.

    As far as attaching the hoses to the rack, it was a little tricky. The two hoses slide into the metal plate, and then the plate gets pushed onto the rack. I'm going by memory, but ensuring that the lines were oriented correctly beforehand helped me a lot. Also be careful you don't cross thread that little bolt that holds the lines and plate onto the rack. I'm pretty sure I used a ratchet, extension to screw the plate/lines onto the rack as a one step process. I don't know if the lines are long enough to do it any other way. By all means if you figure out a better way post it.

    Good tip on the spark plug socket!
     
  9. 6716

    6716 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    507
    Likes Received:
    78
    I'm working on this right now as well.

    Thanks for the write up.

    I don't know anything about the hoses, but I did find that a 3/8£ drive 21mm socket was just the right length to get past the CV
    and still get the nut.

    I'm stopped for a second because I don't see seals on the end of my lines, or in the gear, but the new gear comes with seals.

    I would be surprised if the lines were aftermarket.

    Just going slow on this point because getting here was a major PITA and I don't want to have to pull it all apart again.

    Think I should just push those seals into the new gear?
     
  10. jysp

    jysp Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was talking about the brackets/clips.
    -So you cut the bracket /clip and then zip tied it is that sufficient?
    -For #8 there is that bracket that is bolted to the wheel well I guess that would give it enough support.
    -For #10, there is not much room between the lines and the fan, I would think that one needs to be really secure.​

    Do you remember if you had the lines attached to the mounting plate before you put the lines in to the engine compartment or if you attached them from underneath? Were you able to attach the plate/lines to the rack with the rack in?
     
  11. jysp

    jysp Silver Supporter

    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    good point, I was using a 1/2 drive deep socket, a 3/8 drive deep is probably shorter.
     
  12. JerryIrons

    JerryIrons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    14
    Look carefully in the old gear, there are probably old seals there you just missed them. Get a pick or screwdriver out and pry against the side they are easy to miss when they are still in the gear. (just a metal ring pretty much left)
     
  13. JerryIrons

    JerryIrons Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    14
    I put the lines in, and then underneath I secured them to the plate with that little plastic adapter, and maybe even a little temporary tape because they wanted to slip out of the plate. Yes the rack was in when lines/plate was fastened on. Although With new lines it was a little tricky making sure they were oriented correctly, I didn't want to tighten them down crooked if you know what I mean. Just take your time and try not to get frustrated. The good news is that bolt does not need to be very tight. Don't forget to get back under there when it's all done and running and check for leaks.
     
  14. gmcman

    gmcman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,359
    Likes Received:
    693
    Excellent write up! :thumbsup: Thank you for the time and effort with the pics and explanations. Before I get new tires I think I'm going to tackle this. Mine isn't leaking really yet but it's also 13 years old and I get some odd noises sometimes when turning. New rack, hoses would give me piece of mind.
     
  15. xavierny25

    xavierny25 Platinum Supporter

    Messages:
    2,927
    Likes Received:
    1,265
    I'm going to bump this thread because my voy just decided to make load bang noice will making a u turn/ k turn. Parked it and took a look under it. Everything looked good till I turned the wheel to full right and saw exactly whats pictured in the first 2 photo's of this thread. FML
     

Share This Page