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Rover Vitesse, Rack Time

It isn’t a fun job, but it’s one I needed to do. To get Tess on the road I needed to replace the steering rack.

But first, let me wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Tess (yes, the cars now have names. Tess the Vitesse and EFI, pronounced “Effie”, the EFI) failed her WOF on a leaking power steering rack, and boy was it leaking badly. I suspect it was the original rack, and may have just failed either due to time, or from sitting for years. Either way, it needed to be fixed.

My first thought was to get the rack reconditioned, as surely this would be more cost-effective and quicker than ordering a replacement rack… but how wrong I was. No one was too interested in actually doing the work, with the only workshop in Wellington able to do the work quoting about $600 to do it plus labour to remove/fit if needed, and the only other place I was recommended was in Auckland, which was “about $800”, excluding me having to remove the rack and send it to them. Not only that, everyone was busy and being only days away from the big Christmas shutdown, there was no hope in me having it back before mid Jan or so. Eek.

The next option was to source a used rack and fit that, but in the end I ruled this option out as it was probably just going to be money down the drain when that one eventually succumbed to its 30+ years of age and also starting leaking.

The only option left to me then was to order one from the UK. The pricing wasn’t great, but considering its a brand new unused rack (albeit made in 1986) that has been reconditioned with new seals, it’s not a bad deal. Even better was the next day when I went to place the order, the rack was suddenly on sale at only 200 Pounds! Win!

After much calculating we worked out that it was cheaper to buy the rack with a set of replacement standard Vitesse height shocks and springs than it was to buy the shocks at a later date… oh what a shame, so they got tacked onto the order. $400 of just shipping costs later, and the parts were on their way.

I had a good laugh when the Fedex site said ETA for delivery was the 27th Dec…. 5 days after it was ordered, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get a call from Fedex the morning of the 27th to say it had cleared customs and I needed to pay the Government to clip the ticket, and then it would be out for delivery.

And there it was, later that day, 5 days after the order was placed in the UK, and two days after Christmas. One box full of springs, and the other with a steering rack, four shocks and some door window seals. Amazing. HUGE thanks to Rimmer Bros and Fedex for the great service.

Yes, a BRAND NEW “Cam Gears” rack. Not used, and not an old used rack that has been reconditioned. Bling Bling.

Like usual getting the car in the air is the standard low-car faff, but once up I whipped off the wheels and began poking around.

Interestingly someone at some point has swapped the standard two hose 4 pot Vitesse calipers for single hose 4 pot calipers. The disks are standard Vitesse vented disks, so not performance loss, but an interesting change. Filthy as hell and covered in multiple layers of paint. They need a clean and probably a repaint. Be a good candidate for an XJS big brake upgrade.

Braided Goodridge hoses to the calipers. Yes, the standard strut legs have been painted yellow also >_<

That’s enough poking around, let’s get to the real work. Removing the rack.

I got really stuck for ages trying to get the tie rod end to come free from the knuckle on the RH side. The typical way to remove these (and all taper fit ball joints) is to give the side of the item the ball joint goes through a few hard smacks with a hammer. This will usually shock the taper free and it will pop out. This happened on the LH side after a few whacks, but the right side just didn’t want to pop.

This is the offending article

I suspect it was original, and was rusted in the knuckle. In the end I used a couple of Pickle Fork style ball joint separators to pop it. It didn’t go without a fight though, and unfortunately it made a mess of the boot in the process.

A win is a win though, this meant I could move on.

The next step was to disconnect the oil hoses. I believe the correct thing to do is to remove the hoses from the rack, but I just couldn’t get a spanner in there to undo them on the car, so I chose to disconnect them from the pump. This also allowed easier draining and cleanup of the fluid. One pipe in the back of the pump is a 5/8″ hex and the other is just a standard hose clamp

There aren’t many photos of the next part of the process because it’s a hell of a messy job. Even with barrier cream all up my arms it took ages to clean the grease and oil off me.

The rack is held to the crossmember with four large 17mm bolts, the nuts of which are visible in the above photos on either side of the jacking bump on the crossmember. A spanner held on the bolt on top of the rack, and a rattlegun on the nut under the car and they were undone quickly. The one bolt at the back on the RH side cannot be removed with the pipes in place on the rack. I just pushed this up as far as it would go, using the pipes and hoses to hold it in place.

Next is to disconnect the steering coupling from the spline on the rack. This was bit of a pain as mine had been there for many years, but a good soaking in WD40 helped. Completely remove the 1/2″ nut and bolt (has to be completely removed as the bolt locks the spline in place) and then use a thick chisel driven into the split to open up the coupling and release the spline. There wasn’t enough room to move the steering shaft to free it from the rack, so I had to push the rack forward to free it up. This is a great time to also check the rubber disk on the coupling for any splits or damage and replace if needed.

Before the rack can be removed the engine needs to be lifted a few inches. I ummed and ahhed over this for ages, until I just bit the bullet and did what Haynes recommends. Use a jack, and a block of wood under the sump.

Because I only needed clearance on the RH/Drivers side of the car, I removed both bolts on the RH side and removed only one bolt and loosened the other bolt on the LH side. This allowed the engine to sort of pivot on that bolt when it lifted, so when it was lowered again everything was easy to align back into place. Keep in mind that I don’t run the standard radiator fan and shroud, so I didn’t have to worry about moving or removing these before lifting, but may cause issues on standard cars.

The engine is held with two 17mm bolts/nuts on each side

To gain enough space to remove the rack I also had to remove that yellow brace you can see over the rack boot. This is bolted through the RH mountings for the sway bar

The engine does have to come up quite high

With the engine up, and the rack unbolted all that is needed to do is to wiggle and jiggle the rack out. The rack MUST be removed from the RH/Drivers side of the car, and to get it out meant that I had to rotate the rack upside down, so that the pinion pointed downwards. It also helped if I raised the LH side of the rack.

Eventually it will come out and you will wonder what all that fuss was about. The original “Cam Gears” brand rack as used on the later SD1s. Apparently the best for road feel of the three brands used at various times (but all interchangeable)

The hoses came through with the rack with no issues, so I see no advantage to removing them on the car other than gaining a little more space from being able to remove that one mounting bolt.

The hoses are held onto the rack with two different sizes. One was a 17mm and the other was smaller, and I used a 9/16″ spanner for it. They were easy to break free off the car, but the smaller pipe took some careful coaxing to spin in the nut. These hoses need to be transferred to the new rack, and MUST be kept clean from any dirt entering them. I ziptied a glove over the end to keep them clean upon refitting. Take note of how the pipes are run on the rack too as they need to be oriented correctly.

Before refitting the new rack you need to center it. There is a port on the rack for checking the centering, and apparently locking it, although I didn’t need to lock mine. its a 1/4″ hex to remove this plastic plug

It’s hard to photograph, but there is a dimple in the rack that can be seen through this hole when the rack is centered. When it’s not centered there is just solid, shiny metal that can be seen

Not centered

Almost centered (rack needs to go slightly to the right)

Centered

Apparently you can insert a bolt into here to lock it in place, but I didn’t find this was needed, and I just used a mirror to check it was still centered when it was on the car before fitting the steering coupling, and again when the coupling was in place.

Pipes were refitted and had a very quick clean. I ensured that the pipes and hoses weren’t hard up against each other or the rack.

Refitting is just the reverse of removal. Wiggle and jiggle the rack into place, being careful to route the hoses over the crossmember and under the sump, and to not damage any of the boots and threads. The rack comes with good protective covers on all the threads and splines which helps. Remember, like removal, turning the rack upside down helps to refit (but isn’t good for taking photos).

It’ll eventually just fall into place, and then it’s time to install that damn steering coupling again

I had my lovely wife help this by holding the steering wheel straight whilst I wiggled it all into place. I needed to use a chisel again to open the coupling so the spline would slide in nicely. I also applied some copper grease to the spline, so that it wouldn’t rust together again, and that helped to slide it together.

Once that’s in, drop the rack bolts through the crossmember. There is one bolt on mine that is longer than the others. This goes in the front RH side hole. It’s obvious if you have put this in a different hole as it’s a fair bit longer. Then start bolting it all back together.

Check the hoses are in the right place, and then the engine can be lowered down again and bolted in place. This is good for space under the car, and not having to worry there is an engine above your head holding on by a jack and one bolt.

Once everything was bolted back into place, I refit the hoses to the pump with a new hose clamp. This is where I would usually be fitting the tie rod ends but unfortunately that turned to rubbish. One of mine had a damaged boot from removal, and both were looking aged and generally a bit blegh. I didn’t just spend hundreds on a new rack to fit old worn out parts back onto it, so I went to Repco and picked up the last two that they had in stock for an SD1.

They are TRW JTE224. The TRW website lists them as the correct part for all SD1s including the Vitesse

and the photo looks OK

As does the technical info and measurements of them

Unfortunately what was in both of the boxes isn’t quite right. It doesn’t look like the photo, or the old part, and more importantly the threads don’t match up.

The old one has a 12mm thread, the new one 10mm. Either this is a mistake and a bad batch, or the TRW part is wrong. I’m going to check tomorrow if any other stores have them in stock and if they can source me a pair to match up. If they can’t, I will have to resort to ordering a new pair from Rimmers.

In the meantime I have refilled the system (with the same ATF as I used in the EFI), loosened off the PS pump so it can be spun by hand and hand filled the rack.

Once the level was stable, I tightened the belt and secured the pump and fired up the engine. I ran the rack lock to lock to bleed the air out, and refilled the pump until the level stopped dropping and then that was done.

Now I’m at a halt until I can get a pair of tie rod ends. Once I have those, I can fit them, put the wheels back on and take it for an alignment. Then its WOF time!

This is also the first of my posts to get a rating system.

Difficulty 
(How hard to do the job, out of 5. 1 Easy, 5 Pay someone else to do it)

Fun 
(Did I enjoy doing this? This could be from being hard to do, or just messy and tiring. 1 Heck no, 5 Good times)

Results N/A, not tested
(The results of the work, IE: has it made an improvement?. 1 Blegh, 5 Woot)

Value 
(A combo of cost of parts, difficulty, results and fun. 1 Not worth it, 5 Highly Recommended)

Parts Used

CRC4520 – Cam Gears Steering Rack
GSJ149 – Track Rod End x2 (Recommended)

Please note these parts are specific to my car and may vary. Please check before ordering.

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