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Project Snicket, Steering Rack and Ball Joint Replacement

Since I was at a standstill with the rear of car due to waiting for the rear arms to be reconditioned, I decided to push on with the front of the car.

Referring back to the Rego inspection sheet, up front I had play in the front lower LH “kingpin” (lower ball joint), and play in the RH rack end. I ordered a replacement standard steering rack (I considered a quick rack, but apparently they can make the car too twitchy to drive normally and it’s not like the standard rack is slow) and a pair of ball joints.

I had been procrastinating the rack replacement as everything I had read indicated that it’s a complete arse of a job. “Step 1, lower the front subframe”. Yeah.

Anyway, yesterday I bit the bullet and got stuck in.

The first job to do is to get inside the car, and remove the column pinch bolt. Remove the nut, and then use a flatblade screwdriver to open the gap on the clamp up a little and the bolt should come out fairly easily.

I also loosened off the upper column clamp. This is meant to have a headless shear-bolt, but in typical Leyland fashion mine wasn’t sheared off. The head of the bolt is the orange arrow, and it screws into the blue arrow. The “nut” on the end is weird, it free spins and doesn’t lock into anything. I used a screwdriver jammed into the slot to jam it and undo it.

Next it was time to crack off the nuts inside the car that hold the U clamps to the rack. There are two on each side of the floor. Blue arrows are the nuts. Orange arrow is the hole in the panel to access the centering hole in the rack.

With them cracked off, but not too loose, it’s time to get ready to lower the subframe.

Undo the top nuts for the shocks, and remove the shocks from the mount

And remove the tie rod ends from the knuckles

Now to drop the subframe. I left the front mounts done up (its rubber mounted on my car so has some give), and removed the four nuts and bolts on the lower rear mounts

I supported the engine with my jack and some wood, and then removed the two massive top mount bolts. This allowed me to gently pry the back of the subframe down and get the much needed clearance. I did also lower the shifter box from the floor (two nuts inside the car behind shifter), otherwise there isn’t enough clearance to slide the rack passed the rods. The manual says you only need to gain 20mm of space, but I had to lever it down as far as it would physically go, and even then it’s just enough.

The four nuts inside the car hold the rack in place, so remove those and then the U bolts can be removed from under the car

And then with some wiggling, out comes the rack (I hadn’t lowered the shifter box yet, so it pulled the boot off during removal) from the drivers side.

The rack is completely covered in oil/grease, and the rack ends are quite floppy. Compared to the new one, it looks very grotty

I filled the new rack up with some differential oil (there is a lot of discussion regarding what should be in these; grease or oil, but as I had oil on hand, and the rack was completely dry, it’s what went in it). You fill the rack via this port, which is also the centering hole for the rack. Its usually got a black plastic plug screwed into it, which can be seen in the photo above

And then with the help of my lovely wife, I carefully slid the new rack into place, and secured with the U bolts. I cleaned the grease off the bolts and replaced the plastic strips. It’s a two person job for sure, as one person needs to push the U bolts through the holes, and the other needs to spin the nuts on to hold it in place. Do NOT tighten the U bolts up yet through, leave them loose enough to be able to move the rack.

With the rack in place, I used the jack to carefully raise the subframe back up, and refit all the bolts and secure it. I was planning on reusing both tie rod ends, but unfortunately one was damaged during removal. A replacement is on its way, and one has been reused. I counted the turns during removal, and refitted the same amount of turns, so hopefully the alignment won’t be too far out. Will get it aligned anyway, but need to drive it there.

So, whilst waiting for the replacement tie rod end to arrive, I looked into the ball joint play. This is what I found.

So, the whole damn joint is loose and moving on the knuckle. Thankfully the locking tab did its job and stopped it coming completely out and falling to bits. Yes, that is also water coming out of the boot. I think the fail was fair.

I was intending to replace this with the hub on the car, but knowing what I know now, that would be a huge pain to do, so I removed the hub from the car. Having to spin the whole hub assembly around to undo the brake line sucks, but I couldn’t be bothered stripping the hub to remove the cylinder and spin that off.

I was also only intending to replace the lower joint, but the top joint turned out to have miles to play in it, so that was getting replaced too.

I don’t have many photos of this process because it’s very messy, but once I had the hub on the workbench I hammered back the locking tab, and used a massive socket to remove the dome nut. The grease in both joints was bad. Almost looked like grinding paste.

I cleaned up the hub, and noticed a couple of rough spots which I cleaned up with fine sandpaper. Then it was a matter of refitting. Getting the shims right was a real pain, but trial and error got there eventually, so that the amount of play in the joints was just right. There are plenty of videos on YouTube of how to do this, so I wont go into too much detail.

New joints look good though. I need to get more grease to pump through the fittings, and tighten the hub nut, but otherwise that is another job done.

The last job for the day was to center the rack, and reinstall the column. To center the rack, remove the plastic plug discussed above, and use a 5-6mm drill bit, and a mirror, and whilst someone slowly turns the rack from either lock, look for the hole in the rack and slip the drill bit in. This is dead center on the rack.

As there is only one spot on the rack pinion for the pinch bolt to fit, the column can only be fitted in one way. Keep in mind the rack MUST still be loose in the U bolts for this, so you can tilt the rack up for down to align the pinion. Turn the wheel so the pinch bolt hole lines up with the notch on the rack pinion, and slip the column onto the splines. It should slip on easily, if it doesn’t, try to change the angle of the rack up or down to make it a straight line with the column. Next try to slip the pinch bolt through. If you have the column lined up well, it should slip through without too much issue. If it doesn’t, take the column off the splines and turn the wheel to align the notch and try again.

Unfortunately after all this, because the column could only go in one spot, my steering wheel is rather out of alignment. I’ll need to take the wheel off and reinstall it straight.

Tomorrow morning I drop the arms in for reconditioning, and then its a case of building it all back up, reinstalling everything, bleeding the brakes, and it should be ready for the re-check.

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