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HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta

I recently replaced the rack and pinion in my 2001 MKIV Jetta as it had been leaking a small bit for some time, and the seals finally failed completely and wouldn't hold any fluid in the system.
Overall I'd say that this was definitely challenging, but well within the reach of an moderately experienced DIY'er.
My biggest difficulty was in finding complete information on removing the subframe. That seems to be something that most of the documentation available assumes you know how to do prior to starting.
I encountered no major issues attempting this, but did perform some steps in a less than ideal manner. I'll point out both how I did it, and how I think I should have done it in hindsight. The mistakes I made seem pretty silly to me now, but, hey.. what do you do. Hopefully, you'll have a perfect go of it thanks to my mistakes.
I also went ahead and replaced my timing belt and water pump when doing this as there is a bit of overlap (removing the dogbone connector) and having the subframe removed gives wide open access to the lower engine area, which is helpful. I followed this HOWTO: http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=2271429 from Vasillalov on VWVortex to do that.

Disclaimer
I am not a mechanic, nor am I certified or trained for any type of work on cars. This document's purpose is solely to relate my experience in attempting this work, in the hopes that others might find it interesting and educational. This document should not be considered advice, or replacement for professional guidance and training. The author shall not be held responsible for any damages, injury, or any other outcome to you, to others, to your vehicle, or to other possessions that results from following any step in this document.

Parts Needed:
Rack and pinion.
I got my rack from http://www.germanautoparts.com/, but they are available from a number of online locations. Be sure to check whether or not you need to return the old rack, and if the tie rod ends are included, etc.. The rack I got had new tie rods already installed, and this guide will not cover replacing the tie rods.
Power Steering Fluid
You'll want to have a couple liters of the right fluid on hand to replace the drained fluid. A 1.5 liter bottle was enough for me, but I got 3 liters just in case.
Be sure to get the RIGHT fluid. Do NOT use the normal American power steering fluids. Use the VW approved types to ensure you have no issues down the road. You can get it online or at the dealership.

Bolts, Washers, etc...
Removing the subframe requires replacement of a lot of bolts. Most of the bolts are the stretch bolts that must be replaced whenever removed. The bolts can't be bought from most online sources (that I was able to find anyways). When I called Germanautoparts.com and asked them about it, they informed me that only VM authorized dealers could get the parts, as the part list isn't published to the general public. So, over to the dealership I went... I spent about $70 on bolts at the dealership, but that included the engine mount bolts and whatnot to do the maintenance on the timing belt.
Looking at Diagram N40-0296 on page 40-3 of the Bentley manual, these are needed:
The first number is the bolt number in the diagram.
* #5 – Hex bolt (to rear bushing) - 2x – Part N90752801
* #18 – Hex bolt (to frame) – 2x - Part N90734902
* #11 – Hex bolt (ball join to control arm) – 6x – Part N10127707
* #24 – Hex Bolt (dogbone to subframe) – 2x – Part N10268302 – (can be skipped if you leave the dogbone attached to the subframe)
* #21 – Hex bolt (dogbone to transmission – larger of two) – 1x – Part N90597001
* #22 – Hex bolt (dogbone to transmission – smaller of two) – 1x – Part N10246603

Looking at Diagram N48-0356 on page 48-19 of the Bentley manual, these are needed:
* #19 – Seals (washers for banjo bolts – larger of two types) - 2x* - Part N0138487, and 2x Part N0138495
* (not shown) – Hex bolts (rack to subframe) – 4x – Part N10015506

Note - There are two banjo bolts (bolts 17 and 18 in the diagram), but they are different sizes. The diagram makes it appear that you need 4 washers of the same size, when this is not the case. Even the parts guy at the dealership got this wrong for me, using their parts lookup system. Consequently, I got 4 washers of the same size and could only use 2 of them. The other two, I cleaned up and reused the old ones. As noted, the part number listed above is for the larger of the two, so be sure to get 2 of the smaller as well (thanks cenotaph for the part number!)

Looking at Diagram N40-0606 on page 40-9 of the Bentley manual, these are needed:
* #12 – Nut (for tie rod ends) - 2x – Part ???? - I neglected to keep the part number for this by mistake
Tools
To complete this work, you'll need:
* Pans to drain the power steering fluid into – I used the cheap throw away aluminum backing pans as $2 gets enough to cover the entire area under the subframe
* The usual compliment of sockets, an elbow, and an 8 or 10" extension
* Allen wrenches – You'll need a 3/16" allen wrench for the tie rod ends
* Torque wrench with at least a range of 20 – 75 Nm
* Flathead screwdriver, and pliers/vice grips, flashlight for the misc. bits
* Floor jacks, and jack stands
* A helper (for lifting the subframe in and out of position)...
* Preferably, have the Bentley manual... You're crazy if you don't have this.
Overall Process – The Not-So-Good Way
I'll give a quick run through of the process of I actually used, and what didn't work so well with it, and then I'll give step by step instructions of what I believe would have been the right way (or at least a much better way).
The process I used worked, but I think it made it take longer and was definitely more complicated than it needed to be. My biggest problem was that I determined (incorrectly), that the subframe needed to come off and then the rack needed to come off separately.
Here's what I did in a nutshell:
1. Removed the ball joints out of the control arms, disconnected the tie rod ends, and tied the wheels up to prevent damage to the CV joints.
2. Placed a jack under the transmission to support it (Remember that I was also removing the passenger side engine mount as well to replace the timing belt, so the engine had to be supported)
3. Removed the two bolts attaching the dogbone to the transmission
4. Dropped the subframe down from the frame as far as it would go without removing it
5. Removed the four bolts attaching the rack to the subframe, and tied the subframe to a board laid across the top of the engine compartment to support the rack
6. Removed the subframe
7. Removed the two hydraulic lines for the power steering pump to the rack and let them drain
8. Unbolted the rack from the steering column
9. Removed the rack
10. Replaced everything

What I learned by going through that process is that there is enough room to remove the hydraulic lines for the power steering pump just by lowering the subframe. By doing that, the rack and subframe can be much more easily removed as a single unit rather than trying to fiddle with a rack poorly supported by some weird mechanism while the subframe is removed separately.
So, the step by step that I'll lay out now will go cover remove the rack and subframe as a unit.

Step by Step Process – The Better Way

Jack the car up and place it on it's stands. You'll need a fair bit of clearance to get adequate access to the subframe and rack, so the higher the better (as long as it's stable and safe).
Remove both front tires
Disconnect the steering column from the rack. The diagram illustrating this is on page 48-9 of the Bentley manual. It is done via the following process (be careful not to rock the car on the jack stands while doing this):
1. Remove the floor mat from the drivers side, if it is in the way
2. Use a large flat head screwdriver to remove the plastic “bolts" holding the plastic cover over the steering column below the dash. This is the plastic cover that goes from the dash down to the floor.
3. Turn the steering wheel until you see the bolt that is holding the pinion shaft in the steering column
4. Remove the bolt
5. Use a screwdriver or hammer (or both) to tap or lever the steering column up and off of the pinion shaft

Remove the tie rod ends from the wheels:
1. Insert a 3/16" allen wrench into the post end of the tie rod
2. Use a 3/4" box wrench to remove the nut
3. Slide the tie rod end out of the mounting hole
4. Repeat for the other wheel
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Disconnect the stabilizer bar control arm link
1. Remove the bolt attaching the stabilizer connecting link to the control arm (bolt will be reused)
2. Swing the link bar up
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Remove the ball joints from the control arms:
1. Remove the 3 bolts and the 3-nut bracket (set bracket aside to reuse, bolts will be replaced with new bolts)
2. Maneuver the ball joint out of the control arm (can be accompanied by colorful language)
3. Tie the wheel up to the struts with wire to keep it out of the way and to prevent the CV joint from taking damage by moving out of it's normal range
4. Repeat for the other wheel
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Remove the two bolts attaching the dogbone to the transmission. Bolts #22 and #21 in the diagram on page 40-3):
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Drop the subframe as far as it will go without removing it. Do so by loosening the four bolts pictured below. These are bolts #5 and #18 in the diagram on page 40-3.
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Remove the nut holding the return line to the rack. This is nut #9 in the diagram on page 48-19. Set it aside to reuse later.

I did not take a picture of this attachment. To find it without the diagram, go under the car from the passenger side. There are two posts sticking up at about a 40degree angle from the rack right past the boot that covers where the tie rod goes into the rack. The nut will be on the forward post holding the return line to it. Use the new rack as a guide if necessary.

The rear post in this same location is used to help hold the heat shield onto the rack. The heat shield will be removed later, and that nut can be left on for the time being.
If you have a manual transmission (mine is an automatic), you will have to also remove the three bolts holding the heat sheild at the end of the heat sheild that is towards the pinion shaft and the hydraulic lines. This holds the "selector mechanism bearing bracket" in addition to the heat shield.

Remove and drain the power steering supply and return lines (done from the driver's side):
1. Position the pans to catch the draining fluid
2. Remove the lid from the power steering fluid reservoir
3. Remove the banjo bolts from the rack. Be sure to catch the get the washers, just in case...
4. If your replacement rack came with plugs in these holes, insert them into the old rack to prevent extra fluid from leaking out of the rack while removing the subframe
5. Move the lines to drain into the pans and wait till done.

I actually removed the lines on both ends so that they would drain completely and so that they wouldn't be in the way for the work on the timing belt, but that's not necessary for this work.
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Here is the socket setup I used to get to the banjo bolts:
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At this point, the only connections between the subframe/rack and the frame should be the four bolts that were loosened earlier to lower the subframe.
Remove the subframe. You will want a helper for this. I was able to do it by myself, but it would be much quicker, easier, and safer to have a helper. I would estimate that the subframe weighs about 70-90lbs with the rack attached to it (I could be “weigh" off though... - insert groans here).
1. Support the subframe with a floor jack to hold it up while you remove the bolts
2. Remove the 4 bolts
3. Lower the subframe slowly, taking care that the sleeve/gasket for the power steering column entry hole comes away cleanly. Also note that you will have to shift the subframe to avoid having the stabilizer bar catch on the CV axle. Turn the stabilizer bar to help (loosen the bolts holding it if necessary). Alternatively, you could probably detach the stabilizer bar from the subframe prior to removing, but I did not do this.
4. Remove the subframe from underneath the car
Remember that I detached the rack from the subframe prior to the subframe, which is why the rack isn't pictured as removed together with the subframe here.
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With the subframe out, it is an easy task to remove the bolts holding the rack to the subframe. Do so, and set the old rack aside.
Clean the subframe up now, wipe up any spilled fluid.

Attach the new rack to the subframe, and transfer the aluminum heat shield from the old rack to the new one.
Check that the tie rods are centered. To do so, remove the boots covering where the tie rods join the rack. With a caliper, measure the distance from the casing of the rack to the edge of the large nut attaching the tie rod. The distance should be 30.5mm on both sides. If it is not centered, turn the pinion shaft to center it. Reattach the boots covering the tie rods connections. If you do not have the crimp tool for the clamps (costs $50 or $70 at sears as I recall), creative use of pliers and small screwdrivers can get a reasonably tight clamp. Just be sure that the clamp is hooked well and won't come loose.

Note that you centered the tie rods both the verify their installation, and also to ensure that the steering wheel is centered when you are driving straight. Take case to center the steering wheel before putting the column onto the pinion shaft. The bolt for the pinion shaft will not go all the way on if it is misaligned.
Also note the location of the steering adjustment screw when reassembling. This screw is down and to the center a bit of where the pinion shaft is. It will be facing the rear of the car when assembled. This will adjust how tight or loose the steering is and may need to be adjusted later.

Raise the subframe and rack into position and put the four bolts in that attach the subframe, but leave the subframe lowered as far as possible.
Connect the steering fluid return line to the rack and leave the high pressure line open. Fill the reservoir and crank/bump the engine (don't start it) until new clean fluid is seen. Then connect high pressure line to rack. Leaving old contaminated fluid in the system will shorten the life of the new rack.
Connect the high pressure line, and be sure to tighten everything down.
Attach the steering column to the pinion shaft so that it is centered (you might have to raise the subframe a little bit to do this, but do it as little as possible).

Refill the power steering fluid.
There are a number of opinions on the best way to do this. The key point is not to run the pump when it is not full of fluid to avoid burning it up. I did the essentially the following:
1. Fill the feed reservoir and give it time to drain down into the hoses and rack. Keep the reservoir topped off until it stops draining down into the system.
2. With the car still off, turn the wheel as much as possible both ways a few times, and top the reservoir off again
3. Repeat the last step a few times
4. Quickly turn the car on, turn the wheel all the way in both directions again, and turn the car off. Check the fluid level and top off again if necessary
5. Repeat the last step, but turn the wheel back and forth a few times. If you hear the pump, turn the car off and top off the fluid
6. Keep repeating the last step until the system is turning both ways smoothly, and no whining is produced from the pump, and you're pretty confident there isn't any air in the system.
7. Replace the lid on the steering fluid reservoir

See this thread for more information on flushing/filling the power steering fluid - See http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=3006909

Once the steering fluid is replaced, check for leaks. If the banjo bolts have leaked at all, tighten them up, clean them off and repeat.
Once you're satisfied that everything is sealed up, raise and tighten the bolts for the subframe, and finish reassembling everything else again. Be sure that all bolts are tightened the right amount, and all bolts/nuts etc.. marked “replace always", have been replaced with new.
With the everything reassembled, adjust the steering if necessary. My rack came pretty much right on, and I just had to tweak it for my personal preferences.
1. Turn the steering wheel back and forth approx 30 deg from center
2. If there is a knocking noise when doing so, tighten the adjustment screw until the noise goes away
3. Test the steering on the road. It should return to center without sticking, but not be so loose as to jump around if you hit any bumps. However, note that your alignment will be screwed up, and can contribute to odd handling.. Only pay attention to how tight or loose it is right now, the “return to center" test is the only test you need.

Get the alignment done. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Having disconnected the ball joints from the control arms, you're alignment is gone. Some people will say that if you mark the control arm and get it back together just right it'll be ok.... just get it re-aligned anyways. It's not worth not doing it.
I found that my steering would jump if I hit anything slick (water, ice, snow, etc..) until I got it aligned (I didn't do it right away even though I knew it needed to be done). I had it done at a shop to get the added bonus of them checking if I had obviously screwed anything up. You can of course do the alignment yourself as well following the procedure in the Bentley.
Be sure to periodically check the steering fluid levels over the next week to be sure you don't have any leaks.
Congratulations, it's done!
Michael

PS - This is my first HOWTO for a car. I'm very interested in whatever feedback anyone might have to make it better.
Posted on my personal site at http://www.machinegods.com/node/7

Modified by netmech at 12:56 AM 4-3-2009
Modified by netmech at 11:54 PM 7-9-2009


Modified by netmech at 10:35 AM 9-10-2009
 

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I think you'll find that no one will call you a noob with a first post like that....... Excellent write up. I hope never to have to use it. http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (netmech)

Right-On!...My man...I have a power steering leak...and have not located it...I replaced the seals on the lower banjo bolt but that didn't stop it (they gave me the wrong size also)....but man this will help me out...Excellent Thanks
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (panran)

The other washers for the banjo bolts are part number N0138495
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (cenotaph)

Awesome! Thanks for the info!
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (netmech)

i decided to drop my subframe when i did my clutch install, and, although the bentley says to replace all stretch bolts that connect the subframe to the frame, i did not. i went to the dealership to purchase said bolts and they had absolutely none of them in stock. the parts guy told me that they never replace those bolts, hence, they don't have them in stock.
$70 for bolts really is kinda ridiculous, but if money weren't an issue, i'd still get them for simple peace of mind.
anyway, awesome write-up! http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (dimsum)

I fear this may be on my docket soon. http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif http://****************.com/smile/emthup.gif on the DIY.
Any comments on the quality of the parts?
Add to FAQ please.


Modified by orange1218 at 9:51 PM 7-22-2009
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (orange1218)

I'm not sure how good a judge I am of the quality, since I don't have anything to compare it to.
However, the parts appeared to be be good quality. Nothing looked sub-standard.
It's been a year now and I've not had any further problems.
Steering still feels great. no leaks anywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (netmech)

A Dan commented on my personal site that I missed listing that the steering pump should be purged before reconnecting, and of course he's right.
He gave these instructions:
When it's time to reconnect the lines, only connect the return line to the rack and leave the high pressure line open. Fill the reservoir and crank/bump the engine (don't start it) until new clean fluid is seen. Then connect high pressure line to rack. Leaving old contaminated fluid in the system will shorten the life of the new rack.
 

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Used this How-To to replace the power steering rack on my friends' 2000 GTI VR6 this past Friday night. We used your preferred approach and dropped the entire front subframe off the car - it took at about 3.5 hours to have everything back on. Thanks.
The new rack from German Auto Parts had 2 less holes for the heat shield that is transferred over, but I think the other two should hold it just fine. Besides that, the fit was almost dead on and the car seemed to track straight post install as well.
I will post up some pics soon, but wanted to thank the OP for the great post.
 

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As promised, I followed netmech's preferred/recommended approach and it worked out great. Below are some pics -
The car - a 2000 GTI VR6



Steering column disconnected - one bolt. We marked the front of the column with a marker so we could install it back in the same direction.



Subframe disconnected and off the car with the rack, heat shield, tie-rods, control arms, end-links and sway bar.



Heat shield removed from old rack. New rack only as 2 of the 3 holes for the heat shield, but these should hold it.



New rack on with the transferred heat shield


New and old side by side
 

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Re: (chasattack)

Thanks for the How to.
I started mine today so far no harsh words

I might have one thing different on my TDI.
On the rear of the rack I have a exhaust mount that connects from the exhaust mount to the rear of the rack never saw it on the gas models. While lowering the rack i noticed the rear staying up removed two 13mm bolts and came right down.
Pic of exhaust mount to rear frame on 2000 Golf TDI...
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (netmech)

Soooo much fun. Just removed mine! the new one goes in tomrow!
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (netmech)

I just wanted to say thank you for the DIY on this. Me and a buddy just finished replacing mine. I have 160,000 miles on my car so I really appreciated the guide.
One thing I did want to say about putting things back on that might make things easier. Keep the bolts going to the subframe slightly threaded and fit the ball joints in first, then the bolts for the dogbone, #5, and #18 will go in smoothly. A tip for putting back the steering column when you're almost done, remember the groove in the pinion needs to go parallel with the bolt. I tried for about 45 mins before finally getting that on there.


Modified by doktor wabbit at 8:18 PM 4-11-2010
 

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Re: HOWTO - Replacing the Rack and Pinion on a MKIV Jetta (doktor wabbit)

Great how-to, and just in time!! I'll be replacing my rack in the next few days. So everybody who's done this agrees about 3 1/2 hours start to finish? My mechanic said it would take 5 1/2 hours, and that's on his lift!! I'd love to have him do it, but between the cost of the rack and his labor, I'm looking at $1100, way too much for me to afford right now.
 

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so im like 90% done with this but i can't for the life of me get the steering column back on the rack and pinion. I used a caliper before raising it into the car and made sure the tie rods were centered, but still the u-joint from the steering column just would not go down far enough to get the bolt in. So i started playing with rotating the rack gear and the u joint relative to eachother and now im afraid ive just made it much worse. I managed to **** up the electrical connections in my steering wheel (airbag fault now, and cruisecontrol/volume control dont work) from spinning it to the extremes too vigorously (i wasnt having the best evening). Anyways i can get the u-joint from the steering column down far enough to rotate the rack without being held in place, but not nearly far enough to put the bolt on needed to secure it. Wtf am i doing wrong? i mean the rack looks like its sitting properly am i just retarded? argh im sooo pissed right now the last thing i feel like doing is tearing open the steering column to fix the wiring. anyways if anyone has any tips on what i should do to get this back on i would be much obliged.
 
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