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Tech Article

EASY BOLT-ON
POWER RACK & PINION STEERING
BY JOHN STALLSMITH

You spent a bundle on disc brakes. You also upgraded your suspension, drive train, wheels, tires, and your interior. You had the body straightened, and painted it bright red. Itís time to head out for the show, and bring home a big trophyóright? WRONG!!! That old beast steers like a log wagon, and wanders all over the road. But, you donít know anything about fixing that old drag link steering, and even if you did, the original parts are expensive to replace, and your show winner probably wonít drive any better anyway.

UNISTEER has the answer for you, as I recently found out. A friend told me to check out their web site (www.unisteer.com) because they offer a power rack & pinion kit for quite a few muscle cars and street rods.

The car I described earlier was my 68 Nova, and sure enough, UNISTEER had just what I needed to cure my steering blues. You can order everything to go from manual stock steering to modern power rack & pinion for about $1500. Heck, you spent three times that on your paint, and the old jewel is still like a battleship when you try to turn the corner. Believe me, UNISTEERíS system will improve your driving experience so much, youíll go cruising every chance you get.

One note of caution, all rack & pinion systems are not created equal. Only UNISTEER has addressed the issue of bump steer. (As the front suspension travels, the wheels will be pulled in, or pushed out.) UNISTEERíS system is geometrically matched to the carís suspension to eliminate bump steer. Call them (1-800-338-9080) for more details.

Now letís talk about installation. Safety first! A power lift makes the installation quicker and safer. You can use jack stands (like I did), but invite a buddy over to help you (like I did). I used two sets of stands and two pump jacks, and set aside the day for the install. It was actually fun, and everything went fairly easy.

First, you remove the front wheels, unbolt the brake calipers, (or drums and pads if you have not upgraded), leaving the lines attached. Next, remove the spindles, and start unbolting the old box and linkage. I discovered the old manual parts weighted slightly more than all the new parts, even with the pump. Remove the two bolts from each steering arm. You get new steering arms, but you need to reuse the bolts. Now, sell all the old parts on EBAY to the guy who doesnít care how his car steers, just so it is all original. (Just kiddingódonít send me mail!)

The rack comes all assembled and centered. Attach it to the cross member where the lower control arms bolts are located. This is a little tricky, since you need to drive out the old bolts with the new longer bolts (provided) then drive the new bolt back through with second new bolt. If all else fails, you may actually need to read the instructions. Pay attention and it will go fine. Hang the new rack and torque bolts to 85 ft. lbs. Install the new steering arms with the original bolts and torque to 85 ft. lbs. Install the tie rod ends and torque to 35 ft. lbs. See, that was easy.

Moving on to the steering shaft, remove the coupler, and install the column adaptor with two bolts. Put the steering shaft on the rack end and hold up to the other u-joint on the coupler end. Measure the shaft length you need, and mark it. (Now do two more times so you donít cut the shaft too short.) The u-joint ends need to off set 90 degrees. (They call it phased out.) After you cut the shaft to the correct length, you need to drill it out, and put in the pins (inner and outer) to hold it in place. This part of the install took some time, because I wanted to make sure the shaft fit right, and it did. (Some times I just amaze myself.)

The new TC pump was easy to install with itís adjustable bracket. (Although it took me three trips to the parts store to get the right belt.) I had installed the banjo fittings on the rack before it was installed, so after cutting the hoses to length, and attaching the fittings, the rest went smoothly. Caution, the pressure line is smaller, but it hooks to the larger port on the rack.

All that was left to do was add power steering fluid. (Slowly, while someone turns the rack both ways.) Then head to the alignment shop to get everything to specs provided.

Please note that the rack may be purchased separately if you choose to provide the other items. Just call the nice people at UNISTEER (1-800-338-9080), or look on the web at www.unisteer.com, and get that old ride into the 21st century. Remember, enjoy the drive, not just your

Picture2

A view of driverís side wheel well with wheel, brake caliper and spindle removed. Brake caliper is supported with wood block because brake line is still attached. Note, car is supported on jack stand.

Picture4

Old linkage removed and cross member is ready for new rack.

Picture6

New longer bolt and spacer in place ready for rack installation.

Picture9

View of new rack from passenger side. Note floor jack in background is supporting lower control arm to allow easier bolt installation.

Picture11

Steering shaft cut, pinned and bolted to column.

Picture3

The old steering box has been removed in this picture.

Picture5

Complete old linkage and steering box removed from í68 Nova.

Picture7

New rack installed and pump hoses attached.

Picture10

View of tie rod end attached on driverís side.

Picture12

Steering shaft and pump lines attached to rack.

Picture13

View of new pump installed with lines attached.

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