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Steering Rack Bushing Replacement

Steering Rack Bushing Replacement Summary

Steve Chatman

I originally posted the request and thought that others might benefit from the help I received. I hope that this is considered to be a good use of the exchange. With the advice received and a tool from John's Cars, I did the job in about 1 1/2 hour including coffee break, clean-up, time to admire my fine work, and short test drive. In a nutshell, if your car is a few years old, 13 in my case, and if your steering rack bushings haven't been replaced, they probably should be and you will experience much improved steering response. I imagine that an expert can do this job in 10-15 minutes if necessary once the car was on the lift.

Special thanks to John Himes, Julio Loza, John Napoli, Tim Scott, and Jan Wikstroem. If I missed anyone, I'm very sorry. Also, XJ6 owners who have read about Kirby Palm's XJS down-loadable book but haven't examined it should do so. Many specifics apply and the discussion is widely applicable. Steering rack bushing upgrade is a case in point. Anyway, for other novices, I will try to reflect the collective advice given and my limited experience.

Please note that the following is a report based on my one and only experience with this task. (Actually, I tried once before to remove the bushings with a tool I assembled, failed, had to reassemble, and then ordered the John's Cars tool before I tried again.) I am an amateur mechanic with novice rank. This is not expert advice and may be incomplete or flat wrong. Also, the following description relied on the advice of others and describes one of several possible solutions. I think that it is the fastest and easiest solution.

Diagnosis: From inside the car, you might notice that you begin to steer shortly before the car begins to turn, then the car first turns a bit more than you wanted it to. From under the car, you will likely see gaps between the bushing sleeves and the mounting bracket that were once filled by rubber. As I understand the condition, it is a near certainty that an older Jag needs this work.

Before immediately moving to replace the bushings, you might consider these other possibilities described by Jan Wikstroem.

Mark Harnden wrote: ... First, the front end. There is a terrible "vagueness" in the steering, especially on rough roads. It feels like something is loose. I have new (wire) wheels.

Are the spokes tight? The typical aftermarket (Dunlop or other) bolt-on wire wheels you get on the XJs are, in my view, only good enough for boulevard dawdling. I swapped mine for alloys and totally transformed the handling of my XJ12C.

Open the bonnet and swing the wheel, engine off. Watch the rack and the front wheels.

  • If the rack moves, the mounts need tightening or shimming.
  • If the rack and road wheels both stay put, grab hold of the u-joint where the steering column enters the rack and have somebody swing the wheel again.
  • If you can detect play between steering wheel and rack, one or both u-joints in the steering column need replacing. If not, the rack needs either overhauling or tightening (there was a mail on this just a couple of days ago).


Parts: I used the polyurethane bushings sold by John's Cars (about $45). I assume that they are the same as, or very similar to, others available. For a description of the design and material problems of the original parts, please see Kirby Palm's Experience in a Book (pp. 140-142). I also recommend the bushing removal tool available from John's Cars (about $35 new purchase or about $17.50 rental). More about this later.

    Minimal Required Sequence:
  1. Raise car and support with reliable stands or drive onto ramps.
  2. Note the presence of shim washers then remove 3 retaining bolts (1/2 inch socket and 1/2 inch closed-end wrench). There are 2 bolts at the steering column end and one at the other end. Also notice that the bolts are in elongated holes for vertical adjustment. Mark the current position of the bolts to guide in assembly.
  3. With minor encouragement, the steering rack will drop down a few inches.
  4. Using a tool designed for the purpose, force the old bushings out. This is easier said than done and determines which variation in method is required. It is THE critical task in this project. I used a tool designed by John's Cars for this purpose and was very pleased with the result. If you use the John's Cars tool, then you will need 5/8 inch socket (1/2 inch drive) and 5/8 inch boxed-end wrench. If your bushings are very tight, you might use a socket or the plunger part of the tool to create the first movement by holding the plunger against one end of the sleeve and striking with a hammer. To help locate the sleeve, one end of the sleeve will likely extend beyond the rack a few millimeters.
  5. Insert after-market bushings (easy) with end pieces, new bracket, and washers fitted, then push rack back into original position. Some advisors noted that this can be a bit difficult because oily grit is dropping into your eyes as you fiddle with aligning the bushings and mounting brackets. Mine was fairly easy. With the new bushing bracket (I don't know what to call this piece but it is a three-sided thin metal housing that surrounds the two bushings on the steering column end) in place and aligned with the bushings, push the rack into position so that you can insert the first bolt into the lower hole. Then push the bushing at the other end of the rack into position with new washers and spacers in position. (I was not able to insert the three additional spacing washers originally used and had to be content with one). The third, and last, bushing should be easy to align because the bottom bushing of the column-end pair is in position. A Phillips screwdriver, or similar tool is handy for alignment.
  6. Attach nuts and tighten. I understand that the rack should be level and that there may even be a correct height. I don't know. I did raise the end opposite the steering column until it fitted squarely in the mounting bracket. If you made guide marks, use those.
  7. Put the car back on the road and go have fun.
  8. Special note on removing steering rack bushings:

    How any part that has been soaking in oil for years under a Jag can be so hard to remove is beyond me. If you follow the above sequence, you will need a tool to force out the old bushing sleeve that contacts with the steering rack. The internal parts of the bushing will come with the external sleeve. I recommend that you rent or buy the tool designed by John's Cars. (There may be similar tools available from others.) The tool is a threaded rod with a fixed head that slides through washer, plunger piece, cup-like piece, then washer and nut. As you tighten the nut, the plunger pulls the old bushing into the cup end. You can assemble something similar using sockets and/or pipe, bolts or threaded rod, washers and nuts. I first tried a homemade assembly but was unable to dislodge the bushing. I can report that the John's Cars tool is tough. I applied enough force to the tool that my 1/2 drive socket wrench skipped a tooth for the first time. In case you're wondering, I don't work for John's Cars.

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