1988 Steering Rack Solutions – by Vern Mace
What follows is a re-cap of what I went through about two and a half years and over 18K miles ago. I'm not sure what problems you have been experiencing with your front end, but I went crazy with my front end problems when I picked up this little yellow Formula about two years ago with only 38k miles on it. My lower ball joints were really bad, so I replaced them right away. I still find it hard to believe they were worn out at 38k miles. This was easy to verify by jacking up the front end, and placing one hand at the 12 o'clock and the other at the 6 o'clock position on the tires and moving the wheel sort of in a jiggling motion. There should be no jiggling, no clicking, no movement back and forth of any kind.
Well, after replacing the ball joints, I was still correcting the steering too frequently while driving. I took it in to get a four-wheel alignment, and that was when the mechanic said my passenger side inner tie rod was gonzo. I took the car back home, jacked it up again, slid off the rack end boots, and examined the suspension. I moved the wheels as if steering, and even yanked on the tie rods with my hands. This was when I could see that the tie rods were fine, and all the movement was in the rack itself on the passenger side only. The only point of support on this side is a plastic bushing at the outer end of the rack. There wasn't much play, but there SHOULD NOT be any. I picked up the plastic bushing for about $14.00 (GM#26010668), replaced it, and that was it. I haven't had a problem since. In fact the original factory shocks are still on at 48k miles.
One more thing, the procedure in the repair manuals instructs you to separate the tie rod joints and remove the rack assembly from the car. I never separated my tie rod joints or removed the assembly, it is not at all necessary. The inner tie rods are threaded onto the rack. I just used a pipe wrench and an open-end wrench to unscrew them from the rack. Believe me, this is much easier. And, after you replace the bushing and screw them back on, just use a C-clamp or vise grips to stake the connection after tightening. The replacement procedure for the plastic bushing follows. And this job only took me an hour all total; a Fiero repair record for me!
'88 Fiero Passenger Side Rack Bushing Replacement Procedure:
1. Jack up front end, support the car, remove the passenger side tire, and assume the position.
2. Remove the rubber boot that covers the inner tie rod assembly. The rack threads into the inner tie rod joint.
3. Place an open end wrench (I think it was 11/16", or 19/32", or ??") on the two flats of the rack. It will take some
futzing around to find the ideal position between the suspension to orient the wrench; you know, turn the
steering a bit try the wrench, try again, try some more, you'll finally get it.
4. Place a small pipe wrench (like about 6") on the inner tie rod joint, and loosen by pulling both wrenches
together in the typical plumber style counter clock-wise direction. You can only swing the pipe wrench a few
degrees at a time, so just keep backing off and squeezing together until the parts are separated.
5. Notice that as you loosened the rack to tie rod connection, the outer housing surrounding the threaded rack
section opened slightly. This will be crimped closed again when reassembling later in lucky step 13 below.
6. Once separated, you can swing the passenger side hub/tie rods out of your way.
7. This is the only tricky bit. The plastic bushing has three tabs that snap into an inner race that are used to hold it
in place. What I did was take a blunt bladed knife, stick the tip into a tab, pry it out of the race, then slide a
thin strip of plastic under it. (I cut up the wife's credit card for this; should have done that a while ago.) Repeat
for the remaining two tabs and you have it.
8. Now you can slide out the old rack bushing, and remove the thin plastic strips.
9. Good time to clean the rack of any foreign material. I put a thin layer of silicon grease on the rack after
10. Slide on the new bushing. It will snap into place.
11. Move the passenger side hub/tie rods back, and screw the inner tie rod to the rack as above, but reverse the
pipe wrench, of course.
12. Tighten securely, about 70 ft. lbs.
13. Now, this is where you lock down (stake) the outer housing. I have done it two ways. Either use a small C
clamp or a pair of vise grips. In either case, align with the flats on the rack and crimp. It is that easy. NOTE:
DO NOT stake with hammer and drift pin as shown in the repair manual, as this is an ‘on car’ repair
procedure, and the rack assembly has not been removed and is not supported for that kind of impact.
14. Slide the boot back in place, and secure. You know the rest...Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Easiest job on a Fiero yet!
Vern Mace – taken from the Internet
'88 Formula, Yellow, 56K Miles