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Range Rover Steering Problems/Leaky Pump Seal

Steering the straight and narrow - or the RRC doesn't want to turn! (RRC Universal Joint failure) :

By Alan Richer

I do love my Land-Rovers - but occasionally their failures drive me to drink.

An example of this is a recent steering problem I had - the steering had gone stiff on my Range Rover Classic and I suspected it to be a fault in the power steering - which it wasn't.

The actual problem was the intermediate shaft - the connection between the steering column and the steering box on a Range Rover Classic model. The U-joints in this section are noted to seize solid at 100-150 thousand miles. I guess at 240 thousand miles I was doing well with it.

A quick note on how I isolated the problem seems in order here. I disconnected the drag link from the steering drop arm and then moved the wheels by hand to see if there was a failure in the axle portion of the steering. This was perfect, so I started looking at the column-through-steering-box section. With the engine off it was obvious that there was a rhythmic stiffness in the steering as-was - certain positions of the wheel would bind consistently every revolution. Removing the link between column and box was the next step in diagnosis - and where I discovered the seized joint. Finding it was one thing - getting the old one out and the new one in was entirely another issue - and not a simple one at all.

As installed in the car, the intermediate shaft between the steering column and box consists of two universal joints and a rubber flex joint - all in line with a splined shaft between the front U joint and the rubber flex and rear U-joint. This, as you can imagine, is not going to want to come apart at all easily - corrosion (15 years in my car's case) and time will conspire to lock it all together. The joints will need to slide on the splines to get the shaft out for repair work - and getting this to happen is not a task for the timid.

What I ended up doing was a lot of tapping-it-about to get the shaft to come apart. Pull the U-joint pinch bolts for the front universal joint and pry/tap it back and forth till the U-joint sections move on the splines relatively easily.

Drop those bolts back in to hold the joint in place, then do the same with the rear U-joint - remove bolts, spray with penetrating oil, and tap things back and forth till the U-joint sections move on the shafts.

Remove the bolts that hold the rear steel connection to the rubber flex joint, allowing that to separate. On later models of Range Rovers (1989 forward, I believe) the rubber flex joint is under a protective fiberglass cup - pull the nuts holding the cup and it can be slid forward over the splined shaft to clear - then remove the bolts completely to separate the joint. Push the column U-joint back and the other joints forward and the shaft through the center of the rubber flex will pull out and drop free.

Replace bits as necessary, then reassemble using new nylock nuts as needed. One note on reassembly - there is a very definite order for doing up the universal joint locking bolts. The splines that are keyed to the shaft are the two at the very front and the very back one - the rubber flex to shaft spline is not keyed, so do that one up last.

Leaking Range Rover Steering Pump

Andy Lingham wrote:

I am a trained EEngineer having powerstation experience. I also have 2 Defenders and Range Rover and love them very much.One Defender steering box has developed a leak. I want to fix it. Can You help.?

There is no better source for overhaul info than the factory manuals for both the Defender and the RRC. They will take you step by step though the process. Most likely it is the bottom seal in the steering box. They are available. To replace it, first scribe a mark on the shaft and steering arm at the bottom of the steering box so that you can put the arm back on the way it came off. Remove the pinch bolt in the arm and lever or use a puller to pull the arm off. Thoroughly clean the bottom of the pump. Ideally I would use engine spray cleaner and clean the entire steering box and area around it first. You don't want grit getting back in the box. Then with a small screwdriver carefully lever the seal out. You will break it but be careful not to scratch the shaft itself. Clean the shaft throroughly and apply a little power steering fluid to it. Apply a little to the rubber surface of the seal and a very thin film of gasket sealer (I use Permatex professional Hi temp - it's the red stuff) and carefully slide the seal over the shaft and tap it flush to the housing. Replace the steering arm, making sure that the marks you scribed are lined up and replace and re tighten the pinch bolt and you're done.

However, the odds are that the steering box (if an older RRC/Defender) may have a scored shaft, hence the leak at the output seal. A new seal may help, but honestly it may need a new mainshaft, at which point a recon box is a much better idea.

Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified September 23, 2007.
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