Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DIY Fix: How to Remove and Replace Steering Rack Bushings (Lexus GS300 / Toyota Aristo)

This the is the bag that contained our urethane steering rack bushings.  We got them from Sewell Lexus.
The 1998-2005 Lexus GS (Toyota Aristo in Japan) is a great luxury car that is quite affordable now on the used market for many car shoppers.  The car was billed as a sports/luxury sedan, and if it was optioned as a GS400, it was one of the quickest mid-sized sedans at the time in 1998 with a 1/4 mile time in the low 14 second range.  Straight line prowess aside, the car was also quite capable of tackling winding back roads too.  The Lexus did have to make compromises though, especially in the area of steering feedback.

To keep drivers who prefer luxury comfort happy, Lexus chose to use rubber bushings in the steering rack.  These rubber bushings do a commendable job at keeping vibration and harshness to a minimum.  However, they also dampen out most of the information the front tires give to the driver during cornering.  To make things worse, as the bushings age, they allow quite a bit of flex and movement of the steering rack.  This flexing of the rack gives the steering wheel a "dead zone," an area where even if you turn the steering wheel, nothing happens.  The dead zone lasts for a split second or so until the car will actually begin to turn, but it's enough to reduce driver confidence.  In worse case scenarios, the bushings can degrade to the point where the steering wheel will have side-to-side free play even while driving straight!  Not safe if you needed to do an emergency maneuver.

Our project Lexus GS did have some noticeable steering rack flex during cornering, but the dead zone wasn't as bad as on other GS300s we have driven.  Follow along as we show you a basic guide on how to replace the steering rack bushings for a GS300 to restore driver confidence.  As always, we do not have any responsibility for the work you do to your car.  If in doubt, have a professional do the job! 
The first step is to properly jack up and secure the vehicle on jack stands.  Never work under a car only supported by a jack.  Once under the car, you will need to take a 14mm socket and remove the front chassis brace.  There are 6 bolts total: 2 up front and 2 on each side of the car.
This is the front of the chassis brace you will need to remove.  You will need a 14mm socket to remove the bolts.
With the 6 bolts removed, you can take the brace off of the car.
Once you have removed all 6 bolts, you can you remove the chassis brace.  Next, go by the passenger side (right side) of the vehicle near the tie rod, and you will see 2 bolts for the steering rack.  You will need to use a 17mm socket to remove the bolts.  A 1/2" drive ratchet or breaker bar will make it easier to remove the bolts.
Use a 17mm socket to remove the 2 bolts on the passenger side of the steering rack.
With the 2 bolts removed, the bracket will slide out with some force.  The rubber steering rack bushing will also come out with a little bit of prying.  In our case, it came out easily with 2 fingers.  
This rubber bushing will come out with the metal bracket once the 17mm bolts are removed.
One the driver's side of the car (left side), you will need to use a 10mm wrench or 1/4" drive ratchet to remove a small bolt that is holding the power steering hard lines down.  Once you remove the bolt, you can gently move the lines up and out of the way so you can access the main bolts on the steering rack.
You can see the small 10mm bolt our ratchet end is pointing to that you will need to remove.  Then you can gently move the lines out of the way to access the main 17mm bolts. 
Now that the steering lines are out of the way, you will need to remove 2 more 17mm bolts.
These 2 17mm bolts will need to be removed to access the bushings.
With the bolts removed, the hardest part of this job is to remove the bushings.  We found removal was easiest by using a small cold chisel or the end of a 1/2" drive ratchet, and hammering the bushing out with a rubber mallet.  The steering rack can be moved up and down at an angle to give you more access to hitting the bushings out.  It will take a little bit of force, but the bushings will eventually come out.  A little bit of penetrating lubricant can aid in removing the bushing. 
This is to give you an idea of how we punched out the bushings from their place.
With the old bushings out, clean up the holes before putting in the new steering rack bushings.
Here are the old rubber bushings. 

Once the old bushings are out, clean up the holes before inserting the new urethane bushings.
The installation is the reverse of removal.  Just be sure to tighten everything down snug, and take care when reinstalling the small 10mm bolt.  When any suspension or steering work is completed, it is best to get an alignment done to ensure uneven tire wear does not occur. 
Be sure to tighten the bushing bolts back down to spec. 

Installation is the reverse of removal.  A little bit of grease will help the bushings slide in, but is not necessary.

If you can find one for sale, we highly recommend the TRD or TOM'S front chassis brace for the underside of the Lexus GS300.  Either one is an improvement over the OE brace, with the TOM'S version being the our 1st choice.
Impressions:  The first thing we noticed about the urethane steering rack bushings is that they significantly improve the feedback to the steering wheel about what the tires are doing.  We can tell when the tires begin to load up and start to hit their limits with greater ease.  Steering inputs are precise, and the dead zone is gone.  We don't think there is any downside to the upgrade at all!  We enjoy driving on the twisty back roads just much as we enjoy cruising the coastline now. 

Happy motoring and keep on driving! 

1 comment:

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