Leaking Steering Rack

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
The other day I noticed that the ball joints on the tie rods were cracked on my 1996 Z3, so I decided to replace them. After I took the first metal ring holding the boot on the tie rod off fluid gushed out everywhere. To me the fluid looks like used ATF fluid.

I have now drained all of the fluid from the boot and left the car sit overnight. It doesn't look like any more fluid is leaking out at the moment. I haven't tried turning the wheel to see if that causes more fluid to leak, I'm not sure if that would. The question I have is what should I do next? Should I look at replacing the seals or replacing the rack or can I just leave the leak if it's only a slow leak.

I called a local shop that I sometimes use and they said that it is almost never the rack that is leaking and normally it's coming from somewhere else. I don't understand though how the boot could be full unless the rack was leaking. Is it possible that the leak is from somewhere else and somehow got into the boot?
 

colb

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British Zeds
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Newport, South Wales,UK
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Z3 M43 1.8 (1999) and Z4 E85 2.5 (2003)
Sounds like its leaking past the end of the rack ram and filling the boot. Very doubtful it has come from anywhere else.
Check the level of the fluid in the reservoir, start the car and turn the steering back and forth to see if there is a visible leak past the ram.
Fit a new rack if it is leaking. Not worth messing about trying to replace seals yourself.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
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Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
I thought it was unlikely to be from anything else.
Will it only leak with the car running and the steering changing?
Yeah, I wasn't planning on changing the seals. I will probably take it to a shop for this, I need a car break
 

Faheem

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Mine had been leaking at the same place (boot was filled with fluid), since before i bought the car. In 2016 i put some 'stop leak' in there which I dont like using but I did to get it through the MOT, the rack hasn't leaked since. Might be worth a go or just replace the rack with a used or refurbed one.
 

t-tony

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It has probably taken almost all of the cars life to put that fluid into the gaitor. Thoroughly clean it out, secure the gait or and refill the system. Re check in a years time, unless you see a leak before then. I doubt you will.

Tony.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
What stop leak did you use? I've heard that can damage the pumps which I'm worried about.

It sounds like I'll have to lift up the front and turn the wheel to see how bad it really is.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
Update. I jacked up the front wheels turned the key to the on position (engine not started though) and turned the steering wheel.

When I turn from full left to full right (the right rod is the one I have removed) about 30mL of liquid shoots out. That seems too bad to me to just ignore and seems like a lot to rely on stop leak to fix.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
Ha, I wish. I don't have a work bench so it seems like an impossible task.
 

colb

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British Zeds
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Newport, South Wales,UK
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Z3 M43 1.8 (1999) and Z4 E85 2.5 (2003)
Seals gone in there find a decent independant BMW garage to put a new rack in rather than pay BMW garage prices.
Problem will be getting the car there with duff steering if you can't do it yourself.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
Ok, so I ended up deciding to replace the rack myself. I ordered a re-built one online and took the old one out. It was pretty easy to get out, although it was a huge pain to separate the rack from the steering column.

Now when trying to put the new one in I can't get the spline on the rack into the hole in the steering arm/column. Does anyone have any ideas of how to get it in? I'm thinking that I might have to remove the whole column (inside the engine compartment) to then use a pry bar and hammer to widen the hole. Is there an easier way?
 

t-tony

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Hi Alistair, have you checked that there isn't a "master" spline where it will only mate together at one point?

Tony.
 

jaguartvr

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Joined
Jan 9, 2017
Messages
166
I bashed a flat head screwdriver into the slot on the splines to open it out. Made sliding it back onto the splines much easier. As soon as it was on the spline I tapped it up the spline with a drift.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
I couldn't see anything on the rack that looks like a master spline.

Could you bash it in under the car? It keeps moving which makes it difficult.
 

the Nefyn cat

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Actually in Nefyn. My, that took a while.
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Pretty sure I could see a master spline when I took mine out, but I'd marked everything anyway so didn't pay too much attention. As @jaguartvr says, a flat screwdriver in the gap on the joint will open it a bit, don't go crazy as things can easily get distorted and life goes downhill badly then.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
This is what mine looks like, I don't see anyway it can have a master spline. I managed to force a screw driver in the gap, but it doesn't seem to have made it any easier.
 

Attachments

the Nefyn cat

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Actually in Nefyn. My, that took a while.
Model of Z
2.2i Sport
Maybe what I thought might be a master spline was just a build-up of rust, not surprising on a car that old. Wasn't trying to change parts, just a strip, clean and lube job. Not really very helpful, I know.
 

jaguartvr

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Jan 9, 2017
Messages
166
Make sure the clamping bolt is removed before refitting as it won't go on if it is fitted.
 

Alistair Francis

Regular Member
Australian Zeds
Joined
Apr 15, 2018
Messages
45
Model of Z
1.9L Z3
I finally got it! Thanks for the ideas.

I hammered a screw driver into the little crack then continued using that screw driver as leverage to hammer the spline in. It took hours and half a can of WD-40 but it's in there now.
 
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