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Bradical's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Lake County, FL
Posts: 813
Powered, depowered and manual steering

Hey everyone, happy Labor Day!

I thought I would share some recent steering experience with you all incase somebody is considering changing their steering rack.

I had a ‘87 944 that I spent a ton of time sorting out the powered steering on. I tried the rebuild kit, and after a few months of chasing leaks I ended up swapping in a rebuilt rack, on top of other powered steering components. It was working really well but ended up costing a lot of time and money to get right.

When I got my next project, the ‘88 924SE the steering rack literally exploded as I pulled into the garage for the first time, and it barfed all of the fluid on the garage floor. Having had the experience with rehabing the powered rack, I decided to go depowered.

Depowering is extremely cheap and easy. You basically bust out all of the internal seals, delete all the powered components, plug the old connections with bolts and fill the rack with grease. Now I dont daily drive a 944, its an AutoX toy and just something to wrench on for me so I wasnt really worried about having no powered steering. That being said, I really enjoyed how the car handled around the cones, but backing out of the driveway and doing any low-speed manuvers were difficult and very unpleasant.

I recently had the opertunity to score a manual rack from Comdiver. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. The steering ratio is greatly improved, and it makes steering the car effortless. Road feel is outstanding and low speed manuvers are as easy as ever. A huge improvement over both the powered steering and depowered rack as I see it.

I highly recommend converting to manual steering over depowered steering, or maintaining the powered system at least. The depowered rack is horrible by comparison to the other two and now having experienced the same car with all three encarnations of the steering system I must say that depowering a powered rack is an extremely poor choice. The enhanced road feel is not worth the strain of trying to K turn with a depowered rack.

I have a 924S, so I dont know how difficult it is to adapt the tie rods to the manual rack on a later 944. However, almost every part I needed to make this manual rack like-new was available from our host (What Comdiver sent me would have been suitable to install immediately, I just like new parts I guess).

If you are doing it though, there are some challenges. The passenger side rubber bellows is NLA, so you’ll have to buy a rack that has a bellows that is in at least fair condition. I was lucky in this regard, after conditioning the rubber a few times on the old boot it would pass as new, but if it ever tears I am going to have a problem that I dont have a solution for yet. I actually ordered the bellows from 4 different suppliers who claimed to have it and they all ended up refunding my payments, so believe me- they’re truly NLA, despite what google might turn up.

Also, if you read the suspension section of the shop manual, a big to-do about installing STOP RINGS on the inner ball joints is made. They prevent the tie rods from entering too deep internally to the rack and damaging it. I was able to get these rings from Germany via our host for around $30 each, only to discover that the newer version of the tie rod is shaped differently in such a way that it makes necessity for the stop rings completely obsolete. So, if you are going to manual steering and not reusing the original ball joints, omit the stop rings- they arent needed.

TL;DR - if you are considering ditching the powered steering system, go manual if you can find one or mantain the powered system and order a rebuilt rack. Depowering the rack is not worth the money saved, unless you are working on your triceps.
1988 924SE
2016 STI
PCA - Florida Citrus Region

Last edited by Bradical; 09-03-2018 at 08:29 AM..
Old 09-03-2018, 08:22 AM
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Registered User
drkshdw's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Michigan
Posts: 701
I have had all 3 on my 87. The factory power steering is nice. When it works. But it leaks. And makes a mess of everything.

Eventually my PS pump went bad. I resealed it 3 times and all 3 times it went bad within a week. Maybe that was my inability to reseal the pump or maybe it was just a bad pump but I got sick of it and cut the belt. Steering with a cut belt isn't bad except in a parking lot but even then it isn't terrible. More of an inconvenience than anything. But it was not ideal. Not technically a 'depowered' rack but still unassisted.

Then I got a manual rack from a junkyard 83 for $20. Took it all apart, filled it up with fresh grease, put on inner tie rods from a VW Fox and outter tie rods from a 70's BMW to get it to work with late offset and now I have steering that is sporty enough to feel like a sports car but not hard enough to be inconvenienced when parking my car. It is what should have been on the car all along. And I drive my car daily.

So yes, if you are considering depowering the rack, go manual if you can. Depowered just isn't a good representation of what a true manual rack will give you.
Old 09-03-2018, 09:09 AM
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