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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 01-13-2013, 01:35 AM   #1
flashmeow
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Review/DIY: ZHP Steering Rack & Alignment

Hello,

Last week we ordered a "712" Rack (aka ZHP Rack) from the rackdoctor (e46fanatics sponsor) and installed it in my 2000 323i. The intent of this thread is to share our experiences with the install, give some tips and provide an honest assessment on the Rackdoctor.


The Rack Itself:


Received the "ZHP" Rack. Rack looks brand new like it came from the factory. The rack doctor did a good job at securing/packing the rack. Oil holes were pluged. The inner rods threads and pinion shaft were protected.

Rack came with inner tie rods, copper crush washer (didn't expect this at all), tie rods nuts and brand new rubber dust boot.

The pair of tie rods below the ZHP Rack are Genuine/Original BMW. I am going to replace my outer tie rods. The inner tie rods that was included with this unit seems to be aftermarket because the nut is 1/2 skinner than the OE nut on the brand new unit and on my old unit. Likewise, the inner tie rod shaft is smaller than the OE. OE requires a 14mm to turn/adjust the inner rods whereas this unit requires a 13mm wrench.

Install:


Remove the nut that secures the outer tie rod to the front suspension/kingpin.
Nute Size: TBA


Spray some penterating oil on the outer tie rod. wait approx 5 minutes so that the oil work its magic Without pentrating oil it will be extrmeley hard to remove the ball joint.


If the nut doesn't come off because the ball joint is spinning then lock the thread with a hex key.

Hex Key Size: TBA


If you plan on reusing the outer tie rods then you need a tie rod puller tool. However, I recommend replacing your tie rod since our cars are over 10yrs old.

If you are going to replace your outer tie rod then you can just pound it out. For more surface area (not shown) you can leave the nut on.


Remove the Power Steering Lines. There are two banjo bolts for each of the line (high pressure return and heat pipe return). Get a drain bucket ready for the leaking ATF. About 1 quart will leak out so be prepare to get dirty unless you have your helper do this part.

Banjo Bolt Sizes: TBA



Here are the banjo bolts. Clean the banjo bolts. The black bolt seems more advance and it seems like it has a screen/filter or some regulating devices. The brass one is very basic and is just hollow.


Next step is to remove the steering coupler / guibo. Use an E-12 Torx. You can spin the steering wheel so that the torx bolt are expose for better access.


Remove the two bolts that secure the steering rack to the front subframe. There is a nut on the other side of the bolt.


For better acess, I recommend the following tool setup. this is the best way to remove and install those two bolts. Spaces are very limited on top so a socket and rachet will not work.


After the two bolts are removed, you can just wiggle the steering rack out. Again, the steering rack is secured to the car by 4 points (1 outer tie rod, 2 oil line, 3 steering coupler, 4 subrame/rack bolt.)
Bolt Size: TBA



The new rack didn't come with a pinion shaft dust cover.


Have to remove the dust cap fromt the old rack and transplant it to the new rack. The plastic dust cover will be most likely seized. Spray pentrating oil and wiggle it out. Be very careful not to break this plastic piece because it is a VERY CRITICAL ITEM (will discuss later). Don't pry the dust cap. Just wiggle and pull it. The dust cover has matching teeth to mate into the pinion shaft


This is what the dust cap looks like. Clean the dust cap and lube it with some grease so that furture removal could be easier.

Steering Rack Alignment / Centering



This is by far the most important task. Doing this step wrong will activate an DSC error code (steering wheel angle sensor implusible) and will cause your steering wheel to be crooked like this:

What is a steering Rack Alignment? Basically, you are just ensuring that the the rack is centered meaning that the left and right side are protuding out of the housing at equal distance.

There are three ways you can center your e46 Steering Rack.

1) Turner Motor Sport has an steering rack alignment tool.
2) Use the dust cap to aligned the rack.
3) Measure equal distance from each side

Option 1:


This tool is used to aligned the steering rack to ensure that both sides are protuding out at equal distance. Only need to use the tool on one side. This tool is nothing more than a pre determined sized measuring block. for more info go here:
http://www.turnermotorsport.com/p-17...-tool-e46.aspx

Option 2:
I didn't have this option since my rack from the rackdoctor didn't come with the dust cap. Normally this isn't important but on the e46 (and new BMWs), the dust cover also acts as an alignment tool to help center the rack with the steering column. The vertical fin helps aligned the steering column/wheel and the notch will ensure that the rack is always centered.




However assuming that the dust cap was preinstalled then you just lined up the two alignment notches on the dust cover and rack when you install the steering coupler / guibo.


Option3:
Use a digital caliper to measure the rack. For the e46 rack, the measurement should be 2.0x inches from each side. For my ZHP rack, the measurement was 2.04x



Once you determined that the rack is centered then you installed the dust cap onto the new rack (old rack shown). Make sure the two alignment notces are aligned.

Now you can move the rack/tie rods left and right witout having to worry about it being off centered. just turn the pinion shaft to the left or right until the dust cap alignment notch touch the steering rack alignment notch

After you ensure the rack is centered then you just install it (reverse order).

Make sure you use 2x crush washer on each banjo fitting. it goes like this : crush washer=banjo fitting=hose=crush washer


mate the outer tie rod and inner tie rod.

Make sure you measure your old outer tie rod and ensure that the new outer tie rod is the same length. This is important because it will help with your vehicle alignment. If you forgot this step then just make sure both outer tie rods are at equal distance and go get an alignment.

install the tie rod into the front suspension/kingpin. if the tie rod ball joint spins then just apply pressure to the tie rod. A trick is to use a car jack and lift up on the tie rod and this will prevent the ball joint from spinning.


Install the steering coupler /guibo. No need to worry about alignment because the steering column can only go one way (due to the vertical fin).


Top off the Power Steering Reservoir. start car and turn steering wheel from lock to lock and this will bleed the system of air. fill with ATF (recommend Dexron 3 or higher). Don't overfill or underfill. use the cap to measure for correct fluid level.


Congrats! You are done.

Verification Process:

To verify whether you installed the steering rack correctly and that it is centered, hook up a GT1 and read the steering angle. From lock to lock, the angel should be identical (or as close to identical as possible).

At full lock (clock wise): For me it was -546.42


This mean that at the opposite lock position, I should get the same but opposite value

At full lock (conter clock wise)

This mean that my car is GOOD!

For added measure, center your steering wheel and you should get 0.0 degree


Originally, my steering was extremely crooked because I didn't know about the importance of the Pinion Dust Cap. I installed my new steering rack without the dust cap (recommended by the rack doctor) and although I enjoy the tight feel of the steering, my car didn't feel right. I started a thread about it. Possible problems that were suggested were the tie rod measurement, steering coupler to just getting an alignment.
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthr...126&highlight=

My value from lock to lock were (540 and -550). This of course trigger a DSC error light and my steering wheel when driving was crooked about 10-15 degree.

I had to remove the tie rod rubber boots and centered my steering rack using OPTION 3 (as outline above).

It took me 30 minutes to find a way to reinstall the rubber boots because the included boot was an aftermarket item. the boot was smaller than the rack housing thus it was very hard to install the boot over the rack. You had to stretch the rubber boot. The trick I used was to fold over the boot, press the rubber boot firmly against the housing and then unfold the boot. the unfolding motion will help push the rubber boot over the housing. this method will now only take 5 minutes but is still very annoying and messy (grease). OE/OEM boot is a tad over size. All you have to do is push it over the housing:




Optional Step: Calibration

after you are done, you can recaliberate your wheel angle sensor.




Last Step is to go get an alignment. I have an alignment appointment on Monday at my local BMW dealership. The dealer is charging me $119 which is a bargin and they are aftermarket suspension friendly. My car front bumper is under 6inches off the ground.



In summary:

I took the car on a test drive and OMG. The steering feel so tight and responsive. It is like driving a new car and I compare the feel to that of the e90 (which has a tigher and heavier steering wheel feel). I enjoyed the steering so much (especially at highway speed) that I have put over 500 miles with the new rack.

Lastly, a review of the rackdoctor

Here are some of the Pros and Cons of ordering from the Rackdoctor (in no particular order)

Pros:
-Free Shipping
-Saturday Delivery (FEDEX)
-Price is very competitive
-Rebuilt rack is very high quality. Looks brand new
-Include Inner Tie Rods with all the required nuts
-New Rubber Dust Boot
-Crush Washer Included
-Rubber Boot was secured with metal lock rings (just like OE/OEM).


Cons:
-Aftermarket inner tie rod
-Aftermarket dust boot
-No Pinion Shaft Dust Cap/Cover

Recommendation for improvement:
-Give buyer the option to buy rack with OE/OEM inner tie rods
-Include Dust Cap. The rack came with everything you need to complete the install so why not include the dust cap to make the alignment of the steering rack the job easier?

Misc:

Pre-Sale Communication: A+ excellent. Answered all of my e-mails quickly. Provide tips and recommendations and quality of technical explanations are impressive.

Post-Sale Communication: C+/B-. My husband e-mail Rick about how to center the steering rack and whether or not the dust cap is included and necessary. His response wasn't as through as his pre-sale communication (mostly 1-2 sentences long). He told us that we can reuse the dust cover or not install it at all. To center the rack, He told us to turn and count the steering wheel from lock to lock and back up 1/2 to center the rack. He didn't mentioned anything about the "alignment mark" on the rack and how we can easily center the rack by just measuring the rack.

Would I buy again from Rackdoctor: Yes
Would I recommend my friends to the Rackdoctor: Yes
Was the purchase/upgrade worth it: ABSOLUTELY. I wished I upgraded my rack years sooner.

old rack


new "ZHP" Rack"



I hope this helps. Thanks for reading

Last edited by flashmeow; 01-13-2013 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:08 AM   #2
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This is awesome. Good job!
I didn't have such a WOW reaction when I replaced everything but it was definitely better. More responsive.
I'm pretty sure my steering is slightly off but my steering wheel angle is good. My steering wheel is slightly tilted to the left. I'm going to have my alignment guys fix it by changing the tie rod length.
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Old 01-13-2013, 03:34 AM   #3
Brissyjohn
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Excellent DIY. Thank you.

May I ask why you replaced the rack - dead power steering? Leaks? Other?
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Old 01-13-2013, 06:53 AM   #4
flashmeow
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Originally Posted by Brissyjohn View Post
Excellent DIY. Thank you.

May I ask why you replaced the rack - dead power steering? Leaks? Other?
Thank u. No, my power steering is still in great shape. I replaced it as an upgrade. The 712 rack is found on the 330 and has a quicker ratio so this mean that steering is more precise when compared to my old rack.



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Old 01-13-2013, 06:57 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by peytonracer4 View Post
This is awesome. Good job!
I didn't have such a WOW reaction when I replaced everything but it was definitely better. More responsive.
I'm pretty sure my steering is slightly off but my steering wheel angle is good. My steering wheel is slightly tilted to the left. I'm going to have my alignment guys fix it by changing the tie rod length.
Thanx. To be honest, I don't know how much of my steering feel can be attributed to the new tie rods but my car feeling is night and day.

For example, my car don't vibrate anymore (steering wheel shaking) when driving. The wheel is now firm and I don't feel like I am driving a NASCAR.



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Old 01-13-2013, 08:38 AM   #6
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Most impressive!
I really appreciate the details and observations for each section of the unit.

Thank you for sharing.
(and so early in the morning too.)
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peytonracer4 View Post
This is awesome. Good job!
I didn't have such a WOW reaction when I replaced everything but it was definitely better. More responsive....
Hello BMW Experts!

I also just upgraded my '643' rack to a '712', mainly for the faster ratio & the lesser boost.
My opinion of the swap is sort of like Mango's, but I will elaborate. The faster ratio is noticeable, but not by much. The old rack wasn't much slower. The increased effort also was not so big a deal, and I sort of liked the low effort of the old rack, so this is almost a tradeoff IMHO with a small + to the 712 rack. What I do like about the 712 rack probably has to do with the stiffer spindle, which seems to take out the rubbery, elastic feel of the 643 rack. This is very noticeable on bumpy curves, or when doing fast left/right transitions. For this reason I think the swap was worth it. The faster ratio & higher effort, nice but minor differences.

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Old 01-13-2013, 08:48 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BimmersGarage View Post
Most impressive!
I really appreciate the details and observations for each section of the unit.

Thank you for sharing.
(and so early in the morning too.)
Thanks. my DIY isn't there yet (when compare to yours) but I am getting better. Maybe one of these days I can get my own youtube channel too. I will call it Betty Bimmer Garage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleBear View Post
Hello BMW Experts!

I also just upgraded my '643' rack to a '712', mainly for the faster ratio & the lesser boost.
My opinion of the swap is sort of like Mango's, but I will elaborate. The faster ratio is noticeable, but not by much. The old rack wasn't much slower. The increased effort also was not so big a deal, and I sort of liked the low effort of the old rack, so this is almost a tradeoff IMHO with a small + to the 712 rack. What I do like about the 712 rack probably has to do with the stiffer spindle, which seems to take out the rubbery, elastic feel of the 643 rack. This is very noticeable on bumpy curves, or when doing fast left/right transitions. For this reason I think the swap was worth it. The faster ratio & higher effort, nice but minor differences.

Murf
Cool. Thanks for the feedback. Can you elaborate on something for me. You have a 330 right an it came with a "643" rack? My 323i came with a "643" rack (production date: 05/2000). I am asking this question because there is a debate whether BMW sometimes put different racks in different models for shiite and giggles.

I am the original owner of my car. my steering rack was never touched. the only P/S components that was replaced by the dealer was the pump (LK-20 to LK-30)
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:53 AM   #9
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My 330i is a 4/2001 product, and thus came with the 643 rack. I think the change date for the 330i going to the 712 is 9/2001? I have no idea what pump I have, or if they make a difference in feel. Can anyone address this?

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Last edited by LittleBear; 01-13-2013 at 08:55 AM.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flashmeow View Post
Thanks. my DIY isn't there yet (when compare to yours) but I am getting better.
...
You're being way too modest.
From the collection of bimmers and extensive hands-on maintenance & upgrades you have done personally... leaves me in the dust.


Quote:
Originally Posted by flashmeow View Post
... Maybe one of these days I can get my own youtube channel too. I will call it Betty Bimmer Garage.
...
I would be Most honored when you do.
And, if you ever need any pointers.. please feel free to ask.
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Old 01-13-2013, 02:55 PM   #11
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Good upgrade with good info and photos. Extremely thorough and a superb contribution. And correct, LittleBear, 9/01+ 330s received the 712 rack.
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Old 01-13-2013, 03:05 PM   #12
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What do you know about the two different pumps (LK-20 to LK-30), Mango?
Do they change the boost effort?
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Old 01-13-2013, 03:11 PM   #13
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What do you know about the two different pumps (LK-20 to LK-30), Mango?
Do they change the boost effort?
Murf
Honestly, I don't know. I would just use whatever came on the 9/01+ 330s.
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Old 01-13-2013, 03:47 PM   #14
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Honestly, I don't know. I would just use whatever came on the 9/01+ 330s.
I don't know much either about the pump but i was told that the LK-20 were definitely a better pump for either the over or under boost (can't remember).

Some people say that the best combo is the LK-20 with the 712 rack.

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Old 01-13-2013, 03:49 PM   #15
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Good upgrade with good info and photos. Extremely thorough and a superb contribution. And correct, LittleBear, 9/01+ 330s received the 712 rack.
Thanx buddy. I hope u r not mad that I called the 712 rack the zhp rack. I know that the regular 330 gets them too but I am just stubborned like that.

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Old 01-14-2013, 01:58 PM   #16
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At the dealership getting an alignment. Woot woot.

I am trying to see if they let me take a pix but I think the answer will be no. Mechanics don't like it when they feel people r looking over their shoulder.

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Old 01-14-2013, 04:14 PM   #17
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I know I am just talking to myself but do you know that feeling when you bought your BMW and took it on its first high speed highway run? the feeling I am talking about is that "you can't tell you are speeding cuz the car is so smooth?"

well...my car never had that feeling for the last few years. well, today I was doing 100MPH sustained and i didnt even know it until i look down at the speedometer. the car was silky smooth....no vibration, etc

of course his has little to do with the rack and a lot to do with my suspension n alignment instead.

the only thing i didnt like about the alignment is not getting the alignment specs/readout (prior n after)
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Old 01-19-2013, 03:23 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flashmeow View Post
I know I am just talking to myself but do you know that feeling when you bought your BMW and took it on its first high speed highway run? the feeling I am talking about is that "you can't tell you are speeding cuz the car is so smooth?"

well...my car never had that feeling for the last few years. well, today I was doing 100MPH sustained and i didnt even know it until i look down at the speedometer. the car was silky smooth....no vibration, etc

of course his has little to do with the rack and a lot to do with my suspension n alignment instead.

the only thing i didnt like about the alignment is not getting the alignment specs/readout (prior n after)
The rack that much of an improvement, huh?
My car doesn't seem to be as stable due to me needing to refresh more of the suspension : /
Make sure the seal on your reservoir cap's still good, mine's leaking. I popped the next morning and I had a corner of the intake manifold covered in ATF fluid. I just bought a new reservoir along with the cap and integrated filter. If you haven't replaced the reservoir, do it, it has a filter inside of it that maybe is full of grime/dirt. You can buy it at Autohaus for $21.67.
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Old 01-19-2013, 03:32 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by flashmeow View Post
I know I am just talking to myself but do you know that feeling when you bought your BMW and took it on its first high speed highway run? the feeling I am talking about is that "you can't tell you are speeding cuz the car is so smooth?"

well...my car never had that feeling for the last few years. well, today I was doing 100MPH sustained and i didnt even know it until i look down at the speedometer. the car was silky smooth....no vibration, etc

of course his has little to do with the rack and a lot to do with my suspension n alignment instead.

the only thing i didnt like about the alignment is not getting the alignment specs/readout (prior n after)
And about the whole smoothness deal, I wish, lol. I have more neglected work to clean up from the po before I can experience that. I'm getting there. Although, I did drive my sisters 2008 328i coupe a few months back and I loved it. It did exactly what you described "it's newer." The car I felt like it could pick up speed so effortlessly was a black hard top convertible 335i coupe. I'm thinking it was the 320 bhp version.
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Old 01-19-2013, 06:31 AM   #20
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The rack that much of an improvement, huh?
My car doesn't seem to be as stable due to me needing to refresh more of the suspension : /
Make sure the seal on your reservoir cap's still good, mine's leaking. I popped the next morning and I had a corner of the intake manifold covered in ATF fluid. I just bought a new reservoir along with the cap and integrated filter. If you haven't replaced the reservoir, do it, it has a filter inside of it that maybe is full of grime/dirt. You can buy it at Autohaus for $21.67.
I always contribute the high speed vibration to my aftermarket components but after slowing converting my car back to OE specs the vibrations are slowly going away. I did an entire suspension overhaul but still had the vibration and it was kind of embrassing. I guess the tie rods and the alignment was the final step that helped me get my car back into having a vibration free ride.

also...thanks for the advice on the power steering reservoir. I think everyone needs to change our their reservoir at least every 50,000 miles or so due to the filter (replacable but isn't sold as an individual part). As for me, I changed out my power steering reservoir last year

Quote:
Originally Posted by UDM-E46 Enthusiast View Post
And about the whole smoothness deal, I wish, lol. I have more neglected work to clean up from the po before I can experience that. I'm getting there. Although, I did drive my sisters 2008 328i coupe a few months back and I loved it. It did exactly what you described "it's newer." The car I felt like it could pick up speed so effortlessly was a black hard top convertible 335i coupe. I'm thinking it was the 320 bhp version.
The e9x steering just feels so good regardless whether it has active steering or just a regular 328. However, I think a lot of the "tight steering" can also be contributed to the newer suspension and design.
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