Rack and pinion replacement, advice to you

Schaeff58

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Hey thats a good idea... yea kids are grown... so even though I still contribute more than 750 bucks a year to them, (way more) I cant deduct them... Im gonna look into this!
If I go that route, I can take out the stereo and speakers I put in...

That was a great suggestion...

was also looking at other pontiacs of same or close years to maybe buy and use parts from this... but not sure I want to do all that again... its been a great little car for 5 years. But I think it is, like you said, "time to move on".
 

Blackvadre20

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I just finished replacing the rack and pinion on my son's 2003 Grand Am GT, 3.4L motor. I thought I would post some advice on a few things I ran into so someone can benefit from my experience.

The absolute first thing to do, don't even jack the car up, is make sure you can bust loose the main subframe bolt on the rear of the driver's side of the subframe. This is the bolt that goes through the control arm. If you can't get that bolt out, the rack isn't coming out unless you find some other way to drop that part of the subframe. If the driver's side comes out, great, now go do the passenger side. I have had need to drop the subframe on 3 different 2002 - 2004 Pontiacs and each time the passenger side main rear subframe bolt broke. It is something about how the bolt binds up in the metal bushing of the control arm (at least that is what I found). If both bolts came out then your job just got a lot easier. I should really phrase that as "less hard"...

If the driver's side subframe bolt came out, go ahead and jack it up and move on. I got by with the driver's side bolt out and prying the subframe down enough to fit a 2x4 between the subframe and the bottom of the car. The more the better though. Only having 1 1/2 inches of drop in the subframe required me to remove the entire rear transmission mount in order to get enough clearance to pull the rack out.

That was the main piece of advice. But here are a few other tidbits:
* don't start this on a Sunday afternoon if you need the car Monday morning. If you are thinking about doing this just because you have a little leak or something else that you can live with, then live with it.
* Every bolt gave me a hard time, prepare for that unless the car has been apart recently. I live in Chicago so rust is a huge issue with GMs from that era.
* I chose to go to a boneyard and pull a used one and take my chances (and yes, the passenger side subframe bolt broke...). It was a matter of $25 used versus $175 new.
* After you remove the bolts holding the sway bar to the subframe you will go after the two bolts holding the rack to the subframe. The bolt on the passenger side had a nut but the driver's side bolt threads into the rack. Now, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THIS, when you take the bolt off the passenger side there is a good chance the nut will drop. Right below the nut is a cutout in the subframe. Stuff something into that cutout BEFORE you remove the nut. Anything, a rag, paper towels, dead mouse, whatever, but do it. If you let the nut drop you will be trying to find a magnet to fish around in the cutout to hopefully catch the nut... Been there, done that, TWICE...
* No special tools need. Mostly 13mm, 15mm, and 18mm fasteners. An impact came in handy a few times but nothing required it. Ratchet wrenches would have came in handy but I don't have a set... 1/2" drive ratchet and sockets came in handy but I could have gotten by with 3/8" gear and a pipe to use as a breaker bar. A universal joint and extensions were used also.

The job itself really shouldn't be that bad if you can drop the subframe and don't have to deal with a lot of rust. There are not a lot of fasteners that need to come off. You just end up in awkward positions and if you have a few years on you it gets harder and harder...

This was the first time I changed a rack but I would say I have more automotive experience that a lot of DIYers and have a pretty good set of quality tools (and know how to use them) and I found the job pretty much a big PITA...

Hope this helps someone out.
Extremely helpful đź‘Ť doin a transmission swap and the last one my guy did we had a problem with the bolt by the rack.
 
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