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Thread: Steering Rack Install/Setup Procedure

  1. #1
    Senior Member karlos's Avatar
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    Steering Rack Install/Setup Procedure

    The FFR build manual is a little short on detail regarding how to properly install and set up the Mk4 steering rack. There is interaction between the rack, the front end alignment, the steering wheel alignment, the steering shaft position, and the number of turns center to full-lock-left and full-lock-right that isn’t immediately obvious. After struggling for a couple weeks to set mine up properly I wanted to write down what I learned in the hopes that it saves someone else some time and trouble. My particular build uses the manual steering rack but the install procedure should be common to both manual and power racks. I acknowledge that there are multiple ways to do this. This is intended to be a somewhat systematic approach that should get all the important parameters in the box.

    The single most important thing to get right is the concept of what is meant by ‘centering the rack’. Note particularly that this does not mean centering the housing of the rack in the chassis, nor does it mean centering the gap between the housing and the rack internals, nor does it mean centering the steering wheel at the midpoint between full-lock-left and full-lock-right. What it refers to is centering the position of the rack’s inner tie rod ends in the suspension. This is best illustrated with a few pictures.

    A properly centered rack will center up the distance to the inner tie rod ends as shown below. Note that you’ll have to slide the boots back in order to measure this. The threaded connection between the inner tie rod ends and the moving part of the rack itself is a convenient place to take a measurement. You’ll also need a reference point on the chassis to which to measure. In the photo below the reference point is the outside wall of the vertical frame member. There are a couple of paint sticks clamped to the frame as a way to extend the surface in order to take a measurement.


    rack_1.JPG

    rack_2.JPG

    rack_3.JPG

    Set up in this manner you’ll notice that there is unequal extension as measured to either side of the rack housing. This is normal (and a reflection of the fact that the rack housing is not perfectly centered in the FFR chassis).


    rack_4.JPG

    rack_5.JPG


    With the rack centered the outer tie rod ends can now be threaded on. You should end up with very close to the same number of threads showing on both sides with the wheels pointed straight ahead. Here’s a convenient way to get the wheels close to straight: tie a string to a spoke on the rear wheel and pass it through the wheel, around the back of the tire, and then extend it to the front wheel as shown. Adjust the outer tie rod ends as required to get the string to just touch the sidewall at the back of the front tire.

    So at this point we have the rack centered, the front wheels are straight with respect to the rear wheels, and we have (mostly) equal thread engagement on both outer tie rod ends.


    rack_6.JPG


    Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll most likely find that that the steering wheel is now off center (crooked). There are a couple ways to fix this. One way is to remove the steering wheel from the hub it’s attached to, center it up, and then redrill the hole pattern in the hub as required. Another way is to take advantage of the fact that the steering shaft is splined where it attaches to the steering rack. The splines are fairly small and therefore provide for relatively fine adjustment. The problem with this approach is that the shaft on the rack has a flat that is intended to match up with a set screw on the steering column. And most likely the flat and the set screw won’t line up with the shaft rotated as necessary to center the steering wheel. So what you need to do is to mark the location where the set screw ends up and grind a small indentation on the shaft to provide purchase for the set screw. No need to remove a lot of material; the splines resist the torque (not the set screw), so all you need is a small indentation to help the set screw resist the fore/aft motion. I added the indentation shown with the help of a Dremel plus a carbide tungsten bit.


    rack_7.JPG

    rack_8.JPG


    So we now have the rack centered, the front wheels straight with respect to the rear wheels, equal thread engagement on both outer tie rod ends, and the steering wheel is centered. At this point you can go ahead and set toe-in to specification (typically 1/32” per side, 1/16” total) per any of the techniques described in the FFR FAQ. Finally, we need to verify a roughly equal number of turns on the steering wheel from center to full-lock-left and center to full-lock-right.

    Part of the reason it took me a couple weeks to complete the steering rack install/setup was because I was under the mistaken impression that an equal number of turns both ways was the starting point for the overall installation. This is not the case. In fact, equalizing the number of turns left and right is the final step in the sequence and is accomplished using the specialized set of spacers shown below.


    rack_9.JPG


    Ford “steering travel restrictors” part number N804842-S (about $15 for a package of 4). The rack as supplied by FFR most likely already has travel restrictors installed. On my particular sample, there were actually two of them on each side as shown below. The separately available Ford parts are a split design and can be easily installed with no disassembly of the rack required (other than moving the boot back to expose the innards). Simply install however many spacers are required to even out the travel on both sides. In my case I needed one additional restrictor on the passenger side, at which point I had about 1-1/4 turns from center to full lock on both sides.


    rack_10.JPG


    So at the end of all this we now have the rack centered, toe-in set properly, equal thread engagement on both outer tie rod ends, a centered steering wheel, and approximately equal travel from center to full-lock-left and full-lock-right. Whew!


    Hope this helps someone else out there save some time and frustration.


    -Karl

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  3. #2
    Senior Member DaleG's Avatar
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    Gee Karl, you should have posted this a year ago. Now I understand.
    SOLD 03/2013: MK II #5004: 5.0 EFI: 8.8, 3.55, E303, TW heads, GT40 intake, 24#, 70mm MAF

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    Jazzman's Avatar
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    Great post Karl! Thank you!
    Jazzman

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    KDubU's Avatar
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    Agree, this is an excellent post.
    Kyle

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    Senior Member cgundermann's Avatar
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    Thank you for your time in sharing/very-very valuable info!

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    Senior Member 6t8dart's Avatar
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    Good work! thanks

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    I followed this thread, but stuck in the beginning steps. I centered the wheel lock to lock. My drivers side tie rod end only has about 1/2" of thread. The pass side has over 1". I followed the part about centering the rack, but don't know how to adjust it.

    IMG_7836.jpg
    IMG_7837.jpg

    I have the power rack from FFR.

  9. #8
    BadAsp427's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hjoensy View Post
    I followed this thread, but stuck in the beginning steps. I centered the wheel lock to lock. My drivers side tie rod end only has about 1/2" of thread. The pass side has over 1". I followed the part about centering the rack, but don't know how to adjust it.

    IMG_7836.jpg
    IMG_7837.jpg

    I have the power rack from FFR.
    You do not center by "lock to lock" you must center the rack with measurements and then if needed either add or remove steering stops on the rack ends. I can't tell for sure, but it looks like your photo #1 above shows it has a 1/4-1/2" steering stop on it where as photo 2 doesn't have one. I had one on both sides and had to remove one side to get things to work correctly. If you have the rack centered correctly, then you will have almost exactly the same amount of threads showing on your outer tie rod ends. You may not have the same amount of turning from left to right, this is what is adjusted by the steering stops. Example, after I had centered my rack and completed my alignment, I found that I could turn a very nice tight turn to the right, but not even close to as tight to the left. I found that once I removed my steering stop on the right side, I was then able to turn more to the left and in fact very close if not exactly the same as to the right. Of course yours could be a different fix, but the rack is not mounted center on the FFR roadster so it does take a little adjustment.

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  10. #9
    Senior Member karlos's Avatar
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    You can start with the steering well centered between full lock left and full lock right if you'd like. But centering the steering wheel is not the same as centering the rack. After centering the wheel, equalize the dimensions to the inner tie rod ends as shown above. This is done by simply turning the wheel (there is no adjustment capability at the rack). This of course means that once this step is complete, the steering wheel will no longer be centered. While making sure the rack doesn't move, disconnect the steering shaft at the coupler, rotate the steering wheel until it's pointed straight, and reconnect. If the flat on the rack matches the set screw location on the coupler, you're done. If not, just grind a small flat on the rack shaft to match the set screw location on the coupler and reassemble. That's it.
    Last edited by karlos; 02-03-2019 at 12:44 PM. Reason: clarity
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    Senior Member Big Blocker's Avatar
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    Centering the rack shaft in the rack housing will ensure equal turns lock-to-lock . . . once the position of the rack shaft and the pinion are established (centered), now you can set the inner tie rod ball joints to be centered in relation to the frame - this might mean that you have to mount the rack housing either left or right to get this inner ball joint spec to be correct. Breeze makes a great set of [solid] rack bushings that have off-set center holes for accomplishing this task. If you don't want to run solid bushings, you might need to "clearance" the frame mounting holes a bit in whatever direction you need to move the rack housing.

    Once you have everything set: centered rack housing, centered rack travel, toe-in, that's the time to set the steering wheel to center.

    IF you find that you have tire interference at full lock, go ahead and install steering restriction bushings to limit steering angle.

    Doc
    Last edited by Big Blocker; 02-03-2019 at 01:34 PM.
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    Senior Member RJD's Avatar
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    Excellent post. So, now that I'm going back to center my rack, are there any precautions for removing the clip that holds the boot on. Looks like it's just a spring clamp? Is that a true statement? Reuseable right? Never removed one before, so wanted to ask before I create more issues. Thank you.
    C53FA170-57AA-4195-B4A9-62DC5E4D0CDB.jpeg

    Edit: I have the power steering rack. I just re-read the instructions for installing the power steering rack and there was no mention of centering the rack. An oversight, or not needed for the powersteering rack? Just trying to figure it out.
    Last edited by RJD; 02-05-2019 at 08:16 PM.
    MKIV complete kit w/powder coating and cut outs, serial #9189 delivered 10/10/17, first start - 10/5/18, Blueprint 306 w/Holley Sniper EFI, TKO 600, power steering, Breeze fan shroud, trunk cubby, & engine compartment battery kit, CNC brake reservoirs, RT turn signal & gas pedal, mechanical throttle linkage, GASN side pipes, drop trunk, dual chrome roll bars, vintage gauges, vinyl dash w/ glove box, custom center console and cup holders.

  14. #12
    BadAsp427's Avatar
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    as for the clamps, not sure if those metal ones are reusable.... Mine has large zip ties. I'm certain you could do the same if the metal ones can not be reused. And regardless if it is power or not, centering the rack should be completed.
    Last edited by BadAsp427; 02-06-2019 at 06:10 PM.

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    Like BadAsp427 said use zip ties to replace them. Later on you may need to remove the zip ties if you need to add rack limiters inside the rubber boots.
    JR
    Last edited by jrcuz; 02-06-2019 at 07:33 PM.
    MK4 complete kit #9059 ordered 1/19/17 delivered 3/23/17, 2015 IRS, Fortes/DART347,TKO 600, hyd clutch, P/S, 12.88 wilwood brakes front and rear, high back kirkey seats, heater/defrost and vintage gauges
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  16. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJD View Post
    Excellent post. So, now that I'm going back to center my rack, are there any precautions for removing the clip that holds the boot on. Looks like it's just a spring clamp? Is that a true statement? Reuseable right? Never removed one before, so wanted to ask before I create more issues. Thank you.
    Yes reusable. use a screw driver to widen it out. to reinstall you can use fine needle nosed pliers. i usually us a pair of well worn and not very sharp wire cutters, very gently.
    MK4 #9191, Gen 3 Coyote, T56, 2015+ IRS, ABS, 12.88 Wilwood's, FFR Tubular Front LCA's, FFR Spindles

  17. #15
    Senior Member RJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrcuz View Post
    Like BadAsp427 said use zip ties to replace them. Later on you may need to remove the zip ties if you need to add rack limiters inside the rubber boots.
    JR
    Quote Originally Posted by dhuff View Post
    Yes reusable. use a screw driver to widen it out. to reinstall you can use fine needle nosed pliers. i usually us a pair of well worn and not very sharp wire cutters, very gently.
    Thanks guys. I'll try to reuse them. If I screw them up, I'll replace them with zip ties. Much obliged.
    MKIV complete kit w/powder coating and cut outs, serial #9189 delivered 10/10/17, first start - 10/5/18, Blueprint 306 w/Holley Sniper EFI, TKO 600, power steering, Breeze fan shroud, trunk cubby, & engine compartment battery kit, CNC brake reservoirs, RT turn signal & gas pedal, mechanical throttle linkage, GASN side pipes, drop trunk, dual chrome roll bars, vintage gauges, vinyl dash w/ glove box, custom center console and cup holders.

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    www.breezeautomotive.com 2005 FFR Mk3 Roadster, 302/340hp, MassFlo EFI, Breeze Pulleys, T5, Aluminum Flywheel, 3-link rear with Torsen Diff and 3.27:1 gears, Power Steering, Breeze Front Sway Bar, SN-95 Spindles with outboard SAI Mod, Breeze Battery Mount, QA1 Externally Adjustable Shocks, Quick Release Steering Wheel, Vintage Race seats, GM Arctic White, Sky Blue Scoop, Hidden Hinges, Billet Aluminum Side-view Mirrors, 2,183lbs wet. 1967 Mustang Fastback, Dark Moss Green, black interior, '67 14" styled steel wheels, 2000 Explorer 302 w 5.0 Cam, Quickfuel 450 CFM, 289 Hi-Po Dual exhaust, C4, lowering springs w Shelby drop.

  19. #17
    ILPBFoot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reynolds View Post
    I used Mark's rack bushings and made the adjustments easy. I like the solid bushings as well. A recommendation from Build School.

    Great product Mark!

    Steve
    Mk4 Roadster #9319, complete kit Received 4-10-18. Moser 8.8. 3 Link. Wilwood brakes. Blue Print 427, w Holley 850 Double Pumper, manual Choke, 501 hp with 498 lb-ft torque. TKO 600 0.64 OD

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