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Steering Shaft Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Steering Shaft Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$100

Talent:

***

Tools:

Set of sockets (18mm), pry bar, wire brush

Applicable Models:

BMW X3 Sport Utility (2004-10)

Parts Required:

Steering shaft

Hot Tip:

Replace inner and outer together

Performance Gain:

Quiet and smooth front end

Complementary Modification:

Replace tie rods

The steering system used in BMW X3 is known as power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Rotating the steering wheel spins a small pinion gear, thus sliding a toothed rack left or right. The ends of the rack attach to tie-rods which steer the front wheels. A hydraulic pump, powered by the engine accessory belt, forces steering fluid into hoses leading to pistons in the steering rack. A hydraulic valve in the steering rack varies the hydraulic fluid pressure in the two cylinders, dependent on how fast or forcefully the pinion gear is rotated. This multiplies the driver's force in steering the wheels.

The steering shaft connects the steering wheel to the power steering rack. The shaft has two universal joints and is designed to collapse in the event of a crash. The universal joints lose the lifetime grease in the joints as they age. This can cause stiff, groaning or creaking steering. To check it, you can detach it from either end and check the universal joints for smooth and free movement. If they bind or feel stiff in any position, replace the shaft.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches.

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

Vehicle models change and evolve as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Raise and support front of vehicle on jack stands. See our tech article on jacking up your vehicle. You'll want both wheels off the ground for this repair.

Remove intake air housing and ducts. See our tech article on intake air housing removing. This repair is performed on an early BMW X3, other models are similar.

The steering shaft (red arrow) connects the steering wheel to the power steering rack.
Figure 1

The steering shaft (red arrow) connects the steering wheel to the power steering rack. The shaft has two universal joints and is designed to collapse in the event of a crash. The universal joints lose the lifetime grease in the joints as they age. This can cause stiff, groaning or creaking steering. To check it, you can detach it from either end and check the universal joints for smooth and free movement. If they bind or feel stiff in any position, replace the shaft.

With the key removed from the ignition, the steering wheel should lock if moved, but I like to hold it centered (yellow arrow) to prevent damage to the clock spring from over-rotating.
Figure 2

With the key removed from the ignition, the steering wheel should lock if moved, but I like to hold it centered (yellow arrow) to prevent damage to the clock spring from over-rotating.

Remove the intake air ducts and housing.
Figure 3

Remove the intake air ducts and housing. See our tech article on intake air ducts removing. Working at the intake resonance valve, disconnect the electrical connector (green arrow) by pressing the release tab (yellow arrow) and pulling it straight off. Then remove the two T40 Torx fasteners (red arrows).

Working at the left rear corner of the engine compartment, remove the weatherstrip by pulling it straight up (green arrow).
Figure 4

Working at the left rear corner of the engine compartment, remove the weatherstrip by pulling it straight up (green arrow). Then rotate the two plastic fasteners 90 degrees and remove (yellow arrows). Pull the hoses up and out of the plastic cover (red arrow).

Pull the cover away then up (red arrow) as you guide the hoses off toward the firewall (green arrow).
Figure 5

Pull the cover away then up (red arrow) as you guide the hoses off toward the firewall (green arrow). Once the hoses are clear of the cover, lift the cover straight up and remove. Note installation orientation for reassembly.

Working behind the alternator, remove the E10 External Torx pinch bolt (red arrows).
Figure 6

Working behind the alternator, remove the E10 External Torx pinch bolt (red arrows). Once it is removed, secure the steering wheel so it does not move. If the steering wheel rotates with the steering rack removed, the clock spring may be damaged.

To access the fastener (red arrow), I use a universal adapter with an E10 socket (inset).
Figure 7

To access the fastener (red arrow), I use a universal adapter with an E10 socket (inset).

Working at the fastener above the universal joints, remove the E10 External Torx pinch bolt (red arrow).
Figure 8

Working at the fastener above the universal joints, remove the E10 External Torx pinch bolt (red arrow).

Working at the top of the shaft, near the brake booster (red arrow), remove the E10 External Torx fastener (yellow arrow).
Figure 9

Working at the top of the shaft, near the brake booster (red arrow), remove the E10 External Torx fastener (yellow arrow). This one can be tricky as the firewall blocks access (inset), note how there is barely room for finger on the socket.

This photo shows the top fastener being removed (red arrow) with an 8mm wrench.
Figure 10

This photo shows the top fastener being removed (red arrow) with an 8mm wrench. Good news is, if you have a high quality 12 point 8mm wrench, it will fit the E10 fastener head (inset). You can use the wrench to loosen and remove the final fastener in the restricted space.

Now it is time to remove the steering shaft from the power steering rack.
Figure 11

Now it is time to remove the steering shaft from the power steering rack. Working at the universal joint, remove the steering shaft coupler from the steering rack by sliding up and off. If it will not come off, wiggle up and down as you slide the top section toward the firewall. Be gentle, don't damage it. Then separate the bottom (yellow arrow) and top shaft (red arrow).

Then, remove the upper section of shaft from the vehicle.
Figure 12

Then, remove the upper section of shaft from the vehicle. Slide it off connection on top and remove.

Next, remove the lower section of shaft from the vehicle.
Figure 13

Next, remove the lower section of shaft from the vehicle. Slide it off steering rack and remove (red arrow).

Inspect the universal joints for stiffness or binding.
Figure 14

Inspect the universal joints for stiffness or binding.

Later, when reinstalling the steering shaft, be sure to align the split in the shaft coupler (red arrow) with the tab on the steering column shaft.
Figure 15

Later, when reinstalling the steering shaft, be sure to align the split in the shaft coupler (red arrow) with the tab on the steering column shaft. This will properly align the two.

Reverse steps to install new steering shaft.
Figure 16

Reverse steps to install new steering shaft. When installing the rack top and bottom pieces, be sure the slot (red arrow) for the bolt hole is centered in the bolt hole. If your steering wheel is not centered when complete, have vehicle professionally aligned.

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Page last updated: Mon 10/23/2017 03:19:57 AM