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Brakes, Suspension & Steering

Retro-fitting Power Assisted Steering

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This guide explains how to convert a standard 205 GTI to power steering. This conversion may not be to everyone's taste but I can certainly recommend the benefits of lighter steering, especially during those tricky hand-brake manoeuvres ;). Although there is some loss of feel the steering is not so light to make you feel detached from the road, it is certainly better than some more modern cars I have driven with PAS.





Anyway, the first port of call for this conversion should be the breakers yard where a suitable car with power steering should be identified. A 205 would obviously be ideal, but failing that a 309 can be used albeit with some minor mods (explained later), the pump, brackets and pipes can also come from a 405 but I think the rack is different.



The following list explains all the items you'll need:


1. Power steering rack (obviously) with hydraulic ram. It is worth loosening the track rod locknuts on each side (especially if it is a 309 version) so the track rod ends can be removed without too much bother.


2. Power steering pump (located underneath Alternator).


3. Power steering fluid reservoir and mounting brackets.


4. Lower steering column with universal joint.


5. High pressure hydraulic pipe (half metal/half rubber) from rack to pump.


6. Low pressure feed pipe from reservoir to pump.


7. Low pressure return pipe from rack to reservoir.


8. Alternator adjustment bracket.


9. Alternator/Pump mounting brackets (bolted to the engine block, it contains the large bolt which holds the alternator in place).


10. All the nuts and bolts holding this lot together.



Removing the manual steering rack:


The first thing you'll need to do is remove the existing rack from your car. Best to get the vehicle raised up on some axle stands or equivalent (unless your lucky enough to have a pit/4-post lifting table). Take the two front wheels off and store them somewhere safe (they may be off for some time). Unscrew the track rod ends locknuts and split the ball joints using a separator tool trying not to damage the rubber bellows on the track rod end (MOT failure). Unscrew and remove the steering column clamp bolt which attaches the column to the rack. Finally unscrew the two steering gear mounting bolts from the subframe. There may also be a couple of screws holding a heat shield in place which will also require removal. The steering rack can now be removed from the vehicle by sliding it out the side of the subframe. The lower steering column shaft should now be removed by unscrewing the clamp bolt from inside the vehicle above the brake pedal. The lower shaft can then be removed.



Fitting the power steering rack:


Now you've got the old manual one out it's time to make way for the shiny new (!) power assisted version. This is a bit more a problem due the fact that the PAS version is larger and will not slide through the space between the subframe and the body (bugger!). To make room for it you need to lower the subframe and then slide it in. This is probably best described in the Haynes manual but I'll go over it here briefly.


It is worth mentioning at this point that if you got all the bits from a 309 the rack will need shortening before being attached. Measure the length of the old rack between the centres of the track rod end and compare this with the new rack. Although the track rods can be screwed in to adjust the length you will need some slack to adjust the tracking. On my 1.6 GTI I had to take 10 mm off each side to get the correct fitment. The thread for the track rod ends is only as long as it needs to be (less whatever you saw off) so you may have to shorten the thread on the track rod end to adjust the tracking properly (I didn't have to though).


Back to the mechanics. You need to disconnect the 3 gearchange control rods from the levers on the transmission (although you only really need to do the two shorter ones). Extract (pull) the spring clip from the gearchange linkage and unclip the transmission selector. Loosen the four bolts securing the subframe and slacken off the lower engine mounting nut. Place a trolley jack underneath the subframe (with a bit of wood to protect it) and remove all the bolts you just loosened. The subframe can now be lowered enough to make room for the PAS rack.


Slide the new rack into place, I found this to be the easiest from the drivers side. The lower steering shaft can also be fitted now ensuring that the splines have mated successfully. Once in position carefully raise the subframe. It is worth checking the gearchange rods at this point to ensure they are not getting bent! The subframe bolts can be can be screwed into place and tighten to the correct torque. The steering gear mounting bolts should now be screwed into place ensuring that the spacer tubes are in place (probably rusted in place anyway). All the gearchange rods and transmission bits can now be reconnected and the trolley jack removed. Fit the track rod ends into the hubs and tighten to the spec'd torque. Rack should be fitted now!! The steering wheel may be off centre but this is easily adjusted once you've had the tracking done (as long as you've got a 21 mm socket), or get the garage to do it while their doing the tracking.



Fitting pipes, reservoir and pump:


Now you just (!) need to fit the pipes, reservoir and pump. Remove your alternator and tension adjuster (best to disconnect the battery to prevent sparks!), you'll need a 22 mm spanner or socket for this. Then unbolt the mounting bracket from the engine block. It may require some gentle persuasion with a hammer as it probably hasn't moved for 10 years. Once off you can mount your new, much larger alternator (and PAS pump) mounting bracket in its place. The pump can now be mounted in its correct position, although you may find it easier (I did) to remove the pulley from the pump so you can get proper access to the bolt holes.


When the pump is in place you can have a stab at routing the high pressure pipe. I found this bit the most frustrating as I thought it was going to be easy…no such luck. The pipe is preformed metal followed by a rubber section. It runs from the pump across the front of the engine and over the transmission (under the dizzy) before travelling back across the engine to the rack. The main difficulty I had was that I had to buy a new (£66!) one because the one at the breakers was knackered and I was not sure of the correct routing, basically it seemed too short for the job. Anyway, I had to remove the inlet manifold and some other coolant pipes to get it to fit. I swear the one on the 309 I got the parts off was longer but eventually I managed to get it to fit...


The low pressure side of the system now needs to be put in place, including locating the reservoir. On the 309 the reservoir is located on the right hand side in front of the battery, and I'm not sure where it is on the standard 205's (maybe on the opposite side). Either way, I have an alarm on one side and a K&N 57i induction kit on the other. I eventually chose to mount it where the air flow meter goes on the standard 205 i.e. to the left of the battery. This may not be possible if you have the low pressure pipes from a 205. Some creative bending of the existing bracket was required to get a solid fit. The low pressure pipe simply connects straight onto the pump using a jubilee clip while the return pipe from the rack joins a short section of metal pipe (again by jubilee clip) before connecting to the rack.



Last few steps:


All the pipe work should now be in place and ready to go. You just need to refit the drivebelt tension adjuster and alternator and tension up the drive belt itself (5.0 mm of play between alternator and crank pulley) connect up the wires and reconnect the battery.


The system will need some fluid to work and the Haynes manual suggests Dextron II auto transmission fluid, around 1 litre should be enough. Start the engine and slowly move the steering from full lock to full lock to bleed the system of any air. Check for any leaks, if not then it should be ready for a test drive, probably best to put the wheels back on and take it off the axle stands at this point!!!


It is best not to take it too far until you have the tracking done as the wheels may be pointing in odd directions! You should be able to get a feel if the system is working though. Any local garage should be able to do the tracking for around 15 quid.





I think the steering is much easier to use. You do not get the high loading which occurs on the manual system during tight corners and it is much easier to handle mid corner gear changes when the wheel isn't being ripped from your hands. Some of the feeling is lost though and for the purists this may be too much of a compromise… suppose it's personal taste at the end of the day!


I did the main parts of the job over a weekend. I had to make several trips to the breakers to get various brackets etc (hopefully you shouldn't have to do this ;). I finished the job off in a couple of evenings, but I reckon if you were in a hurry it could all be fitted in around a day (barring any problems). You will need a reasonable set of tools for the job including some imperial sockets for the subframe (5/8 and 11/16 if I remember correctly) and an 8 mm hexagonal socket for the alternator mounting bracket. The job isn't too hard though and shouldn't present too many problems to most DIYers.


Someone did ask how difficult it would be to convert the other way, i.e. back to manual steering. I would suggest it is pretty much the same job except that you can at least leave the high pressure pipe in place (or cut it to get it out) and you wouldn't have to worry about locating a new reservoir. Still need to get the lower steering column shaft and drop the subframe though. You'd have to be pretty sure you could manage with the manual steering and may take some value from the car IMHO. I reckon the rack itself is about 5-7 kilos heavier on the PAS model, the pump plus brackets must be around 1.5-2 kilos and the pipes and reservoir are probably around a kilo all in. You will also relieve the engine of some load and gain some extra steering feel… its up to you!!