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Do I Really Need Leaky Power Steering?

The 2L 924’s didn’t have power steering, but the steering rack was a smallish unit that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.  The first ’83 944’s to come to North America didn’t necessarily have power steering, either.  The rest of the 944/924S line came with a power rack and an eventually-leaky pump system.  But do I really need it?  And what if I don’t need it?

In our race cars, we throw away the power steering components to both save weight and preserve horsepower.  But we don’t maneuver them in town, try to parallel park them or drive in stop-and-go traffic, so we really don’t notice the difference.  On the street, though, we do need to think about whether power steering is necessary – a personal decision, to be sure.

The 944 power steering system is a seemingly complex thing.  The power rack is joined to the pump and the reservoir by a series of hard and flex lines, although our experience has shown that the leaky bit is normally the pump.  Pumps tend to run between $100-200, depending on where you buy, and there are inexpensive pump “rebuild kits” available if you are brave enough to give it a try.  (We have in the past with little success.)  There is also a coil of hard line in the right front corner that acts as a cooler for the power steering fluid – which, by the way, is NOT power steering fluid.  It is actually automatic transmission fluid.  Don’t use power steering fluid in your 944!

We have had some of our cars on the street with “depowered” racks, of course coupled with wider, stickier tires.  Other than the occasional bad word in a parking situation, we have seen little or no difference in steering effort while driving at normal road speeds.  Again, this is a personal preference thing, but when weighed against the costs and aggravation of trying to keep the fluid where it belongs, we like the idea of depowering the rack.

We have taken the “power” out of the “power steering” quite a few times, and if you do it right, it will serve you well.  However, don’t just cut the lines and throw away the reservoir!. You need to remove the rack and the power components and properly depower the rack if you want it to function properly as a “manual” rack.  And one more note – the early 944 manual racks have a slower ratio than the power racks, and we actually prefer a properly depowered rack over the manual rack.  Again, personal preference.

Depowering a rack is a little involved – you need to disassemble it completely, then reassemble it as a manual rack.  We have attached a PDF that come from Cryogenicsmedia.com that we have used over and over to do our conversions.  It has great descriptions and lots of clear color photos to help you understand what you have to do.  There is no author or credit on it, so a general thank you to whomever posted it.

The reasons that you need to go through all this taking-apart-and-clean-and-reassemble stuff is that the power steering fluid actually lubricates the rack as it flows through the system.  When you take the flowing fluid away, the rack is no longer lubricated, so you need to fix that part of the equation.  When you disassemble it, you then need to grease it as a manual rack and make a few adjustments to make sure that it works properly and that the slippery stuff stays in the right places. Do it right and you will have thousands and thousands of trouble-free, leak-free miles.

There are ports where the fluid lines run in and out that will need to be plugged.  You can get some 12mmx1.5 pitch metric drain plugs for a couple of bucks each from an online vendor, Belmetric.  Just a mention here – we keep a stock of various common nuts, bolts and washers in the shop, and they all come from Belmetric.  We order online, they ship right away and our order is in the mailbox in a couple of days.  Remember too that when you get the plugs you will also need copper washers to seal it all up.

Remember to remove all of the lines and the reservoir to complete the “depower project” – get rid of all the remnants of the old power system.  The worst line to remove is the one that goes along the back top of the crossmember under the engine.  There is a 6mm bolt holding a clamp in the middle of the top of the crossmember, so get your 10mm wrench in there and try to get that bolt out – makes it easier to extract the line.  Also, clean, bag and keep the old parts for resale to those who are trying to de-leak their power steering!

Whether its a street car, track car, autocross car or race car – happy times with manual steering!

Link to instructions for power-to-manual-steering-rack

Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek View All

Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.

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