How-To: Replace Intermediate Steering Shaft - '08 G6 GXP
I just DIYed an intermediate steering shaft (I-shaft) swap. It's kinda cold today, not bad in the garage, but I'm aching and cussing all the same. Lot of time spent on the ground - if you do this, bring a cushion of some kind and kneepads. You'll know where to put the cushion once you start.
You'll need a few things, aside from a jack and stands and lug wrench and a new I-shaft:
- 9mm socket
- 7/16ths socket, preferably deep
- 10" or longer extension that fits the 7/16ths socket
- 5/8ths crescent wrench with box end (the box end is what you need)
- 1/2 socket
- prybar (Mine is pictured below, about a foot long with a curved edge. A narrower, longer, non-curved one would have been better IMO)
- Kroil (or whatever penetrating oil you prefer)
- flathead screwdriver with a long, preferably skinny shank)
- steel wire brush, a small one that can get into tight places
- a friend (or your wife)
- patience (for your wife)
Jack the car up so the driver's side front tire is a few inches off the ground. Make sure the wheels are pointed reasonably straight. Support the car with jackstands, then get that driver's side tire off, set it aside. If you're not using air tools, make sure to break the lugs loose before jacking the car.
Follow the tie rod (the long skinny metal rod attached to the rear of the wheel hub assembly) back to the boot (that black rubber accordion), and you'll see the steering rack, a long metal tube running across the car, that the other end of the boot is attached to. On top of the rack is where the bottom joint of the I-shaft is located. If you want to be extra careful, then make sure your wheel chocks are good and have someone gently turn the wheel of the car, and you'll see the assembly rotate.
There is a 7/16ths bolt holding the pinch assembly together. Using your extension and 7/16ths socket, remove the bolt. You will probably have to hit it with penetrating oil and use a long-handled ratchet. Let the oil soak a few minutes before attacking it.
Once the bolt is out, you need to slide the pinch assembly off of the pinion nut on top of the rack. Use some WD-40, or more penetrating oil, and hit the assembly a few times. Let it soak, then go at it with a prybar. Get between the top of the rack and the bottom of the pinch assembly. After working it around a bit, you should be able to get it mostly off. Don't remove it all the way yet.
Inside the car, in the driver's footwell, remove the bottom plastic dashboard paneling. You'll need a 9mm socket or wrench. Some cars use 8mm or 10mm bolts, I'm told; have all 3 if possible. In total, there are three bolts to remove (though if you got the car used, don't be surprised if one is missing. There are also a few spring tabs to disengage, but a sharp pull does the trick, making sure to pull downwards and not snap the tabs off. You can set the paneling aside for now.
Under the dashboard, you'll see a big rubbery cylinder with a metal tube sticking up and behind the instrument panel. Follow that up and you'll see the double jointed end of the I-shaft, and where it attaches to the back of the steering wheel assembly. On mine, there was a 1/2" bolt with a 5/8" nut on the end, so using the box wrench to hold the nut still, I used a socket on the bolt itself. BEFORE REMOVING THE BOLT, HAVE YOUR FRIEND HOLD THE STEERING WHEEL STILL, OR HAVE THE STEERING WHEEL TIED OFF SOMEHOW TO LIMIT IT'S MOVEMENT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. One or two wrench turns and you should be able to use your fingers to remove the bolt the rest of the way, and keep it and the nut together.
(Here is where I throw in some caveats. When you remove the top of the I-shaft assembly there will be a little wiggling of the steering wheel. As long as it remains within about 10 degrees of where you had it, you're fine. Same thing when you're reassembling. There is going to be a little bit of movement, but keep it to the bare minimum. Using lubricants helps with this.)
Okay, now your friend should be keeping the wheel steady for the rest of the process. You'll know when it's safe to move the wheel again. Hint: it's not for awhile.
Once the top end of the I-shaft has been disconnected, move back to the bottom end. Gently pry it ALMOST the rest of the way off. Then stop. You'll see the pinch assembly that forms the bottom connection of the I-shaft, without bolt, and the thing it's sliding off of is the pinion key. Before you have it all the way off, you should practice getting it back ON first. I wish I had done it. Hit the pinion key and the pinch assembly with the WD-40, and use the prybar to start wedging them back together. It's not easy, especially if there's rust, and it helps to take a wire brush and clean off the surface of the pinion key once you do remove the I-shaft entirely.
Once the bottom has been fully disconnected, follow it to where the I-shaft penetrates the chassis firewall. You'll see the other side of the rubber grommet, and four evenly spaced plastic tabs (they might be white, gray, or black). Using your long-shank screwdriver, push in or break off these tabs. You don't really have to get them all. Once you're done, go back to the driver's footwell and pull the old I-shaft out the rest of the way, thru the inside of the car.
Position the new I-shaft to go through the same hole the same way, but do not slide in the grommet yet. Where the bottom of the I-shaft connects to the pinion key, you'll want to try to connect this part first. It will NOT be easy to slide on, and you must make sure it is lined up the same way as the old one (the bolt flange on mine was towards the front of the car).
My method was this: I got the bottom connection assembly onto the pinion key, all lined up, and wedged it on by about a quarter of an inch. I went back into the driver's footwell, pressed the grommet in place and felt the tabs click over to lock on the other side of the chassis firewall, and then slid the top into place and connected it to the steering wheel assembly. Again, there was a tiny bit of wiggle as it connected, and then I bolted it in place with the 1/2" bolt and the 5/8" nut. I bolted it only finger tight for now, and my wife continued holding the wheel in place.
Going back under the car, and using the prybar and hammer, I had my wife wiggle the wheel back and forth in gradually increasing increments. If the bottom of your I-shaft has a good lock on the pinion key, both should rotate together. If there is any slipping between the two, have your helper stop the wheel in place and gently turn it back. The pinion key and pinch assembly only line up and fit together one way, but the pinch assembly is slightly open and can flex, causing possible misalignment. However, this wiggling combined with the prybar (and hammer, for gently whanging the end of the prybar) is pretty much the only way to get these two pieces back together.
Once the bottom part of the I-shaft assembly is back on the pinion key, bolt it back together with either a new bolt or the old one. I did not torque mine. I got it tight (using a small ratchet with a long socket extension again), then gave it another eighth of a turn. I'm gonna drive for awhile and then give it another quarter turn at it's 1-week checkup. At this time, I went back inside the footwell and tightened the upper portion of the I-shaft assembly, also to regular wrench tight.
ATTENTION: Your helper can now release the wheel. Thank them for putting up with the inevitable cursing from 4 or so paragraphs ago. Or kiss them, if it's your patient loving wife.
Now all you gotta do is put the bottom dash paneling back on, reattach the wheel, set the car down, torque the lugs to 100 ft-lbs, and you're good to go.
I tested it first backing out of the garage and driveway, slowly turning the wheel. Then we headed to a parking lot and built up to giving it the works. As others have reported, the new shaft is not completely silent. This won't turn your car into the Red October. But it is a major improvement, and is a safer and more reliable design.
Corsair (noun) - a privateer or pirate
"Wicked": 87 Olds Cutlass Cruiser Wagon - totaled in blizzard
"Beast": 89 Buick Century Custom - totaled in driving sleet
"Cutty Sark": 97 Olds Cutlass Supreme - died too early
"Batmobile": 98 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe - ditto
"Grey Ghost": 02 Infiniti I35 Sport - still ticking, needs new water pump
"Red Devil": 08 Pontiac G6 GXP - current ride
"My Boy Blue": 00 Ford Ranger XLT Club Cab - my hauler