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DIY: Replace Power Steering Rack Seal (Pinion Valve Seal) & Stop a Common 4.1 PS Leak



Overview:

Please read the very helpful information provided by others on this post, “Exposed…Steering Rack Seal Replacement.” I used that great thread as a guide to replace this seal on a ’99 with about 188K miles. This DIY serves as a compliment to the valuable information presented in that post, and I have added some pictures, diagrams, and part #’s that might be helpful.

(As mentioned in that post, this won’t work for Ravs with the steering wheel on the right – I think you poor souls have to drop the whole rack to get to this little $6 seal. :confused:)

The steering rack seal (“steering pinion valve oil seal,” in Toyota-speak) is apparently a rather common failure point on the 4.1 steering rack assembly:

- Some owners have reported that sometimes a slight leak develops which can be mitigated somewhat (or enough) by replacing the fluid with a “Max-Life” ATF or “High-Mileage” ATF, but….
- Other owners report that sometimes you get only a little warning, with a small leak for a short while and then a sudden total loss of fluid, and…
- Still others report that they are leaving puddles and just trying to keep up with the fluid loss by re-filling it each day.​

If the seal is not leaking, don’t replace it. Wait till it leaks – if it ever does. I recommend that you set aside a full day or night-into-morning for this job. It is not very technical or difficult at all, but there are two actions that are likely to take a little (read: a LOT) longer that you might think. Either of these steps could add a few hours to the job if you’re not lucky. They are:

1.) getting the intermediate steering shaft off the rack, and
2.) getting the little but very tough, steel-reinforced seal out of its place.​

You will have very little space to swing a hammer and will often be in an akward position leaning over the driver's side tire to access these parts. There is just not a lot of room, and so you might need all the patience you have!


DIAGNOSTICS:

If you are losing PS fluid (which is actually ATF in this system), you will see big or small puddles under the car or on the body. If you have the original fluid in the system, the fluid will be a dark brown color (undyed Toyota ATF). If it is a replacement fluid, it will be a red color (modern dyed ATF). ATF also stinks very bad and smells totally different than oil. This leak will leave puddles in locations that are not obvious because of all the collection points on the suspension and frame below, so I recommend looking from the top.

For LHS-drive vehicles, you can inspect the seal from the driver’s side, standing by the driver’s tire. Lean in and follow the steering shaft down, past the u-joint, to the rubber dust cover shown below. Pull back the dust cover and see if the seal is leaking. You can also look to the side of this component for the leak’s path to confirm that this is the culprit.

Here are some pictures of how wild this leak can get:






TOOLS and SUPPLIES:

- Tape and marker/paint pen for labeling hoses and electrical connections
- 10mm and 12mm sockets/closed-end wrenches and a 6” extension (not essential but makes removing the air filter housing easier)
- Phillips screwdriver
- Short length (under 4”) robust, chubby, flat-head screwdriver (or similar tool for prying)
- Pliers (for releasing hose clamps)
- Snap-ring pliers (for snap ring on seal)
- Hammer, pry tools
- ATF (about 1 quart replacement fluid)
- Thin-nozzle baster (to empty reservoir)
- Toyota parts and current (2017) prices. I got all my parts from Local Parts | Local Parts Shop Auto Parts online wholesale accessories
o Pinion Valve Seal, 90311-19007, $5.88.
o Pinion Valve Snap Ring, 90521-41003, $11.45.
o Pinion Valve Cap/Dust Cover, 45222-42010, $6.51.​


Here are pictures of the Toyota parts and some diagrams:







STEPS:

Step zero: Inspect your replacement parts before you start this job. The snap ring should be flat, not bent and out-of-shape. The seal should be rather hard, with a little steel coil on the bottom side and a steel band visible in four spots on the top side. Do not use a whacky-looking snap ring or a soft-feeling seal.


1.) Place down two pieces of cardboard such that you can drive the front wheels onto them. This first step is to make the last steps (bleeding the system) physically easier because you’ll be turning the steering wheel from lock to lock with the engine off and no power assistance. Be sure the front wheels are good and centered, and that the steering wheel is centered.


2.) Brace the steering wheel in some way to prevent it from moving when you disconnect the intermediate shaft later.




3.) Disconnect the negative terminal on the battery.


4.) Place a drain pan and cardboard under the engine. Remove the fluid (ATF) from the power steering reservoir using a thin-nozzle baster (there is a baffle inside). You will likely still leak fluid when you get to remove the seal later, but there will be much less to clean up if you want to do this. You can skip this step but it will be messier.


5.) Under the hood, remove the following components to gain access to the spot where the seal is:


a. Move the coolant reservoir (one 10mm bolt on top) out of the way so you can remove the bottom of the air filter housing. You can put it back temporarily after the air filter housing is removed.


b. Label all the hoses and electrical that connect to the air filter housing (and their corresponding connection points), and then remove the entire air filter housing, top and bottom. The top of the air filter housing is connected to the throttle body by a hose clamp which is secured by a Phillips screw. Unscrew this to loosen it and just pull it off. There is a hose on the back of the air filter housing that connects to the charcoal canister, a hose on the side that connects to the valve body, and an electrical connection on the side. Label both the hoses/electrical and their corresponding connection points to make reassembly quick and fail-safe.

c. Label all hoses on the charcoal canister and their corresponding ports. Disconnect the hoses and remove the charcoal canister: the canister is not bolted in, but rather sits on some alignment bosses on one side (a bracket mounted by the wheel well). It was very snug on this Rav, but some gentle rocking and upward persuasion got it to budge free. Inspect the pictures of the canister on this thread below to see how it fits.

d. Move the fuse box by releasing it from the two bolts holding it to the bracket. Replace the bolts in the holes so that you don’t lose them. Just move the fuse box somewhere out of the way to give you more access.​







6.) At this point, you should be able to see the intermediate shaft: this is the short shaft that goes through the firewall opening, which has a u-joint on its engine-facing side and splines on the in-cab side. You will also be able to see the rack. You should have reasonable access to the seal area – inspect the area to remember the parts as follows (these are Toyota names):




7.) In the cab, check that the steering wheel is well braced/tied up so that it will not rotate. Remove the 12mm bolt which is under the u-joint on the steering column assembly.




8.) In the engine bay, use a paint pen or good marker to make match-marks where the intermediate shaft connects to the control valve assembly. Don’t use the dust cover as a guide, though, because you will be removing this.


9.) Remove the 12mm bolt which is under the u-joint on the intermediate shaft. (I had trouble finding a good way to make the match-marks, so I ended up just running a pen through the bolt holes and marking the firewall after I removed this bolt.)




10.) Now comes the first fun part – using patience, leverage, and brute strength, disconnect the intermediate shaft from the control valve assembly by moving it up towards the firewall. Read this carefully to save yourself some trouble and possibly a shoulder injury:

You will see on the cab-side of the shaft (the end that’s in the cab) that there is enough room for the whole shaft to slide up and towards the steering wheel. You will need to move it about 1.5” or so. It was very, VERY difficult for me to budge this shaft, but it can be done.
Spray it with a little penetrating oil (PB Blaster), and let it sit for a few minutes.
Then, using the strong, short, chubby flat-head screwdriver, pry open the collar that was previously held clamped by that 12mm bolt and pull up towards the firewall.
You will not budge this shaft unless you are prying open that collar.
These efforts were still not enough in my case, and I ended up having to pry the shaft up using another method which required a leverage technique and a helper. Just be careful not to damage the splines on the control valve section. The u-joint on the intermediate shaft is robust so I think that shaft would take leverage better (and if you manage to break that, its much cheaper and easier to replace!) Note that others in the thread linked above decided to remove the steering wheel to remove the shaft.​


11.) Once you budge the shaft, it will slide up and over the top of the control valve shaft, then you can pull it down and out of the car completely. Either remove it or leave it somewhere out of the way and zip tie it off.


12.) Remove the dust cover and clean up the seal area to find the snap ring. Take note not to abuse the steel in this area. Remove the snap ring using snap-ring pliers.



13.) Have some towels ready to collect fluid. Place the towels on the frame and components under where the fluid will leak.


14.) Now for the second fun part – remove the seal. This seal was rather tough to remove. This particular seal failed on the inside part. Read the experiences of others on the linked thread about to hear of different ways to remove it.
I tried the screw method: if you do this, just remember to pick your point well because there is a steel band in this seal. It took me – seriously – over an hour to remove this seal. I was able to get a little hole in it and then slip under it with a seal puller/hook tool. It isn’t much fun, but it will come out eventually! Expect to destroy the seal in order to remove it.​


15.) With the seal removed, you’ll be able to see the bearing, but this is as far as this job goes.
Get your new seal and coat it with a bit of clean ATF, and put it back in place (flat side faces up). Place the old seal over the new seal to protect the new seal from damage. Use whatever means you find best to push the new seal into place without damaging anything, especially the housing and splines. “Into place” means down enough that it is not moving anymore and it is under the guide feature that the snap ring fits into. I was able to do this using a long flat-head screwdriver and a hammer (another two-person job due to the space and angle). Others have been able to seat an impact socket over it and hammer it into place that way.​


16.) Double-check that the seal is good and snug and that you can see and feel the snap ring groove. Install the new snap ring (don’t re-use the old one). The “sharp” side of the snap ring faces up. You’ll know the snap ring is in the groove when you can track the ring around the whole perimeter.




17.) Install the new dust cover. Look at how swollen the old one was on this Rav!




18.) Put the intermediate shaft back in place, starting on the in-cab side. Under the steering wheel, slide the shaft up so that the shaft splines align with the receiving splines: there is a guide on the back on the shaft that allows it to fit only one way. Once that is in place, tie it off or have someone hold it while you go outside to do the other end (if you don’t tie it off, it will probably fall out).


19.) On the engine-side of the intermediate shaft, align the receiving splines back onto the control valve assembly shaft using the match-marks. You will need to use the chubby flat-head screwdriver again to pry open the collar while sliding it back into place. (I used a very thin layer of silver anti-seize on the receiving splines to make this task a little easier this time and next time.) Once you have it matched, double-check inside that the steering wheel is straight. If not, take the shaft off on the engine side and move it over a spline or two until you have it straight. Release the wheel from the ties and have someone center it if that makes it easier for you.


20.) Once the shaft is back in place, fasten the two 12mm bolts on either end of the intermediate shaft. Torque to 26 ft-lbs on both.




21.) Working in reverse order, re-install everything, connect the battery and get ready to bleed the system of air.


22.) Bleed the system:
Pour ATF into the power steering reservoir to the COLD/MAX line.
Back in the cab, do not turn on the engine.
Just turn the key to “ON” so you can unlock the steering wheel.
Now, with the key at “ON” and the engine OFF, turn the wheel from full lock to full lock (all the way right, then all the way left) a couple times.
Check the level in the reservoir and you’ll see that its gone down.
Add more fluid, and turn the wheel again for several times from lock to lock.
Continue doing this until you no longer see the fluid level decrease. You want perhaps 5 or more full left-right locks with NO fluid level change.
Replace the reservoir cap.​


23.) Double-check the engine bay for tools, and then start the car. If there is a slight slip noise coming from the right, that’s the power steering pump telling you that there is still a little air in the system. Turn off the engine, open the reservoir and bleed it again using the same steps as above. Top it off and be sure to have to no fluid decrease for at least 5 full locks (I like 10!).

24.) Start the engine and everything should be nice and smooth. Go for test drive that includes a lot of tight right and left turning (figure-8’s, if possible). Reinspect the seal by peaking behind the dust cover to be sure that it is not leaking anymore.

I hope this DIY works for you! Thanks to everyone in the forum for supplying the information for this job. This DIY is a real money saver: most places won't even do a seal replacement, but will rather try to sell you a whole replacement steering rack and install (think $1000+!). Hopefully you can save some money, too!
 

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thanks for posting, same issue here on 2003 rav4. hope I can get to mine without taking out.
Great to hear don't need to do a total rebuild as that looks like special tools.

 
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