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A reference guide to identify the steering rack fitted to Volkswagen vehicles

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Article Date: 28/07/17

If you've come across this page, you've most likely got a problem with the steering rack on your VAG based car and need to identify what generation of steering rack is fitted to your car. I'm sorry to say this, but generally you already know what's involved at this stage. Either your wiring is buggered (if you're lucky), or the sensor / controller has failed, in which case you need to replace the rack itself. This is because the sensors are built into the rack and aren't a serviceable component, so the dealerships replace the entire rack as part of their procedure with rack errors

RACK GENERATIONS (HOW TO IDENTIFY THE STEERING RACK GENERATION)

The quickest way to identify what steering rack is fitted to your car is by calling your local VW, Seat, Audi, Skoda dealer and providing your VIN number to them. They will be able to look at the build data for your vehicle and inform you straight away what your steering rack generation is and the variant fitted to the car. There's no point doing all the work if you can get it from a phone call

If they're being awkward (which some of them are), then you can work out this information yourself, although it will require you to jack the car up and have a look underneath. I've compiled a list of the key factors you need to look for on the steering rack to identify which type it is. I will include pictures where relevant to identify what each feature is. The information below is not exact, as the 2004 is the changeover year, you can have either a GEN1 or GEN2 rack fitted to your car. The safest way is to ring the dealer, but the below are the features you need to look for if they're refusing to give you the information

The 4 options listed below should help you quickly verify which steering rack you have without removing it from the car itself. Please note that this information has been compiled from online resources and the technical data from erWin, so it should be correct and enough to give you the information you require

  GEN. 1 GEN. 2 GEN. 3
What year was the car built? (HYPERLINK - PIC) 2004=< 2004> 2009=>
How many bolts are on the bearing cover?(HYPERLINK - PIC) 4 2  
Does the steering rack have a subframe clamp? (U-Clamp)(HYPERLINK - PIC)   Y N
How many bolts attach the steering rack to the subframe?(HYPERLINK - PIC) 4 4 3

DIAGNOSING THE FAULT

The best thing to do will be a scan of your car with the VCDS diagnostic program from Ross-Tech, this will highlight the error message causing the problem. Some of the common errors you will get have been listed below, different faults mean different solutions

COMMON PROBLEMS HIGHLIGHTING STEERING RACK PROBLEMS

  • G269 Torque Sensor - Implausible signal (normally a faulty sensor which requires a rack replacement, or faulty wiring)
  • J500 Controller - Errors relating to the steering rack controller (normally needs replacing - replacement rack)
  • Steering Wheel Light - A permanent light is lit up
    • ORANGE - A fault detected, but full functionality of rack is available (possible to fix with rewire)
    • RED - A serious fault detected, power to rack shut down, go to dealer to resolve (although you can drive)

GETTING YOUR STEERING RACK REPAIRED AT A DEALERSHIP

If you go to VW, you can expect to pay in the region of £2000 for this work. Volkswagen's procedure with steering rack faults is to replace the rack itself, they only replace it with a Generation 3 rack too as they're less prone to faults. These are approximately the prices you will pay at VW for the work required. These prices EXCLUDE VAT @ 20%. The book time for this work in the dealership is 4 hours, which at my local dealer is £108 p/hr labour costs.

  • New steering rack (£1032)
  • New wiring harness (£108) - this is something to do with the communication for the canbus being different in the Gen3

This puts the bill at £1572, add on 20% for VAT the bill would be approximately - £1886.40. The dealers may offer a good will gesture, but it will still be in the XXXX amount for this work alone, so I wouldn't expect much change from £2000. I personally argue that the steering rack should last the life time of the car (or in the very least the sensors should be classed as service) items which are inspected by VW and replaced within a certain interval period (such as every 70k miles) or major service. They're clearly failing all the time on the Gen 1 version, so it means the dealers should honour these parts and either replace them or repair them free of charge.

Also, if your car has a Generation 1 steering rack, there may be additional components required as an extra cost because the subframes are different along with other components which are needed to convert the rack to a Gen 3

Did you know - The actual procedure by VW is that they "rebuild" your own rack to sell on at a later date. So there's a possibility the rack fitted to your car was already a rebuilt unit. If the units (sensors) or electronics keep failing, why are they reconditioning them. It's clearly not working. How can you tell it's rebuilt?

Well if you look at the rack, a reconditioned unit has an X on it (for exchange item), also look at the part number. The newest steering rack to date is the K variant. Older models were produced with years

BUYING STEERING RACKS

One option to consider if your rack has failed on the car is to fit a second-hand, or reconditioned power steering racks.
A reconditioned power steering rack is the best option as all the components are rebuilt within factory spec and tolerances, but they cost a fraction of the price (most recon'd units are around £300) which saves a lot of money. You will be required to fit and replace the rack, which you can then take to the dealership and ask them to code it in for you (~£100) as it registers with main HQ on the rack fitted to the car.

I have provided some links below to eBay Stores which sell reconditioned racks in exchange for your old one which they will rebuild and sell again. This is cheaper than going to Volkswagen or dealerships because it gives you a "as new" rack for 1/3 of the price. The only additional costs then are fitting the rack to the car, and also coding it to the car.

eBay Store (Lion-Automotive) The links to the left are for eBay sellers who sell reconditioned power steering racks. Which are basically "as new" items which come with a 18-month or 24-month warranty. They recondition your old rack otherwise it will involve a surcharge
eBay Store (ACS Power Steering)
eBay Store (glasgowpowersteering)
eBay Store (aacore2015)

Alternatively you can purchase a rack from sites such as Car Parts 4 Less OR Euro Car Parts which are new racks as if you were buying them directly from the dealer. They are approximately 2/3 of the price of an original OEM part. Please note however, this relies on you knowing what generation rack is fitted to your car.

HOW TO REPLACE THE STEERING RACK IN A MK5 GOLF

Please note, this guide isn't the exact procedure from start > finish. I have condensed it down for a couple of reasons

  1. The purpose of this article isn't to replace the steering rack, it's only a guide on the generations
  2. The information is extracted from erWin. I can't give the exact info word for word because I will be breaking copyright. Although when I replace the rack myself I can give my own guide and steps later on

Also, if you aren't confident doing the work yourself, get a professional to do it. It's a complex job for the amateur home mechanic without the right tools or equipment

DISCLAIMER
This guide is intended for amateur automotive experts, if you break your car. Your fault, not mine

  • Turn the wheels straight - loosen wheel nuts, turn off, remove keys, lock the steering wheel, then reinsert the keys
  • Lower a window (or leave a door open on the car) ---- You never know you might lock yourself out
  • Remove the footwell trim under the pedals on the car, there are two screws for this to expose the steering joint
  • Jack up the car, and put it on Axle stands under the sills supporting the weight of the car. Ideally jacking up the entire car would be better (I'll explain why later) - remove the front wheels
  • Disconnect the cover underneath the pedals for the steering column that joints to the rack, seperate the joint
  • Insert the T10096 subframe alignment pins into the subframe holes
  • Disconnect all lower parts securing the rack to the underside of car, including lower ball joints, track rod ball joints, dogbone gearbox mount, heat shield, exhaust shield and clamps and any connectors
  • Remove the steering rack, observing the electronics
  • Replace and connect everything up

When the car is powered up, IF it's successful the rack will be detected and, you will most likely need to carry out the stop limit adaptation with VCDS and clear the errors. The rack MAY need recoding, however some people have reported success that after carrying the out the stop limit adaptation and driving for a few hundred yards that the system fixed itself.

If you find the lights stay on after the stop limit adaptation drive the car in gear CAREFULLY and very slowly on the jacks, this will effectively fool the car into thinking your driving in a straight line, so it should go out quickly as you're only meant to drive a few hundred yards. IF, the lights don't go out, then stop the car and hook up VCDS. As long as you aren't getting any controller errors or errors relating to the rack sensor then you may be OK to get the car simply recoded at the dealership

VCDS CALIBRATION

If you replace the steering rack on your car, you will most likely need to reset the limits so the car knows the maximum for each steering wheel turn. I'm not going to bother explaining this because you can read the article on the Ross-Tech website who are the makers of VCDS (VAG-COM).

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER
This article contains affiliate links, you are under no requirement to use them, although it is appreciated as it helps me to continue to write articles and supports my fees for this site.