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FlamingRain 06-03-2011 05:10 PM

PS System HELP!
Hi, this is one of my first post here.

I love jeeps and everything to do with them, and we currently own a 1996 GC ZJ Limited with the 5.2 V8 (black). It's mainly been a road driver and we haven't done any serious off roading with it minus general messing around. (I think we touch the transfer case like, twice a year).

Starting about 7-8 months ago the steering made terrible grinding noises when turning (not whining or screaming, a grinding) and we were completely baffled as to what was making it. Finally, a month later we go to find what truly the problem is, by driving it down the road and listening to it, the noise quits, but the power steering is completely gone.

We've been driving it without power steering, but seeing as I can't drive it on our property any more (not enough upper body strength), and I'm 15 and want to be driving soon(typical, huh? :P), I recently took some initiative to find out what the issue is.

Today, I watched some videos of how to look at a power steering pump (bear with me I'm not a total person that understands how cars are built in and out) and when I took a quick little crawl under I found the serpentine belt that went to the PS system which was fine by itself, and has been fine while running, but almost directly under it, the pitman arm, and JUST the pitman arm is completely caked in what I'm guessing is sticky PS fluid or ATF. It is only the pitman arm and things that are connected to it and near it (axle, brake hydraulic, etc) are very clean and not sticky or anything.

I also found a hose that was right under the pump and it was completely soft and squishy. I can pinch it. I figured that might be normal, but I might as well mention it. One of the videos I watched which was of a 95 Cherokee with the same problem. He mentioned he had fixed it with a new high-pressure line. Where's the High Pressure line located? I might as well check that. Does this have anything to do with it? Is there anything that I could check to see if there's anything I can see to replacing/fixing dealing with the PS system before deciding total pump failure and having to spend lots of time, money, and effort (it's our only working vehicle atm) on replacing it? I don't have access to a whole lot of simple hand tools (seeing as we've just moved) and could really use it working.

Thanks for all your help guys, I really appreciate it.

*crossposted from GC General Forum, thought I'd get more ZJ specific answers here.

cmosu 06-03-2011 06:13 PM

First thing I would do is check the fluid level. Full or not, you need to figure out if its an issue in the pump or steering box. I would say 99% of the time, its the pump and its a pretty cheap fix ($60 or so with a new reservoir). If you're still able to turn the jeep and fluid isn't pouring out of the steering box or the high pressure line, then its a pretty good bet you need a new pump.

FlamingRain 06-15-2011 11:02 AM

So Today I replaced the transmission fluid and the coolant, and while poking around in there I decided to check the PS pump to see if it's leaking fluid everywhere. The pump, pressure hose, are completely clean of anything, and seem to actually be working fine. The pitman arm seal seems to be leaking everywhere and that's the problem I think. is there a way to replace the seal without having to hydraulically blow the seals (seeing as the PS doesnt work)

freakinheep89 06-15-2011 06:56 PM

Your steering box is probably shot. that horrible grinding noise is the box, and if its leaking from the pitman arm its on its way out.

Just to be sure, pull the return line off the PS pump reservoir and have someone start it up and verify its circulating fluid, but i'm fairly certain the steering box is the culprit. When pumps fail, they make noise but its audible all the time, and gets louder with load(when turning) when the box dies it only makes noise when turning.

FlamingRain 06-15-2011 07:45 PM

I think I failed to mention it makes a really annoying rattling noise even with no steering effort, but I'm not sure when it is under effort. It's not a grinding, it's like something is loose and shaking around somewhere.

freakinheep89 06-15-2011 08:13 PM

Take a video if possible.

IS there any excessive play in the steering?

FlamingRain 06-15-2011 11:24 PM

If by play, you mean a huge amount where the wheel is lagged/doesnt do anything, then yes. There seems to be about 10-15 degrees of rotation before having to go mega-upper body strength to turn the wheel.

freakinheep89 06-16-2011 10:34 AM

Yeah your box is shot.

FlamingRain 06-16-2011 12:32 PM

How would I replace it with almost no mechanic experience and it's our only vehicle so it can't be out of commission for longer than 24 hours. Where'd I get a new gearbox?

E: Also, is there a way I can see if the Power steering pump is shot as well? It having no fluid in it for a long time I think is possible to damage it however, I don't want to replace what I don't need. I'd need to have the P/S system back before I replace the gearbox, because to be honest, the extra steering play helps alot without power steering.

freakinheep89 06-16-2011 03:37 PM

The box bolts to the drivers side of the uniframe, right next to the radiator fan shroud. The steering column shaft slips over the end of a splined shaft on the box, and is secured in place by a bolt. Remove that bolt, remove the tie rod end from the pitman arm(way easier than removing the pitman arm), remove the PS lines from the box, then remove the bolts holding it to the frame and it will come out. Its pretty heavy so don't let it fall on you. Before you remove it, point the wheels straight ahead. Also when re installing, connect the tie rod end at the pitman arm before connecting the steering shaft, that way the wheel stays centered.

ZeeJay1997 06-16-2011 05:24 PM


Originally Posted by FlamingRain (Post 11717228)
Where'd I get a new gearbox?

If I wasn't planning on replacing the pump, I would try a used steering gear before getting a new (or rebuilt) one.

FWIW the pump should be putting out 50-80 PSI. Take the cap off and crank it, see if the fluid is circulating in the reservoir. It should be rapid circulation.

FlamingRain 06-18-2011 08:21 PM

Take the cap off the reservoir? How will I tell if it's moving fluid?

MaintMech 06-20-2011 09:09 AM


Originally Posted by FlamingRain (Post 11728811)
Take the cap off the reservoir? How will I tell if it's moving fluid?

Start motor, take cap off reservoir, shine light down into reservoir, look at fluid. If it's moving around with great vigor you're more than likely O.K. If not, time for a new pump. While you are looking at the fluid have someone crank the wheel back and forth.

FlamingRain 06-20-2011 11:26 PM

Alright, we'll be doing some hauling tomorrow so I'll check it then. I think it's likely that both have failed. Because we have almost no mechanic experience we voted against keeping the P/S system with any fluid in it (and it doesn't have any in it) so the pump may have ran dry and blown, but at the same time I think the leak started the problem at the pitman arm/steering gearbox. I'll check the pump tomorrow and see if I can get anything.

FlamingRain 06-21-2011 11:17 PM

So I ran that test today. I got a pretty interesting result. I added about 1/2 the reservoir of p/s fluid into the system. I cranked the engine on, and the fluid moved around quite a bit, so much that some drops actually came out of it. I was relieved to see this! I peered up from the reservoir, and told my brother to go and start cranking the wheel. In the 20 seconds it takes him to go from the hood to the driver side and start turning the wheel (barely) back and forth, I'm not watching the reservoir. I look back into the reservoir. It's been 30 seconds. There's no damn fluid left in the reservoir. WTF. I'm at a complete loss and I'm not sure what happened there. There wasn't a huge amount of leaking.

I'm at a total loss as to what this means, and I think there's likely a leaking pressure line, or a massive hole in the gearbox. This is getting annoying.

The time now is 04:52 AM.

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