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Hi all,

The power steering gear box is leaking badly on my '68 Charger (383, HP cast manifolds). In fact, it is leaking from two places (originally it was only leaking from the input shaft, but as the years have gone by, now it's leaking badly from the valve block). It leaks so much that after it sits for a week or two, the reservoir is nearly empty and it's all over the floor. I replaced the PS pump reservoir last year (NOS reservoir since I have a Federal pump and finding a complete Federal reman is hard), along with the hoses since they were all shot too. Those are all good now. No leaks there. The box is the last thing to do.

So the first question is -- my local Advance has both Dorman and Lares reman units. I was thinking about going with Lares. I've heard better things about them. They don't seem to have a Fenco available. Any advice there on those brands? I'm not too interested in sending out my existing one to be rebuilt. I'd rather do a swap and go.

Next question -- can the box be removed from under the car? Perhaps after removing the starter? Or do I have to remove the manifolds and pull the box out topside? Does the steering shaft need to be completely removed or just disconnected via the roll pin? Any advice? It doesn't look like a fun job.
 

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Update: NAPA and Advance both didn't have any availability on the Dorman or Cardone steering gear for my '68 Charger. Advance did show a Lares unit and the guy at the desk told me they are better than the Dorman version. I ordered it. I guess we will see.

Does anyone have any advice on how to remove the box? Can I pull it out from underneath after removing the starter? Can I unhook the lines after I drop it down off the frame/member (because there isn't much clearance to loosen up the fittings first and I'm hoping it will drop enough for me to get a flare wrench in there to loosen them). Any other advice? I have the other tools I'll need such as a pitman puller. I'm hoping the roll pin for the intermediate shaft doesn't give me much trouble. And I already know the procedure to get the air out after I install the new box. Just looking for any other gotchas or tips. Thanks!
 

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Update 2 (power steering box replacement on a '68 Dodge Charger):

I got the Lares unit from Advance. It's a decent reman with a very expensive core charge. It's a little better than the typical Cardone reman. It was ready to go except I had to transfer over my old return line regulator and fitting.

The old PS gear box was kinda hard to remove, but with patience and luck, we got it out. Here is a rundown of what we did...

The old pitman arm nut came right off with an impact gun. The pitman arm was easy to remove from the box with a puller. Then we swung it out of the way. Then we tapped out the roll pin from the steering shaft using a drift. Once it was mostly out, I used a long 1/4" bolt to push it all the way out. Then I used a pickle fork to pry the steering shaft rearward to separate it from the box. Then I went back topside to undo the fluid lines. This was the hardest part. The return line is a piece of cake. The pressure line was hard since there is very little room to get to the fitting. I thought I could leave the line connected and drop the box, then remove it on the floor. Nope. The line sticks up too high and catches on everything. After fighting with the flare fitting for a while, which was seized on to the brass fitting and the brass fitting was rounding over, I gave up. I ended up removing the two bolts that held the high pressure equalizer valve/block body to the box. Keep in mind that removing the equalizer valve body from the box will render the box useless without significant readjustment procedures. So only do this to a box that is going to be returned as a core.

Next I removed the 3 bolts holding the box to the frame. At this point, the box was free. I have a small Nippon-Denso mini-starter (from a Dodge Dakota V8 for example) on the car, and determined that it is small enough and DOES NOT need to be removed. But if you had the huge stock starter, it must be removed. I pushed the center/drag link rearward to make a big open space for the box to drop out. Now it was just a matter of wrestling it out. The dipstick kept getting in the way, so I removed it too (I was changing oil anyways while the car was up on the lift, so it was already drained). With the dipstick out, the center link pushed back, and the starter wires out of the way, finally the box dropped out. And that sucker is heavy, so have a friend help if needed.

Installation was essentially reverse of removal. Except one caveat. I did not remove the valve block from the new box for obvious reasons. And as mentioned, I had to transfer over the return fitting and assembly. The valve block made it a little tighter on installation, but it went in through the same space.

After the new box was in, and bolts hand-tight, I wrestled the steering shaft back on to the input shaft on the box. I was careful to line up the index spline. Then I used the pickle fork the opposite way and tapped the shaft back into place. I reattached the pitman arm and nut hand tight. The pitman arm has 4-index slots. So I just spun the steering shaft and counted the turns from lock to lock, then returned it to the center position, and reattached the pitman arm. Luckily the index splines lined up pretty well where it was supposed to. The old box was only off a little bit (or the new box is). So I will have to adjust the steering wheel since the tie rods are centered perfectly and have very little thread to move either way to correct the slight misalignment that I am seeing now.

Anyways, so next I went topside, threaded in the NEW brass flare fitting adapter into the pressure block, used a deep well socked on a 1/4" drive to snug it down tight. Next I reattached the pressure line. This would have been impossible without a set of those offset wrench heads that attach to a 3/8" ratchet drive. There is no room for a normal wrench with the exhaust manifold still on the car. So with that special "socket/wrench" on my ratchet, I snugged down the flared pressure fitting. Then I attached the return line and tightened the clamp.

I double checked everything to make sure it all looked OK. Then I filled the reservoir with new PS fluid. I gently worked the steering wheel from lock-to-lock with the wheels off the ground to bleed the air from the system, then re-checked for leaks. I also made sure that from lock-to-lock, the position of the steering wheel made sense (same number of turns each direction). All was well.

I went back underside, tightened everything up to spec, pounded the roll pin back in place on the steering shaft, torqued the pitman arm, etc. Oh, and I reinstalled the dipstick after a light smear of RTV on the end that slides into the block. I also readjusted starter wires and double checked the spark plug wires since some of those got disturbed.

Then I went back topside, did some more turns of the wheel -- lock to lock -- to bleed the system. After about 20 cycles, no more air bubbles appeared in the reservoir.

Next I went back under, changed the oil filter, and replaced the oil drain plug. This had nothing to do with the PS box replacement, I just did the oil change at the same time. And it was convenient to have an empty crankcase to remove the dipstick. After going topside again to refill the oil, I topped off the PS fluid, buttoned it all up and was ready to go.

So I proceeded to start the engine. I let it run for 10 seconds, shut it down and looked for leaks. No leaks. Good. I started the engine again, turned the steering wheel from lock to lock about 10 times, being sure to hold it at the lock for a moment each time. Then I shut it down again and looked for leaks. No leaks. No more bubbles. Good.

Lowered the car off the lift. Took it for a test drive up and down the driveway. No problems. The steering is a little stiffer than the old box, perhaps because the old box was worn out. The steering wheel does seem to center itself with more force now. That was a welcome surprise since I had really cranked up the caster during the last alignment to help with the tracking and it didn't help that much. I think this new box feels better, has less slop, and seems to track better.

Tomorrow I'll take it on a longer road test. But first I want to let the car sit overnight and check again for leaks in the morning. My old box used to leak like like crazy from all orifices after sitting overnight. This had better be a big improvement. I don't want to see anymore leaks.

Having the car on a lift made this job much easier. And I answered the question -- the power steering gear box can be removed from underneath. No need to remove the exhaust manifolds. In fact, it makes much more sense dropping it out from the bottom after seeing how big and heavy it is. I hope this post helps someone in the future change their PS gear box.

During the test drive in my driveway, the brake pedal felt mushy. A few pumps fixed the problem and it felt normal again. So I checked the brake fluid reservoir. One was low. I may have a wheel cylinder going bad in the rear. Gosh, the work never ends.........
 

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I've done this job twice. A firmed-up rebuild from Steer 'n Gear in Columbus and a u-joint coupler from Flaming River makes for a very effective steering system in these cars.
 
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