by Eric Amador -

The conversion is relatively easy; maybe a 4-hour job if you go slow. The car’s steering benefits greatly from the change, in my opinion. There may be someone on the list, or a junkyard owner, who would gladly give you his or her manual rack in exchange for your power steering (PS) components. Also, I know of at least one junkyards (Sports Imports in LA’s San Fernando Valley) that has been known to offer you the manual rack in an even exchange for your power components, and to do the swap itself for maybe $50 more. Consult the Enthusiast’s Manual for photographs and to verify all details and ascertain all torque values, then note my warning at the end of this article. Here goes:

Put the front of the car up on ramps, not jackstands, to hold the wheels straight. Remove the PS fluid reservoir. It’s held on with a few 10-mm screws and you need to drain its contents by detaching the far end of its hose. Loosen and remove the PS belt by loosening the bolts securing the PS pump to its brackets and swinging the pump toward the engine. Disconnect the small electrical connector attached to the pump, that comes from the front of the engine’s head. Tie the now-dangling wire to the engine’s head with a tie wrap.

Remove the PS pump by removing its remaining mounting bolts. Drain any fluid as you disconnect it from the hoses that connect it to the PS rack. Remove the PS pump mounting bracket from the engine by removing its mounting screws. You must use a mallet and block of wood to slide the bracket’s mounting sleeve to one side (it moves in only one direction; I can’t remember which) to get at one of the mounting screws.

Disconnect and drain the metal PS fluid tubes that feed the rack. Carefully snake them from out of the car’s "mouth." Detach the steering tie rods. You have a choice here, between unscrewing each tie rod in the middle and removing it from the corresponding wheel hub. On one side I removed the cotter pin from the steering knuckle at the wheel hub, inverted the castellated nut, and beat the knuckle out of the hub with a hammer. On the other end I unscrewed the inner tie rod from the outer tie rod.

Remove the rack by removing its four mounting screws and loosening the attachment to the steering column, right above the universal joint. (BTW, you’re swapping U-joints so your manual rack’s U-joint will accompany the rack—this fact dispels the fatuous suggestion that your PS U-joint mightn’t be up to the job of turning a manual rack.) Note how the U-joint lines up with a white dot painted on the column. Wipe away any grease covering the white mark (this mark denotes "straight-ahead" on the steering wheel).

Install the manual rack, using new cotter pins to replace any pins that you removed, and doing your best to make the tie rods of equal length. Installing the manual rack entails simply screwing in all of five screws (the four mounting screws and the one on the steering column), in addition to installing the tie rod ends.

If you have air conditioning (AC), buy the OEM idler pulley and belt that Mazda sells (sorry, I don’t have the part number, but from Roebuck they used to run maybe $80) and install the new pulley’s bracket where the PS pump was. Place the new belt over the crank pulley, the AC compressor pulley, and the idler pulley, then put appropriate tension on the pulley (maybe " deflection).

Get the front end (toe-in/toe-out) aligned immediately. Your car won’t steer right until you do and it could be extremely dangerous to drive it in that condition. It will also wear the tires unevenly. You perform this job at your own risk.

Eric Amador

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26 September, 1999