Citroen Xsara Picasso and other similar cars (Berlingo etc) steering rack bellows (boot, gaiter) replacement.

ADVICE IS PROVIDED WITHOUT LEGAL LIABILITY - this is just how I did the job.

These photographs show a method of replacing the steering rack gaiter which is on the leftside (RHD cars) or the right side (LHD cars).

Apart from general garage tools, a long T55 Torx bit will be required, and also a special tool to remove the inner tie rod. An 18mm aviation ring spanner with a slight offset may be needed to remove the nut on the ram spigot bolt. Access is restricted and a normal offset ring spanner may have too much offset.

Apart from that you will just need time and patience! You do not need to drop the subframe, or drain the hydraulic oil.

The most difficult part of the job is getting the new gaiter onto the rack. This is not shown in the photos but is explained as follows - study all the photographs first!!

Work in a warm garage with a heater if possible to warm the steering rack yoke and the new gaiter (bellows). Wear thin protective gloves.

Oil the surfaces of the rack over which the gaiter should slip. Oil the inside of the gaiter.

COMPRESS the gaiter by hand to its smallest length and slip this whole length over the peg bolt. This is the essential first step.

Now for the difficult bit. You have to persuade the gaiter to 'turn the corner' around the body of the housing (yoke). Slide it, little by little, always pressing inwards towards the centre of the car, so it doesn't spring back. Yes it will work, you need patience, keep pushing it, make sure the extreme end of the gaiter does not 'turn inside' the bellows section or you will be trying to force a double thickness of plastic/rubber over the metal yoke!

You will need CAREFUL use of a 150mm long smooth tyre lever or a similar implement - a tool with no sharp edges on it.

Keep pressing inwards as you gently ease the gaiter over the yoke, bit by bit. This can take a few frustrating minutes. Keep trying to push the gaiter inwards, don't let it 'spring back out', or you will need to start again.

Once installed, check for splits and remove all traces of oil from the 40mm diameter surfaces that will contact the steel/alloy at either end of the gaiter. If these are left oiled, they may slip off the rack or yoke as the steering is turned. There is almost no lip at the yoke end. One everything is in place, secure with metal or plastic gaiter clips.

I used a Borg and Beck gaiter set - code BSG 3262 (about 20 via an eBay seller). Other expenses were the tie rod tool - about 10, again via eBay and a US PRO 18/19mm offset aviation ring spanner (again about 10).

On one side of the car, the rack gaiter is easy to remove and replace.

On the other side, it is difficult.

This shows the 'difficult' split gaiter - which will fail an MOT in the UK.

Above the gaiter is the hydraulic ram, protected by a plastic cover. Citroen do not supply spare plastic covers - so don't damage it!

The first stage is to loosen the wheels and jack the car up quite high using trolley jacks under the front sub-frame both sides of the car - and make sure it is VERY WELL secured both sides. Remove the wheels.

You will be killed if the car drops on top of you.

The method shown here utilises old steel wheels of 15" and 13" size - these fit snugly inside each other and form a very stable base for large blocks of wood placed under the front jacking points.

In my opinion, this method is safer than using tall axle stands - because these can topple sideways all too easily.

Remember - you will be killed if the car falls on top of you.

Turn the steering so that the gaiter shown is fully compressed (and the failed gaiter is fully extended).

To remove the hydraulic ram piston from the peg on the end of the rack, you need first to remove the long finely threaded T55 bolt on the other end of the ram - shown in this photo.

DO NOT loosen the two much smaller Torx screws that hold the metal plate in place. There are washers, seals and shims under this plate DO NOT DISTURB THEM !!

Once the T55 bolt has been removed, remove the 12mm washer that is between the plate and the ram body. This will give some extra lateral freedom of movement between the ram body and the plate.

Once the T55 bolt and its washer have been removed you can carefully lever the end of the ram off the spigot bolt near the failed gaiter. You must have the ram at full extension to do this - with the steering turned so that the components shown are as close to the edge of the car as possible. This will reduce the amount by which the the two small hydraulic pipes are bent.

The pipes are like brake pipes - they will tolerate a small amount of bending.

With the end of the ram levered off the spigot bolt, REPLACE the large T55 bolt - just loosely. Then push the end of the ram and the plastic cover away from the working area.

Obviously you need to remove the outer tie rod joint.

It is a good idea to support the ram along its length - here, a wedge of foam pipe insulation has been inserted between the ram and one of the larger hydraulic pipes.

This helps to guard against damage to the small hydraulic pipes.

The heat shield is still attached to the ram - there is no need to remove it - at least not on my petrol Xsara Picasso. On other models using a similar rack there may be even less room to work.

 

Once the old boot has been cut away (and do this very carefully to avoid damage to nearby components), you can see the exposed surface of the steering rack. This will have lines on it (shown green), these are merely from the serrated guide bush. The spaces allow air to travel from one end of the rack to the other, preventing the gaiters from bursting as the steering is turned!

There will be some white corrosion of the alloy casing of the steering rack (circled red) - and this must be removed so that the new gaiter can be secured onto a clean alloy surface. There is more of a lip on the alloy than there is on the steel yoke at the other end of the gaiter - hence the need to remove all oil before final assembly, as mentioned in the notes at the top of the page.

 

Once the old gaiter has been removed, the hydraulic ram end removed from the fixed bolt (peg), and pushed out of the way, the main part of the job can commence.

It is tempting to try and remove the spigot bolt (peg), but this is probably not a good idea. In any case IT WOULD NOT HELP in getting the new gaiter onto the rack. I don't know if the bolt is removable - it is probably very tightly secured into the yoke. If it shears off, you'll need a new steering rack - and the old one will not be accepted as an exchange unit. Therefore - leave this spigot bolt alone!

The troublesome P bush of these suspension systems is shown - these fail regularly, but quality replacements cost only about 10 each from GSF and are relatively easy to fit. eBay sellers will offer dubious makes for twice the price! MOT testers should allow quite a bit of cracking of these rubber bushes.

 

The small dust cover must be peeled back from the inner tie rod joint. As original fitment, these have an integral steel grab ring  fused to the end of the rubber, and this should if possible be prised off (without detaching it from the rubber as the cover is removed), so it can be reused.

Replacement covers are lower quality, they just have a rubber 'press fit' seal onto the smooth surface of the ball joint outer surface.

Here, the rubber was prised away from the grab ring, so (sadly) preventing any reuse of the original cover.

The white corrosion products must be removed from all around the end of the body of the steering rack. This is easily done by using a long length of emery cloth cut to the width of the groove.

The cloth is simply wrapped around and then pulled back and forth until no more white dust falls away from the area of the surface that cannot be seen. This part of the job takes about a minute!

The yoke end of the steering rack once the inner tie rod joint has been removed.

The splined bush of the steering rack can just be seen under the heat shield (which itself does not need to be removed, just moved a little out of the way).

A dab of paint on the inner surface of the tie rod will help confirm it has been tightened to the correct position, but in practice, one the joint has been tightened up, no further movement is possible - it simply locks solid - and Loctite should be used to help ensure that it never comes loose.

I used Loctite grade 262 (general purpose, medium strength). You must degrease the thread surfaces before using this product.

Loose steering tie rods are extremely dangerous!!

This tie rod removal tool was sold as a Nielson brand, via an eBay seller, but was a Chinese make.

It suits 33 to 42mm joints. Those on the Xsara Picasso are about 38mm diameter.

It worked very well, both for dismantling and reassembling. Just press it firmly towards the middle of the car before turning. Use a long extension and a breaker bar.

I believe the torque is about 45 ft-lb - don't overdo it or apparently you can bend and crack the alloy body of the rack.

This tool uses a 1/2" square drive.

The best design of ball joint remover - the splines on the rotating off-centre grab wheel extend almost to the edge of the tool, making it suitable for use with inner tie rods that have only a small length of straight surface on which the tool can grip.

If necessary the small bolt can be removed to allow the tool to press more squarely onto the joint that is to be gripped.

The small bolt just holds the tool together!

The distance between the two yellow lines should be as small as possible. On some tool designs, this distance is too large to work with joints that have only a short distance of parallel surface on which the tool can grip. The same tool is of course used to remove and retighten the rack ball joints.

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