SVX Power Steering Systems on Early Subarus Part 4:
There are two model-specific systems available on SVX vehicles:
• The engine speed sensitive, or conventional belt driven hydraulic pump and pinion type steering system is standard equipment on the SVX.
• An SVX equipped with the SVX Touring Package uses an optional vehicle speed-sensitive system. This system provides normal power assist at low vehicle speeds for reduced driver steering effort, and reduced steering assist at increased vehicle speeds for increased road feel and improved engine operating efficiency. Both systems have many similarities with the Legacy system.
Both systems share many similarities to existing Subaru steering systems. Both use a belt driven power steering pump, although the pump housings are different in appearance.
A conventional power assisted rack with the standard Subaru lines and hoses is used by the standard system.
An oil cooler pipe has been added to both SVX systems. It is located in front of the radiator on the return side of the system.
A steering shaft rubber coupler is used by both SVX systems to reduce road noise and vibration.
SVX Power Steering Pressure Switch
A power steering pressure switch is located on the outlet side of the pump. The switch monitors increased engine load during idle speed steering. The switch provides an input to the MPFI ECU, which prevents stalling by raising the engine idle speed. There is not an additional trouble code for the MPFI ECU.
The Cybrid Power Steering System was standard equipment on the XT6. It’s a computer controlled,
electric motor-driven hydraulic steering system, using a power-assisted rack and pinion assembly similar to the XT. This system provides improved steering feel and more precise power assist over a wider operating range. Fuel consumption is reduced because it requires less horsepower due to the electrically-driven hydraulic pump. The specific system used on the XT6 is quicker than other XT power steering systems, with just 3.2 turns lock-to-lock.
• The Motor and Pump assembly mounted on the front bulkhead (firewall).
• A Steering Sensor located inside the vehicle at the base of the steering column.
• A Signal Controller located in the left rear quarter panel.
• The Power Controller mounted on the front bulkhead (firewall) to the left of the Motor/Pump assembly.
The Motor/Pump assembly is similar to a starter motor, since it has an armature, fields, and brushes which are serviceable. The electric motor drives a pump which is very similar in design to an engine driven pump. This combination replaces the familiar belt driven P/S pump assembly. The Cybrid System requires special hydraulic fluid to retain stable viscosity during cold temperatures.
The Pump incorporates an electric heater to warm the hydraulic fluid in extremely cold operating conditions, improving the steering performance. A thermistor type switch located on a bracket above the Motor/Pump assembly, senses the underhood (ambient) temperature and sends an input to the Signal Controller.
The Heater operates for approximately five minutes after engine start-up. The Signal Controller grounds the heater relay, which passes battery voltage to the heater. The heater relay is located near the motor/ pump assembly.
Note: The Heater only works when the thermometer signals an extreme cold condition.
Subaru’s power steering system contains a pump, hydraulic line, and a gearbox (rack). The hydraulic pump is a vane-type pump driven by the engine. It provides pressurized fluid for the system.
Oil Pump Operation
The pump has two internal valves: a flow control valve and a relief valve. The flow control valve regulates the volume of power steering fluid delivered to the rack. During high engine rpm, the pressure in the pump overcomes the flow control valve spring. The control valve slides back to close off an oil passage to the rack and to open an oil return port to the pump inlet. This reduces the power assist to the rack during high speeds, improving the steering wheel feel and response.
Subaru steering systems utilize a rack and pinion steering mechanism. As the pinion gear rotates, the rack moves left or right. Rack and pinion steering gives the driver precise control over the wheels. The simple, compact design is easy to service.
CGR – VGR Ratios
Two manual steering racks are used in Subaru vehicles: a constant gear ratio (CGR) rack and a variable gear ratio (VGR) rack. The teeth on the CGR rack are equally spaced so the turning effort is equal throughout the turning range. The teeth on the VGR rack are spaced closer together on the ends of the rack than in the middle. The turning effort decreases as the turning angle increases so sharp-radius turns are easier to make.
Several different power steering racks have been installed in Subaru vehicles. The racks used in the L-series, XT, Legacy and SVX vehicles are similar. All have a one-piece gearbox and lack the external air vent distribution tube found on the rack in pre-’85 and carryover vehicles. However, the XT rack differs from the L-series rack in several ways.
The XT rack is made of aluminum and has a different control valve. Different types of hydraulic seals are used in the two racks, and each has its own unique special service tool. The power steering rack in the pre-’85 model year vehicles and the Brat has a two-piece gearbox and an air vent distribution tube. It also has seals, service procedures and special service tools that differ from the other racks.
Rigid Steering Column
Three types of steering columns are used in Subaru vehicles: a rigid steering column, a tilt steering column and the XT and SVX tilt and telescoping steering column. The rigid steering column is found on L-series DL models, the Legacy standard model, and Justy vehicles. The rigid steering shaft does not tilt or pop-up, but is collapsible (a safety feature). The shaft is connected to the gearbox by universal joints.
ATF Power Steering Fluid Replacement Subaru STi/WRX:
This is a step by step guide in replacing the ATF power steering fluid on your Subaru STi/WRX. This is pretty much a two person job unless you have a suction gun. I like to use Mobil 1 ATF Synthetic fluid.
6.) Place a oil pan under the power steering gear box (just above jack plate location).
7.) Using the pliers slide one of the clips off the rubber hose (pipe joint) on the power steering gear box. Fluid will drain out immediately, so have that pan already in place under the hose.
8.) Slowly pour in some ATF into the reservoir, while another person sits in the car and SLOWLY turns the steering wheels from lock to lock – perform this at least 3 times. Watch the fluid in the reservoir so that it doesn’t drain out, and watch under the car to see when the old fluid is flushed out. The OEM fluid was brown and I used Mobile 1 ATF Synthetic which was red, so I could see when all the old fluid was flushed.
9.) Re-attach rubber hose (pipe joint) and slide the clip back into place. Put jack plate back on and put plastic undercover back on.
10.) Pour in ATF to the MAX cold line on the reservoir and be ready to add more when the person turns the steering wheel.
11.) Slowly turn the steering wheel lock to lock (3x or more) and watch the reservoir until bubbles stop appearing. Add ATF as needed! DO NOT LET THE RESERVOIR GET TOO LOW!!! This will suck more air into the system.
12.) Start the car and Slowly turn the steering wheel lock to lock (3x or more) and watch the reservoir until bubbles stop appearing. Add ATF as needed.
13.) Lower car onto the ground. Slowly turn the steering wheel lock to lock (3x or more) and watch the reservoir until bubbles stop appearing. Add ATF as needed.
14.) “In case the following happens, leave it about a half an hour and then do” STEP 11 to STEP 13 again:
a. Fluid level changes over 3 mm (0.12 in)
b. Bubbles remain on the upper surface of the fluid
c. Grinding noise is generated from power steering pump.
15.) Replace power steering cap and reinstall the intake scoop.
Now enjoy your smoother steering with your brand new ATF on your Subaru WRX/STi!