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Conversion form Power Steering to Manual Steering

In a thread about power steering issues, @Rod_Knox wrote the following in response to discussion about driving a car whose power steering has failed:

Rather than hijack that thread, I thought I’d start another discussion about my problem.

My PS pump is leaking, and because I don’t drive the car often anymore, and because it’s 19 years old, I’ve been topping it off and using an oil pan to keep it from leaving an oil spot on my driveway. When I bought the car 18 years ago, I would have opted for manual steering if it had been available. Manual steering is a good upper body workout and I like to keep things as simple as possible (which is why it’s a stick shift with roll-down windows).

I’ve considered having manual steering installed, replacing the current system, but is that even necessary? Would that be any better than draining the system and disconnecting the hoses?

I went through this many years ago. Everyone told me the box designed to be manual would be easier to turn than a disabled power unit. I never found out because I just drove the disabled version for years without any incident. I had (and still do) a manual steering big block vette and so was used to wrestling a car with heavy front end and manual steering. But those were gear boxes not rack and pinion units…

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You have a couple of issues here. The steering ratio (say roughly 16:1) for your power rack and pinion is quite low - lower than a manual r&p would be, say 22:1. The higher ratio on the manual r&p allows you to park more easily and make emergency maneuvers with less effort - yeah, it is slower, but lighter.

IF a manual rack is available for your Civic, I’d bet the ratio is quite a bit higher than the power rack. Big IF, if a manual rack is not available for your car to just be swapped in, what are you going to do? Have a custom rack made up? Not likely.

You can run a manual rack without a working pump. As long as the power steering pump’s bearings are OK, I’d disassemble the pump and remove the internal vanes that pump the fluid. Add some fresh fluid and go. I did this on a race car once as a way to improve power to the wheels - I changed it back!. You may find the steering heavier than you’d like. I did.


. Manual steering racks are available for your Civic but is a pain to replace.

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That’s good news. That means if the experiment fails, I can use the manual rack as a fallback plan.

I clicked on the rockauto link but could not see the price for the rack. Bet the rack is as expensive if not quite a bit mote than replacing the pump.

I too didn’t see a price, but when I did my own search, I found a manual rack for about $125.

You’re right that a new pump would be considerably cheaper, but a vehicle of this vintage might have a leaky original rack and pinion as well, and if it’s not leaking now, it will soon. I’d rather install a manual rack than have to replace both the pump and the rack ($125 for a manual rack beats $50 for a new pump + $140-$170 for a PS rack and pinion).

I should have probably mentioned this car has about 290,000 miles on it and the original steering system.

If your car has a dedicated belt for the power steering pump you can remove that belt, disconnect and drain the two hydraulic hoses at the rack and while disconnected steer full left to right several times them reconnect the hose to prevent water and trash from contaminating the rack and you will have manual steering.

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It does have dedicated belts. Thank you.

Good deal @Whitey. Post your results re difficulty steering.

This video might help you change your p/s rack into manual steering.

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My 72 ford pickup lost power steering, a bad high pressure hose, $450 repair, I drove it probably 20 years, you learn to ease it while you are moving, as long as you have that option. A bud has had a leak in PS fluid for a couple of years, came down to serpentine belt not moving, has to replace a cover, some lines etc. to the tune of $900. Now I spent $800 to get rusted out lines replaced, do not know if it was an assist, or complete loss of steering control.

I would think if it works without the assist you will be fine and more muscular as I was.


The hard to diagnose idle problem I was having on my '98 Civic finally got bad enough that I took it to a shop to get it fixed. I couldn’t find the thread where I first mentioned it, but ever since I got the head gasket done, the car was weak idling at startup when it sat for more than 8-10 hours. It would drive like it wasn’t getting fuel or spark, I’d pull over and sit, and the idle would dip down, rise up, and then normalize and everything would be fine until the next time I started the car.

My mother recently had a partial hip replacement, so I brought her to my house for three weeks of recuperation. For the four weeks between the surgery (plus one week in the hospital and rehab), my car basically sat for a month not being driven. I had a solar trickle charger hooked up, so the battery was fine.

When I went to start the car up after a month of sitting, it wouldn’t start. It would crank and crank, but in order to get it to start, I had to give it gas by pressing on the gas pedal. After that, it started fine, but the idle would constantly surge up and down. It drove fine under load, but idling was up and down when sitting still.

I dropped it off at my favorite shop yesterday, and while they were diagnosing the problem, I had them check the power steering leak. I decided that if it was just the PS pump, like I suspected, I’d let them fix it. It turns out both the rack and the PS pump are leaking, so I’m going to go with @Rod_Knox’s recommendation to convert to manual steering when the leaks get worse. In the meantime, I’m going to keep topping off the PS fluid.

It turns out the idling problem was caused by a faulty idle air control valve.

@Rod_Knox, you asked me to post the results when I follow your instructions. I’m not ready to do it yet, but I’m getting close. I’ll keep you posted.

The good news is the reason getting the car running right is so important is that I have a job interview 100 miles away from home on Monday, and I want to make sure I make it there on time. If I get the job, I can easily afford a new car. Now that I have the summer off from graduate school, and one class to go before I get my master’s degree, I’m focusing on advancing my career and going to a lot of job interviews, so I need my car to get me there. She’s less than 7,000 miles away from my 300,000 mile goal. That’s how long I’ve always planned to keep this car.



The car has made it to the 300,000 mile mark. Strangely, the power steering fluid leak has slowed down, and it happened when I started driving the car 1,100 miles a week about a month ago. I can’t believe at this mileage I’m still getting almost 35 MPG. Eat your heart out, @EllyEllis!

I’m thinking of ordering some PS fluid for Hondas with stop leak in it. In the local stores I can find PS fluid with stop leak, and I can find PS fluid for Hondas, but I can’t find both in the same bottle. Amazon carries it though, and I’m thinking of ordering it.

Well, at the 300,000 mile mark, a lot of maintenance is due, so I’m going to be busy this weekend changing all the fluids except the PS fluid. I want to get my money out of the last timing belt job I paid for, and the next one won’t be due until 360,000 miles.

(BTW, unlike the picture I took at 200,000 miles, I remembered to turn the engine off to take the picture so the CEL wouldn’t be in the pic again.) :wink:

Oh, and BTW, my local Firestone shop said they’re not willing to install a manual rack on my car. They refuse to install non-original equipment.

Given the experiences people I know have had had with car repairs at Firestone, having them refuse to work on your car is not a bad thing. Find an actual mechanic.

I’m very happy with the quality of work at my local Firestone shop. They’ve diagnosed several issues for me and done several repairs, and I’ve never had an issue with one of their repairs. In fact, they were able to diagnose some issues other shops were unable to resolve.

Glad you had a good experience with them. My son lived in a small town where the local Midas Muffler shop had a good reputation. Every generalization has exceptions.

Congrats on turning in a 300,000 mile odometer reading! And still a gas-miserly 35 mpg to boot. Good for you. Those Civics are reliable long lasting beasties. On eof my friends has a well used Civic. It has been stolen at least 5 times. Taken right from in front of their house. The objective seem to be to obtain a certain part, not the entire car. One time it was found parked on the side of the road w/o a starter. Another time w/o a cat.

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At one time many years ago Subarus were offered with manual steering or a power steering option.

The racks looked identical but as Mustangman mentions they have a different gear ratio. The manual racks were not difficult to steer at all and the disabled power racks were not that bad.

I wonder how in the world I ever managed to drive as many miles as I did in my old '68 Roadrunner with no power steering, no power brakes, no power anything, and no A/C in an OK and TX summer.
Young and stupid I guess…