Article Date: 28/07/17
If you've come across this page, you've most likely got a problem with the steering rack on your VAG based car and need to identify what generation of steering rack is fitted to your car. I'm sorry to say this, but generally you already know what's involved at this stage. Either your wiring is buggered (if you're lucky), or the sensor / controller has failed, in which case you need to replace the rack itself. This is because the sensors are built into the rack and aren't a serviceable component, so the dealerships replace the entire rack as part of their procedure with rack errors. Generally speaking if you're getting communication errors with the rack, the rack is most likely at fault. It's rarely the wiring. I am currently building a DIY Tester to diagnose racks further for my own projects so I can troubleshoot them for future use.
This is a picture below of the old rack that was removed from my own personal car, if you read below you can see what to check for to identify if you have a GEN1, GEN2 or GEN3 rack fitted to your car
The quickest way to identify what steering rack is fitted to your car is by calling your local VW, Seat, Audi, Skoda dealer and providing your VIN number to them. They will be able to look at the build data for your vehicle and inform you straight away what your steering rack generation is and the variant fitted to the car. There's no point doing all the work if you can get it from a phone call
If they're being awkward (which some of them are), then you can work out this information yourself, although it will require you to jack the car up and have a look underneath. I've compiled a list of the key factors you need to look for on the steering rack to identify which type it is. I will include pictures where relevant to identify what each feature is. The information below is not exact, as the 2004 is the changeover year, you can have either a GEN1 or GEN2 rack fitted to your car. The safest way is to ring the dealer, but the below are the features you need to look for if they're refusing to give you the information
The 4 questions listed below should help you quickly verify which steering rack you have without removing it from the car itself. Please note that this information has been compiled from online resources and the technical data from erWin, so it should be correct and enough to give you the information you require. Please note, where I don't have the information I just put ** No Info**. However I personally would imagine the data from the previous year or following year would be the same such as the bearing cover (most likely 2 bolts), as it doesn't make sense going from 4 bolts --> 2 bolts --> then back to 4 bolts for a new revision. Assuming a fault wasn't found, you can normally take the data from the information next to it
What year was the car built?
|GEN. 1||GEN. 2||GEN. 3|
How many bolts are on the bearing cover?(PICTURE)
|GEN. 1||GEN. 2||GEN. 3|
Does the steering rack have a subframe clamp? (U-Clamp)(PICTURE)
|GEN. 1||GEN. 2||GEN. 3|
How many bolts attach the steering rack to the subframe? (PICTURE)
|GEN. 1||GEN. 2||GEN. 3|
The best thing to do will be a scan of your car with the VCDS diagnostic program from Ross-Tech, this will highlight the error message causing the problem. Some of the common errors you will get have been listed below, different faults mean different solutions
If you go to VW, you can expect to pay in the region of £2000 for this work. Volkswagen's procedure with steering rack faults is to replace the rack itself, they only replace it with a Generation 3 rack too as they're less prone to faults. These are approximately the prices you will pay at VW for the work required. These prices EXCLUDE VAT @ 20%. The book time for this work in the dealership is 4 hours, which at my local dealer is £108 p/hr labour costs.
This puts the bill at £1572, add on 20% for VAT the bill would be approximately - £1886.40. The dealers may offer a good will gesture, but it will still be in the XXXX amount for this work alone, so I wouldn't expect much change from £2000. I personally argue that the steering rack should last the life time of the car (or in the very least the sensors should be classed as service) items which are inspected by VW and replaced within a certain interval period (such as every 70k miles) or major service. They're clearly failing all the time on the Gen 1 version, so it means the dealers should honour these parts and either replace them or repair them free of charge as there is clearly an issue with them
Also, if your car has a Generation 1 steering rack, there may be additional components required as an extra cost because the subframes are different along with other components which are needed to convert the rack to a Gen 3
Did you know - The actual procedure by VW is that they "rebuild" your own rack to sell on at a later date. So there's a possibility the rack fitted to your car was already a rebuilt unit. If the units (sensors) or electronics keep failing, why are they reconditioning them. It's clearly not working. How can you tell it's rebuilt?
Well if you look at the rack, a reconditioned unit has an X on it (for exchange item), also look at the part number. The newest steering rack to date is the K variant. Older models were produced with years
One option to consider if your rack has failed on the car is to fit a second-hand, or reconditioned power steering racks.
A reconditioned power steering rack is the best option as all the components are rebuilt within factory spec and tolerances, but they cost a fraction of the price (most recon'd units are around £300) which saves a lot of money. You will be required to fit and replace the rack, which you can then take to the dealership and ask them to code it in for you (~£100) as it registers with main HQ on the rack fitted to the car.
I have provided a link below to an eBay Store which sell reconditioned racks in exchange for your old one which they will rebuild and sell again. This is cheaper than going to Volkswagen or dealerships because it gives you a "as new" rack for 1/3 of the price. The only additional costs then are fitting the rack to the car, and also coding it to the car. I used to have multiple links but found everyone was preferred the seller below
eBay Store (Lion-Automotive)
Alternatively you can purchase a rack from sites such as Car Parts 4 Less OR Euro Car Parts which are new racks as if you were buying them directly from the dealer. They are approximately 2/3 of the price of an original OEM part. Please note however, this relies on you knowing what generation rack is fitted to your car.
Please note, this guide isn't the exact procedure from start > finish. I have condensed it down for a couple of reasons
Also, if you aren't confident doing the work yourself, get a professional to do it. It's a complex job for the amateur home mechanic without the right tools or equipment
This guide is intended for amateur automotive experts, if you break your car. Your fault, not mine
When the car is powered up, IF it's successful the rack will be detected and, you will most likely need to carry out the stop limit adaptation with VCDS and clear the errors. The rack MAY need recoding, however some people have reported success that after carrying the out the stop limit adaptation and driving for a few hundred yards that the system fixed itself.
If you find the lights stay on after the stop limit adaptation drive the car in gear CAREFULLY and very slowly on the jacks, this will effectively fool the car into thinking your driving in a straight line, so it should go out quickly as you're only meant to drive a few hundred yards. IF, the lights don't go out, then stop the car and hook up VCDS. As long as you aren't getting any controller errors or errors relating to the rack sensor then you may be OK to get the car simply recoded at the dealership
If you replace the steering rack on your car, you will most likely need to reset the limits so the car knows the maximum for each steering wheel turn. I'm not going to bother explaining this because you can read the article on the Ross-Tech website who are the makers of VCDS (VAG-COM).
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