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Discussion Starter #1
I have been working too slowly on my 96 Caprice. I have had it inside one of those portable garages since last November - so for 1 whole stinking year - I have been removing and replacing the radiator core support, both fenders, the radiator, the hoses, the water pump, the plugs & wires, the coil, the ignition module and trying to reassemble it all and searching for bolts and clips, etc. Ugh!

Well today I finally got the hood back on and lined up and I started the car for the first time since last November! Anyway, the car was running for a few minutes and I was checking all radiator connections, hoses, oil cooler and tranny cooler lines and then WHAM! I either blew a line at the steering box or some seal in the box itself has blown. Fluid went everywhere and the power steering reservoir emptied - quickly!

I'm hoping that the pressure line or the return line at the top of the steering box is what blew out. However, is it possible that some seal on the steering box itself could have blown? I've never had something like that happen to me before so I figured that I would ask.

I ran out of daylight and it has been raining all weekend here so I have packed it in for now. The car is a 1996 Caprice Classic Sedan with the power steering cooler line. Both the high pressure and the return lines have been replaced once already on this 21 year old car. I forget when but I might guess that these lines are 10 years old. It has 139,918 miles on it. It's a Pittsburgh, PA car so it has seen it's share of winters and road salt.

Any help or suggestions are welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Fluid Spray Pattern

The fluid was all over the inside of the driver's side front tire and the outward side of the frame. There was also power steering fluid dripping from the inside surface of the front bumper cover. I'm guessing that I'm looking for the high pressure line going into the top of the gearbox because I find it hard to believe that a ruptured seal would put out that much fluid.
 

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I'm with you on the line blowing rather than a steering box seal
which would just be a drip leak.

Nab
 

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OP

after sitting for a year maybe the high pressure line or box got clogged and with PS pump running fluid had nowhere to go....then boom.

On close inspection of the lines at steering box you should be able to see WTF happened.

PS fluid is like acid on paint so clean up any areas ASAP
 

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I never had this leak problem but in the past a few owners did have the PS line rust out that runs from the box to the pump next to the radiator ..........
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the information. I have to start removing things so that I see the top of the steering gearbox to see what the two lines look like that thread in there. With the amount of fluid that "escaped" as quickly as it did, a line had to blow - I hope. I do not want to have to try to remove the gear box.

I've wiped up all of the dripping as best as I could. I don't think that any exterior painted surfaces got sprayed. We'll see.

I'm now in the wrong season for working on a car. Losing daylight and falling temperatures are my enemy.
 

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It's actually brake fluid that will eat paint off, not PS fluid
which is just hydraulic oil (not acidic) similar to trans fluid.
So no need to worry about that.

Nab
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Update on Power Steering Leak

It appeared that the high pressure line had enough rust just above the the fitting screwed into the gear box that it blew under the pressure of trying to turn the wheels after sitting unused for 1 year. I replaced both the high pressure line and the return line. I had to wait for the lines to arrive. No one near me had them in stock so I ordered them from Advance Auto Parts and they were delivered to my house.

I forget when the lines arrived and I started putting them in. Fast forward to the weekend before Thanksgiving through Sunday Nov. 26. I got the system all back together and jacked the car up to get the wheels off the ground to start the long task of bleeding the air out. Well, I would guess that between me and my wife, we have turned the steering wheel a few hundred times and I still am hearing sloshing/gurgling noises and the reservoir has bubbles. There are no fluid drips, spray, or running out of any of the fittings. I've rechecked the fittings and they are all threaded nicely and they are tight. I don't think that any of the 3 threaded fittings are cross-threaded. The hose clamps on the two lines at the reservoir are nice and tight.

I replaced the power steering pump in August 2011 and the system was working great after that so bleeding the air out of the system is not new to me. The pump replacement did not take this many turns of the steering to chase the air out.

So, where is the air coming from? Fred Kiehl (sorry Fred if I spelled your name wrong) suggested that I make sure that I put the pressure line in the correct location. The car is not at my house, it's at my parent's house because I don't have the room for a "disabled" car to sit for 1 year. I'm scratching my head on mixing up the location of the lines. I just finished checking the FSM and the high pressure line threads into the port toward the front of the gear box and the return line threads into the port at the back of the gear box. I can't visualize which line is threaded in where. I have the return line with the power steering cooler so that isn't easy to mix up with the high pressure line. Not sure if the threaded fittings are the same size. The hex heads are different. I can say for 100% certainty that I have the fitting that takes the 18MM wrench at the front port and the fitting that takes a ¾ inch/19MM wrench at the rear port. These are etched into my head because of reaching through the driver's side wheel well to get the wrenches on the fittings to break them loose on Sunday afternoon.

Oh and for one more detail, the level in the reservoir has not changed. It's been sitting at "full cold" this entire time.

Since the pump ran for 1 or 2 minutes while the system was evacuated at the leak point, I hope that the pump is not damaged.

According to the FSM, down inside each threaded port in the gear box is a check valve. Since I see no fluid leaks but hear sloshing and gurgling, if the lines are in the correct locations, I'm wondering if one or both of the check valves are shot?

Any help is, as always, appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Pet Peeve

Sorry - this is a minor rant. Why doesn't the FSM tell you what size wrench or socket to use to remove/install something? It would make life so much easier!!!
 

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when you do the PS fluid install wheels off the ground you fill the res start engine then check the level continue to add do not turn wheel.. when its full turn wheel very slow and just a little .. what happens is air bubbles will be created if you turn wheel to fast or too much ... slow and easy .. bubbles will take some time to blow off..

shutdown the engine let it settle for an hour or so..
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Let me read the factory service manual over again. In the meantime, here is what I did.

The steering wheel was turned SLOWLY from the left stop to the right stop about 40 times because of the power steering cooler with the engine OFF. I started with the reservoir fluid level at "full cold". Watching for bubbles the entire time and checkin the level.

I stopped for a wile to let the system rest. I started with the steering turned all the way to the left stop turning slowly to the right stop another 20 times. Bubbles - massive bubbles each time the steering went to the left stop.

As I said, we must have done this one 4 different days for a "total" of a few hundred turns with the engine turned off.

I do not want to ruin the pump. I'll read the procedure over again but I was sure that you are not supposed to start the car and let the pump run if you are seeing any bubbles with the engine turned off.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Factory Service Manual Bleeding Air from PS System

If you have a copy of the FSM, go to page 3B-5. The entire page is Figure 3 - Bleeding Air from Power Steering System.

This is a 12 step procedure. Step 1 says "Switch Ignition Off" Step 2 says "Raise front wheels off ground". Step 3 says "Turn steering wheel full left". Step 4 says "Fill fluid reservoir to FULL COLD level leave cap off". Step 5 says "Turn steering wheel lock to lock AT LEAST 40 times if you have a fluid cooler line. This is all done with the engine off. In Step 6 it says "No Bubbles Are Allowed". "For any sign of bubbles, recheck connections and repeat Step 5. So, no engine running, if you see bubbles, you go back to step 5 and turn the wheel 40+ times. Right now, I am stuck in an endless loop of Step 5 and Step 6.

If I ever get 40 turns without any bubbles, then I can start the engine, with the cap on the reservoir, lower the car, let it run for 2 minutes, with the car running and the wheels on the ground, you are to turn the wheel in both directions. The operation needs to be smooth, noiseless, no leaks, no bubbles, no foam, no discoloration.

Step 12 says that if any problem remains, go to "special conditions". According to the "fluid" special condition, in this order, it says to replace and check:

Return hose clamp
Return hose O-ring
Pressure hose O-ring
Gear cylinder line O-rings

Refill the system with each item checked and repeat Steps 7 through 10.

So, I think that the hose clamp on the new return line at the reservoir is tight. I can't move the line with the clamp in-place. I guess that I need to make sure that the lines are in the correct locations and then remove the lines in the order from the manual. The gear cylinder line o-rings to me means that the gear box needs to be replaced.
 
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