Mike900 – an Australian Viggen owner – is currently doing some upgrades to this Saab 9-3 Viggen and he’s invited us to join him on the ride.
Part 1 involved him getting all the bits together and fitting the new center armrest and billet aluminium oil cap.
Part 2 is a much more complex job – fitting a new steering rack clamp and brace. This magic bit of kit will eliminate most of the average 9-3 owner’s torque steer problems. If you’re curious, read on.
You can also see bigger and clearer photos at Mike’s Flickr account
DIY Part 2 – Steering rack clamp & brace
You can find a tonne of comments about the steering rack clamp and brace on the web. I’m willing to bet you that every one of those comments is positive, and I’ll tell you now that all the praise is justified. It is just the prettiest, simplest, most rewarding, most effective, most brilliant and wonderful piece of automotive engineering I think I’ll ever know…..EVER!
I am thrilled with the difference it has made, and I doubt the feeling will die down any time soon. I was a little worried going into this installation that I was going to be disappointed with the end results……. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’ll share some thoughts on the effect of this great part later on, but for now, let’s get to the installation.
Let me start off by stating anybody is capable of doing this installation, it was not without a few minor difficulties though. It will require some effort and patience, it can be fiddly and frustrating at times, but it is absolutely within the average non-mechanical persons’ capabilities. I am not a trained mechanic, it’s entirely possible that a Saab technician will point out my mistakes, but everything I have done was either from the printed instructions I received with the parts, or from the wonderful technical forums at www.saabscene.com and www.saabcentral.com.
The entire job took 2.5 hours from beginning to end, from the time I walked into the garage to when I took it out for a victory test drive. That time also included my stuffing up several times on a few steps, before working out how to make it work on the 3rd or 4th attempt. If you learn from my mistakes you could do this in half the time or less.
This is the location of the torque steer inducing monster deep within every Saab NG900 & 9-3 engine bay. Sadly, the loose grip of that little metal band with rubber lining allows the steering rack to slide horizontally left and right, while the squashy rubber lining permits flexing backward and forward, as well as upward and downward. This permits slight movements in the wheel angle causing sloppiness and torque steer:
Here’s what I’m installing in its place, blue bit is the clamp, long silver bit is the brace. The clamp will hold the steering rack firmly to there’s no sliding or flexing, while the brace adds further support by connecting the unit to the nearby wheel arch:
The clamp and brace came with instructions included which were good, but fairly concise. If you follow them like I did you’ll eventually get there….. so rather than bore you to tears with a step-by-step tutorial I’ll just summarise and point out the frustrating stuff, and the eventual solutions.
The first problem comes when they tell you to jack up the front of the car so both wheels are off the ground. This means you should use 2 jack stands, one on each side of the car after raising it. Both the Saab manual that came with the car, and the Haynes workshop manual I purchased, mention only one specific small location on each side of the car for ALL jacking & supporting……..but the thing is if you’ve just raised the car using that spot, the jack stand can’t go there at the same time because it is already occupied. Forums to the rescue, and after 20 mins searching I discover a spot which is safe for supporting the car’s weight. The spot is in between the jacking point and the front wheel well, and is pictured below:
The second problem is actually removing the old clamp once the bolts are undone. You see, Saab have conveniently placed obstacles in the way so you can’t pull the metal band off in a straight outward direction. The trick that eventually works is unhooking the bottom part off the threaded bolt, and then using some pliers to lift and turn the nose of the metal band (the middle bit with the hole) straight off the rubber and to the right. There is more space there and you can easily rotate the band and lift it out. The rubber part is very flexible and open at the back, so it was easily pulled straight off with some gentle twisting.
See the original clamp and obsticles below:
A third problem is installing the long backing plate of the new clamp, because once you squeeze it behind the long steering rack there is very little room behind there to manoeuvre it, so you can’t get it over the threaded bolt at the bottom. The successful way of doing it is to hook the backing plate over the bottom bolt first with the plate held horizontally, and then swing the loose end upward in an anti-clockwise direction into the final vertical position pictured below:
The top part goes on easily….. no fuss…. just tighten up the nut & bolt. The fancy nut goes on the bottom, and the brace will be fastened onto it in the next step:
Fourth and biggest problem….. Getting the brace into position.
The best way for me to describe this process is to compare it to those puzzle rings you can buy, the ones made of several pieces which intertwine like braids. If you’ve ever unravelled one of these rings, then you’ll understand the painful process of repeatedly trying to twist, turn, thread, and back track until eventually the whole thing just aligns perfectly and falls into place ,with you not entirely understanding exactly how you did it.
There is a simple trick to it though, which is revealed below. This picture shows the mass of obstacles you must overcome when placing the perfectly shaped brace into position. One end of the brace is bolted to the clamp. The other is bolted directly into the side wall of the engine bay, through the base of the mount holding up the ABS brake unit:
The trick was to think laterally, and I mean that quite literally. You need to go in through an opening in the arch behind the front wheel, and insert the brace from behind the mass of jumbled up tubing and bars. See picture below, plenty of room to easily reach in there and position it:
Then gently fasten all bolts, lower the car, and then tighten all bolts once the car is settled on the ground. Take the car for a test drive, and wonder how you ever lived without this upgrade. Many also suggest getting a wheel alignment done after installing the clamp and brace as you may have slightly altered the geometry by switching the parts. I don’t notice any major problems, but I’ll still be getting an alignment done ASAP as a precaution.
Oh, and for the grand finale, and I don’t believe there’s anything worse than this……
After the installation was done using the parts supplied I had two fastening nuts left over. Yes, I checked, re-checked, re-traced each step and I assure you, there is no point in the process where I could have possibly used these remaining parts. There is no mention anywhere in the instructions as to why these extra nuts are included, but I have to assume they are included to cover all scenarios….. as the kit is for all NG900 & 9-3 models over a wide range of years, body styles and updates.
About the driving experience, post-inatallation…..
I had read around the forums of how effective the clamp and brace were at reducing torque steer under hard acceleration, and it really, truly does reduce torque steer by a massive amount. You can plant you foot to the floor, and traction permitting, the steering wheel will stay close to dead straight. I’d say the problem is 90% fixed, an I’m hoping that the next 10% will be remedied by the new polyurethane bushes I’ll be installing on the inner and outer control arm points shortly.
What I did NOT expect, however, was the long list of additional benefits the clamp and brace has brought. When driving over undulating road surfaces, my local highway for example, I hardly need to make those little corrections to the steering wheel any more. When braking or accelerating mid-corner I don’t have to constantly adjust the steering angle, it stays right on track. Just sitting in your driveway, turning the steering wheel from side to side while the vehicle is stationary now feels like you’re operating a precision tool. It’s direct and tight. It’s as if the steering wheel had been roughly guessing or estimating where to place the driving wheels all this time, whereas now it has been granted the ability to accurately place the driving wheels at the exact angle you are specifying all the time, under all driving conditions. The rubbery turning feel and central dead-spot have gone…..and the list goes on.
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I’m trying to say here. You simply must buy this for your Saab NG900 or 9-3 if you don’t have one already. Yes, it’s that good. No, I’m not open to discussion about the matter. It’s brilliant… Go buy one, now!
I’m going to enjoy and evaluate my beautiful new handling car for another few days, and then the new Rear Anti-Roll Bar goes on.
I just love this car, even more than previously, if that’s even possible.