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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Prior to doing my rack and pinion (R&P), I did a lot of looking for videos and information. There is a
and detailed information about the steps. Both sources explain the process well, but, depending on your model, you may have more steps to deal with. Start by educating yourself with the information at the hyperlinks above.

Unfortunately, the 2003 B5.5 V6 ATQ Passat automatic is one of those models that there are additional steps. I am posting this so others who are interested can forge ahead with a good understanding what is involved. Changing the rack and pinion (R&P) was a royal P.I.TA. Let me repeat – PAIN IN THE A…

Impediments: The 2003 Passat B5.5 v6 2.8 automatic has the catalytic converter on the driver’s side of the engine and an extra heat shield that covers the rack and pinion. You cannot access three critical R&P bolts easily on this model from below. This configuration makes the job significantly more complicated than the estimated 6 hours to change the R&P on other Passats.

Generally, you have to remove the forward pipe (catalytic converter) and bend a heat shield back to get access to three critical bolts on the R&P. So, be prepared to spend a lot of time on your car. I spent several days. You clearly want to take your time. Once you make it through this job, you'll understand why you don't want to have to do this job EVER again (if possible).

Assistance: To install and connect the three bottom bolts on the R&P, you will definitely need another set of hands. My son was around so I deputized him as my assistant to help me remove the old R&P and put the new R&P in. This R&P process alone, after everything else was removed, took several hours. The bottom three bolts on the R&P were clearly the most challenging to remove and install. Also, when removing the old R&P, take your time. The heater hoses go through the same channel which the R&P is in and you risk destroying those hoses if you are not careful.

Watch out: When I pulled my R&P out, I caught the one hose (heater hose in) and broke the plastic fitting on the back of the engine. Be careful – antifreeze will be all over!

To remove and replace the "in" heater hose on the back of the engine is difficult. You have very little room to work in. Both taking it out is challenging and putting it back in is too.
The fitting on the back of the engine connects in a very specific way. There are two little guides in the fitting that assure you are putting it in correctly. When it is installed, you will hear a click as the spring locks it into place. This is important as there is an o-ring to seal the connection. If you don’t do it right, you will have an antifreeze leak.

Remember, you are trying to stop the R&P leak; you don’t want replace it with an antifreeze leak when you are done!

Challenges with the R&P: The lower bolts on the R&P are the high pressure in (19mm) and the low pressure out (22mm) plus the lower bolt (10mm) that holds the Rack and Pinion up to the chamber from below. Even when you finally get access to the lower R&P bolts, the access is limited.

Because the low pressure (22mm) and high pressure (19mm) banjo bolts have a washer on the top and bottom of them, you have to balance the top washer on the hose fitting while you snake a ratchet with multiple extensions on it from below. Also, on the top of the extensions you need to have a swivel because it is not a straight shot. After all that, you need to get the threading started with the bolts.

Put a rag underneath the Banjo fittings you are connecting because the “balancing” washer will fall off multiple times while you attempt to connect the fittings. I lost one washer that fell and got stuck in some unknown place. It was a Sunday, so I had to wait a day to get a new washer! Don’t let this be you.

Preliminary challenges:
Just to get to the point where you are working on the R&P, you have to remove the driver’s side front exhaust pipe to get to the R&P from below. Next, you will have to move the “extra” heat shield out of the way. I bent mine down to give me visibility to the R&P bolts. Then, I bent it back up and secured it after the R&P was in.

In general, the catalytic converter is too big to make it through the hole to pull the pipe out from below. There are a number of steps you have to do to remove the pipe. To get it out, you have to increase the size of the hole by tilting the engine back. You are basically letting the back part of the engine drop by 4 to 5 inches. Once that is done, you can remove the front driver's side pipe that contains the catalytic converter (the passenger side doesn’t need removed!) BE CAREFUL AND TAKE YOUR TIME. You can seriously hurt yourself if you are not careful.

You must remove both CV joints from the transmission. This is done so the engine can tilt back.
1. Loosen the wheel lugs before jacking the car up.
2. Jack the car up and remove the front wheels.
3. Remove the shields above each CV joint. There are three bolts on each side’s shield. I believe they are a 6mm hollow key.
4. Disconnect the 6 bolts connecting the CV joint to the transmission using a 12 point triple square bit.
5. Move the inner CV joint forward away from the transmission connection.

To tilt the engine back and remove the exhaust pipe. You must drop the engine back by 4 to 5 inches, there are a number of steps.

1. Put the engine in service position (You may need to look this up. It is a process in itself!). This is done so you can move the front snub engine mount out of the way. This mount is right on the front of the engine at the bottom. The snub mount works in tandem with the two side engine mounts to keep the engine stable when you’re accelerating.​

Without putting the car in service position, you will destroy the mount and allow the engine to shift during accelerations. I replaced mine months ago because the noise I was hearing. If it is needs replaced anyway, now is the time to do it. It is cheap and replacing it makes sense when you have to put the car in service position. Even with two side engine mounts in good shape, without the snub mount intact you will have acceleration noises as the engine shifts and the pressure will eventually destroy your side engine mounts.

You just have to make certain the front of the car (in service position) is moved far enough forward to assure the snub mount clears the frame hole it is in. You don’t need to disconnect the A/C or the radiator. A little bit of space is all that is needed.

Remember we are trying to fix the car and trying to avoid going backward by creating new problems!​

2. Jack the car up as high as you safely can. The reason is that you will need the angle to get the pipe out of the hole. If it is too low an angle, you will not be able to pull the pipe out (I am assuming you aren’t using a rack and are doing it on a floor with floor jacks). When pulling the pipe out, you have a flexible joint, but that is not to be flexed more than 10 degrees. You don’t want to destroy the pipe. It is expensive! The pipe will have to be twisted at different angles to get it out, but it will come out.

I put jack stands under the frame right behind the triangular silver plate (one on each side) that connects the frame to the subframe (containing the engine). You want to be right behind the plate. This assures the weight of the car is toward the back of the car. It is like a teeter totter. Because I was not comfortable with the weight distribution, I put two other jack stands up under the front wheels for safety. I want to fix my car – not die! Be careful.​

3. Disconnect the nuts on the side engine mounts (beneath) near the front of the engine. There is one nut on each. When you tip the engine back, you risk destroying these engine mounts if they are bolted tightly in place. I wouldn’t expect the side engine mounts to bend too far. You will need to tip the engine back without damaging them.​

4. Disconnect the transmission mounts. There is one mount on each side of the transmission. Each one is held on by two bolts. I think they are 13 mm. There is one bolt in the middle of the mount. You don’t have to disconnect this bolt. Removing the two 13mm bolts should allow the engine to tilt without damaging the mounts.​

5. Disconnect both exhaust sleeves. These sleeves are about three inches long and connect the front pipe to the rear pipe. There is a clamp at each end.​

Make sure you have muffler paste when you reinstall them. When I originally did both my front exhaust pipes, I found reinstallation of these short connectors to be problematic. I was not able to get a perfect seal so I “cheated” with muffler paste to fill the small leaks. I fiddled around with it for hours till I made the executive decision to not be “perfect” and use paste.​

6. On the divers side pipe there is an exhaust hanger connecting the pipe to the transmission. Remove it. You don’t have to remove the passenger’s side pipe hanger since you don’t have to take that out (THANK GOD).​

7. Remove the forward oxygen (O2) sensor from the driver’s side catalytic converter. I disconnected the O2 wire from the connector. When the O2 sensor is removed, the wires will twist. Using a O2 sensor socket, turn it ¾ turn, remove the socket, untwist the wires, turn it another ¾ turn, remove the socket, untwist the wires, …. Repeat until the O2 sensor can be removed. By doing it this way you avoid the risk of breaking the wires.

8. Remove the downstream driver’s side O2 sensor.​

9. Disconnect the pipe from the exhaust manifold. The bottom two bolts are not too difficult to take off, but the top one requires you to squeeze your hand between the firewall and the engine to loosen it.

I would suggest a very long necked box wrench (13mm). It is very hard with a stubby wrench (no leverage) or the standard box wrench (hard to turn in a tight space). The long wrench also helps when you re-secure the pipe to the manifold. Without the top nut being tight you will have an exhaust leak.​

10. Put a board on your floor jack. This should be a 2 by 6 that is a little wider than your transmission from side to side. I made my board longer so I could put jack stands under it for support it on each side. You don’t want to rely on a hydraulic jack by itself!

Slide your floor jack under the car from the front and place it under the transmission near the back of the transmission. Don’t forget to have the wood on top of the jack to protect your transmission. Pump up your jack till the wood connects with the transmission and then give it one slight pump more to take some of the weight of the transmission.​

I put jack stands under each side of the board that is on top of the jack for safety. These stands were set so they were 4 inches below the board. Remember, you will have to let the engine drop and tilt back. Make sure you are safe!​

11. You next want to remove the two triangular plates on each side of the car (underneath). These plates are silver in color and have three bolts on each one. The two bolts near the rear of the car are 13 mm and the bolt near the front is a 17mm bolt.​

Take a second to assure the floor jack is still holding some of the transmission weight.

Remove the 13mm bolts. Then, remove the 17 mm bolts. The 17 mm bolts are key to holding the frame and subframe together. The 17 mm bolts hold the majority of the weight. Once the 17 mm bolts are taken out and the plate is removed, you can SLOWLY let the floor jack down enough to tilt the engine back and drop it 4 to 5 inches.

Make sure the board sill connects with the transmission at the lowest point to assure you have taken undue pressure off the engine and transmission! ALSO, make sure the hydraulic jack is LOCKED! I moved jack stands around, just for safety!​

12. The hole where the front pipe goes through should now be big enough to pull the pipe through. Remember, this hole was too small to pull the catalytic converter through until you lowered the engine. You have to twist and turn the pipe around to get it out, but be careful not to bend it too much. The flex joint can only take 10 degrees of movement.​

13. Once the pipe is out, you have to move the heat shield out of the way. There is a small tin nut holding it in place. Once the nut is removed, get something to bend it down, so you can see the three bolts on the R&P.

14. At this point, you can go back to the hyperlinked instructions from above (second sentence in this post). You will now have access to remove and replace the R&P.​

Other cautions:

Use a torque wrench to tighten the R&P high pressure and low pressure hoses to the EXACT spec. Be careful, you want to seal the connection, but you don’t want to strip it. Again, be careful. You don’t want to ever have to do this again!

Use the specific power steering fluid recommended by the manufacturer. I got mine from Blauparts. With all the research I did, I found that power steering fluids are very different in many cases! It is not like brake fluid and you just get the right DOT fluid. I believe using a generic power steering fluid caused the leak in the first place. Please don’t make this error!

Finally, make sure you flush out your power steering system BEFORE installing your new R&P. If you had contamination in the system that caused the leak in the first place, you don’t want it happening with your new R&P!

I hope these directions will be helpful for those owners who have this unique situation. It is quite a “detour” you have to make with this model.

Good luck!

7,975 Posts
Excellent info :thumbup:

The steering rack is definitely on the top 10 list of worst jobs to perform on our cars. I've replaced 3 steering racks so far and (very) fortunately for me, the engine needed to be pulled for other major work and then it was easy peasy.
Honestly, I don't know if I would even mess around with a steering rack with the engine installed. I would probably find some feeble reason to pull the engine and just take it from there. Oh, and there are a few other members in this forum that can vouch for that last statement about pulling engines. ;)
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