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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I did not see this anywhere specific to 2nd gen firebirds, so I wanted to share my experience. I decided to upgrade my steering gear to go for a tighter feel and quicker ratio by swapping in a 3rd gen box.
  • The steering gear I obtained was from a 1990 firebird with the FE2 package. The cap on the steering gear was stamped with "XH" in black ink. Barely visible, had to get it under some good lighting.
  • This steering gear only has 64 degrees of travel. The pitman arm from the '90 appeared to be the same length as my '72 arm, difference was that it was straight and not bent. However, my curb to curb turning diameter is now about 43-44 ft, which is too wide. Honestly, it hasn't been too bad as I've still been able to navigate smaller parking lots, but this would not do well in a city or with parallel parking. I don't know what's different about the geometry of the '90 steering linkage to get a better turning radius.
  • If you want to replace the teflon seals on the rack piston inside the steering gear, you will need a ring compressor. I skipped this since the internal seals looked ok on my box.
  • I made sure to grab the pump from the '90 so that I could pull out the flow control spring, control valve assembly, seal o-ring, and connector fitting. This went into the pump on the '72 no problem.
  • I was able to use the stock high pressure hose with the new metric fittings along with Borgeson 95122 o-ring to flare inserts. These are a soft brass, so there is not need to use o-rings. The SAE fittings on the hoses threaded right into the metric fittings on the pump and the steering gear no problem. No leaks so far either. The Borgeson set also comes with an insert for the return line on the steering gear as well.
  • I used the Lares 200 rag joint. Right number of splines and right diameter for the steering shaft.
I'm very happy with the feel of the car after the swap, much easier to tell where it is pointed and the steering wheel provides much more feedback from the road. Obviously the big issue is the wide turning radius. Plan is at some point to open back up the XH steering gear and the old re-manufacted gear originally on the car and maybe swap some parts in to adjust the stops. I haven't found much good information on how the stops work inside the steering gear, but I think the cap acts as one of the stops. Unsure if material needs to be removed from the cap or the rack piston. Also unsure about how much extra I can get without all of the ball bearings falling out.

Other option would be swapping out the pitman arm for something longer, but this seems like a bad idea that's only going to cause problems elsewhere in the steering linkage or interfere with something else under the engine.
 

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I have a 3rd gen f body. While it doesn't have the quick ratio steering gear, it does turn the wheels the proper distance in both directions.

I feel there's something wrong with your steering gear. Since you disassembled the it, I believe you must have adjusted something incorrectly. Or put parts in incorrectly.

Last I saw National Parts depot (NPD) sells 3rd gen quick ratio gearboxes. These are professorially rebuilt & come with a warranty.

If you don't have an exploded view of steering gear, go to following link and download the 85 firebird service manual. www.mediafire.com/?40mfgeoe4ctti

There's also an 88 firebird service manual floating around the web, for download
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I did find this article which lists the limited travel of the XH stamped steering gear. F-bodies appear to only need 64-70 degrees of travel and 87 degrees is reserved for larger cars and trucks. I get almost 2-1/2 turns lock to lock on the steering wheel.

Steering Box Upgrade - Car Craft Magazine

My turn radius is the same in both directions, which makes me think the box is right. But it is absolutely worth taking apart and checking it again. I do already have an exploded view. I'm not sure if there are any adjustments internally that would affect the travel.

It does seem odd that the 3rd gens would be fine and the 2nd gens would not be with the same gear and pitman arm length. The big question is do the 2nd gens use the full 87 degrees of travel. Wondering now if something is funky with my steering linkage or there is a mechanical stop somewhere. Since I'm working toward getting an alignment, I plan on replacing the steering linkage anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just a follow up to anyone who finds this thread in the future:

I ended up swapping my steering linkage to the 2nd gen Camaro linkage after some further research. I used Proforged parts, which would be kit 116-10014 and pitman arm 103-10051. The kit included inner and out tie rods, center link, idler arm, and sleeves. Curb turning diameter is now about 36 ft which feels much better after the swap. I would definitely recommend this swap. It is relatively straightforward if you don't need to crack open the steering gear, just unbolting some parts and bolting them back on, nothing too crazy.

Everything fit without much issue. The back end of the inner tie rods get pretty close to the crossmember under the engine. For some reason on my car it is much closer on the driver's side, maybe something will come up when I go get an alignment. The stock fuel pump would have definitely been in the way so if you plan on doing this swap, you definitely need a shorter fuel pump if you still have the stock one installed. Lucky for me a previous owner had already swapped out the pump.

The tie rods could not be set to the same length as the old ones due to the different steering geometry. I kept the wheels on the ground during the swap to get the lengths as close as I could, but due to the driver's side being such a tight fit, I did have to lift the wheels off the ground and turn the wheel to give me some more space to get the tie rod into the center link.

Attached are pictures of the fuel pump/center link/pitman arm location, tie rod clearance to the crossmember, and the three pitman arms I have. The 2nd Gen Camaro arm is the longest, the '90 Firebird arm is just a little shorter and much taller, and the '72 Firebird is significantly shorter and has a small bend.
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Thanks for following up with what you did and how it turned out!

Wish everyone would do this, but unfortunately we are left hanging in many cases.
 
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