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Power Steering Cooler - Junkyard Builder

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There is a wealth of budget-based components sitting in your local recycling yard just waiting for you to come and rescue them from the crusher. On Pro Touring cars that have taken up the challenge of the increasingly popular track days and tight-turn autocross events, these competitions also put lots of heat into power steering systems. Twice we’ve seen Saginaw GM power steering pump towers actually fall off due to the deadly combination of killer heat and vibration at Pro Touring events. So if heat is the big culprit, how ’bout trimming those temps with an inexpensive power steering cooler? We were cruising the boneyard awhile back when we noticed a power steering cooler languishing on a fullsize Ford that looked like it would work on our road racer Chevelle.

We’ve seen lots of factory heat sinks (power steering cooler) on taxis and police cruisers, so those cars would make great ground zero starting places. Our buddy Bill Irwin bought an interesting power steering cooler on eBay for $25.00 that was factory on an ’01 LS1 Camaro. The cooler is different because instead of resorting to the typical air-to-oil cooler, GM engineers created a more efficient design using engine coolant. Using a large, aluminum housing placed in the upper radiator hose, the heat exchanger routes engine coolant around cooling tubes inside the housing to manage the power steering fluid temperature.

We talked with Tom Lee of Lee Manufacturing who builds racing power steering boxes, and pumps and he prefers the fluid temperature at 180 degrees F, but he also says anything below 250 degrees F is acceptable. What will kill pumps is temperatures exceeding 300 degrees F. Another idea that helps control temperature is to replace the late-model, plastic power steering pump reservoirs with a remote reservoir. Remote reservoirs help reduce heat by reducing the aeration in the oil. We’ve also considered the idea of converting engine radiator automatic transmission cooler fittings to cool the power steering fluid.

Lee has lots of experience with coolers and claims that because of the severe pressure fluctuations in a power steering system the old tube-and-fin coolers do a much better job of controlling inherent vibrations compared with the flat, segmented coolers. Lee says the segmented units are more thermally efficient but tend to be susceptible to vibration. He says that return side pressures are usually around 100 psi, but when the system is cold, it can spike to more than 200 psi for a few moments. As far as fluid is concerned, he prefers using a mineral-based oil. So now that we’ve given you a few ideas, go searching through the junkyard and see what you can turn up.

SOURCES
Lee Manufacturing
11661 Pendleton St.
Sun Valley
CA  91352
818-768-2687
http://www.lee-powersteering.com
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