One day I was doing some R&D work on our WRX and noticed how sloppy the steering felt when the car was in the air. For whatever reason I was turning the steering wheel back and forth quickly and I could feel a strange rubbery feeling to it. This rubbery feeling drove me to look at the steering rack closer as well as all the mechanisms in the car. What I found was the steering dampener on the rod going from the firewall to steering rack. With the help of an employee doing the steering while I was under the car you could see this dampener squishing a bit and the wheel would go from left to right. After further testing, we found there was quite a bit of deflection when the wheels are locked down. Check out the image below and you can see how bad the steering rack universal joint dampener flexes!
It is pretty obvious that this is moving and deflecting but how does this translate to the driver while on the road? Imagine you turn the steering wheel and the wheels don’t actually turn. That is essentially what is happening here, but not quite as scary as that may have sounded. This dampener is in place to reduced feedback from things like ruts, bumps and vibrations that may translate form the road.
I had never noticed this part on my other cars partly because they were mostly STI’s. These cars do not have a dampener installed on the steering rack universal joint, they are just a straight rod. Obviously Subaru did this to give the driver better feedback, and make the car handle a little better. For this customer base, they wouldn’t mind that additional feel from the road, where WRX (and most all the other Subaru’s) are being sold to customers that are looking for something a little more subdued. The question becomes, does removing the dampener negatively effect anything? We will get to that in a bit.
Solution, OEM STI Universal Joint?
Why not just install the OEM STI part? First off, it costs more than $150, which is almost twice the price of the part we sell. Secondly the installation for this is not easy. You need to drop the steering rack, and make sure the steering wheel and rack stay aligned during installation. My guess is a shop would charge roughly 3 hours labor to install the OEM STI part. Our part installs in about 10 minutes on the 2015’s! Other cars take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on if you do it from the top (removing the intercooler) or from underneath the car. Between the price of the parts and installation, our part could save you almost $300!
How Does Our Part Feel Once Installed?
Things like ruts in the road, bumps, and other things are transmitted to the steering wheel, are numbed by the OEM dampener. Without the PERRIN Steering Dampener Lockdown in place, as you turn the steering wheel there is a delay when the actual wheels turn. Also just the opposite, as things push on your wheels trying to turn them, the dampener has to flex before transmitting that to the steering wheel. That means your car can steer it self in a direction you don’t want, while the dampener flexes.
Once Installed, the best way to describe it is there is more “feel” to the car. You will notice in situations like the middle of a corner, you might normally make tiny corrections to keep things pointed the right direction, or you don’t correct your steering and the car moves around a bit. With our steering rack lockdown installed, your car just goes where you tell it to. You may even notice how you are automatically correcting the wheel with ruts in the road as you can now feel them and let the steering wheel do it’s thing as you drive over them. It is hard feeling to describe but once you install them, you will quickly find out how much better the car feels. Personally, I don’t think any customer is going to complain about the added feeling.
How Does Our Part Work?
Instead of making a whole new joint, we created this part that simply locks out the rubber portions of the dampener. This does the same job as replacing the dampener with an STI part, but without all the labor and costs! You can see the before and after in the moving GIF above how it completely removes the flex from the dampener. Without even saying anymore, that picture should sell you on why you need this part! The picture below shows you how both halves comes together during the installation. This not only pulls the rubber pieces together, but also stops the upper portion from rocking back and forth. You can see this motion in the above moving picture.
What Cars Will This Fit?
After designing the part for the 2015 WRX, it was important to work backward with what else it will fit. Essentially every single Subaru model other than STI, has a dampener withing the steering rack universal joint. What we have found is that around 2005-ish, Subaru changed the part in a way that allows our part to fit. Using the picture below, you can see a gap through the side of it. The distance from the bottom of the archway, to the top of the flat surface must match this.
We created this diagram to help determine if it will work on their car, which helps us narrow down the specific models and years to exclude. Currently it’s the 2004-2006 cars that seem to randomly have different dampeners installed. Check out our website for the most up to date list. It is a giant list that grows every day! We would love to hear from everyone that installed this on cars other than the cars we have listed, so please feel free to email us and let us know!