Every year when I go to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, I look for a new product I can incorporate into my builds, which is currently my daily driven 1962 Rambler station wagon. During an interview with the guys at Tuff Stuff Performance Accessories, I noticed a small steel filter. At first, I thought it was a fuel filter but upon further inspection (and a curious question), I found out it was a power steering filter.
“How interesting,” I said. “I never even thought about filtering my steering fluid.” As we discussed the applications and construction of the unit, I realized this is a must-need for my Rambler since it has a new issue that recently came to light.
The week before SEMA, my 57-year-old power steering high-pressure hose cracked in the Rambler and started to leak. I had to regularly fill up my steering pump for a couple of days because with the big show in Las Vegas looming, there was no time to fix.
A lot of different brands of steering fluid ended up going through my system, including some mystery steering fluid that I found in the back of my cabinet (hey, it’s my daily, and I needed to get to work). I was definitely feeling uneasy with the amount of gunk that was most likely going through my steering system.
Opening the system that much, I started noticing contaminants in the fluid. This could be detrimental to my steering system. Since the Rambler has a unique OEM power-steering system, I can’t buy replacement parts unless it is New Old Stock. I need to make this original system last, and now with having to replace this line, the steering system was heavy on my mind.
After SEMA, I couldn’t get the filter out of my mind, so I gave Tuff Stuff a call. A few days later, the power steering filter arrived in the mail. It was perfect timing since I was replacing the hydraulic hose and would only have to drain the system once.
TUFF STUFF POWER STEERING FILTER
The filter is made of stainless steel right here in the U.S.A with laser-welded seams. I was surprised by the weight of the unit, which is due to the internal magnets. Yes, this filter has a dual-action filtration. The magnets remove dangerous ferrous materials that can hurt your system, and the pleated filter removes non-ferrous particles and dirt. Tuff Stuff implemented an internal-pressure bypass/filter to always retain full flow.
A nice touch is the etched “OUT” clearly marked, along with the printed flow arrow to make installation very easy.
The filter uses 3/8”-inch machined barbed ends, so all you need to do is slice your return hose that goes from your steering rack to your power steering pump, install the filter in the middle with hose clamps, and you are done.
Printed on the filter is a handy log that allows you to write the date and mileage of your vehicle, so you can keep track of the life of your filter. Tuff Stuff recommends replacing it every 36 months or 30,000 miles.
Installation is incredibly easy but can get a little messy. Have plenty of towels, Simple Green, and a catch can to collect any spilled fluid. Also, you will need to supply your own hose clamps, so pick some up when you are buying new power steering fluid.
First, drain your power steering pump. For me, this was removing the high-pressure hydraulic line and letting it pour into a bucket.
Next, I took the filter underneath the Rambler to find the best location. I opted to have the filter closer to the rack to keep it away from the heat of the exhaust manifolds. But, note the movement of your steering rack and pitman arm to make sure everything clears.
Once I found an ideal location, I logged the date and mileage on the filter and got ready to cut.
Remember! This filter goes on the return line of your system, do NOT cut into the high-pressure line.
The filter installed quickly, and the hose felt snug on the barbs. Finally, I spun my steering wheel an entire rotation to make sure there were no fitment issues or rubbing.
FIRST 50 MILES
During the install, power-steering fluid leaked on the filter label, and I was worried the liquid was going to wipe away the ink. I used some Simple Green cleaner and a rag and wiped clean the outside of the unit. The label didn’t bleed at all, which shows how high-quality everything is about this filter.
I started the Rambler and began to bleed the power-steering system. To do this, slowly spin your steering wheel all the way to lock position and hold it for a moment, and then spin the opposite direction. After a few sequences of this, the air will be bled out of the system.
Once I confirmed there were no leaks, I took the Rambler on a shakedown run. I instantly noticed the steering was a little heavier, and boy, oh boy, do I love it. Before, my steering was incredibly loose, but now there is some weight to it. The steering actually feels more responsive. This is something I honestly did not expect by adding a filter to the system.
I have more peace of mind now that I am actively preventing any future disasters with my steering system and keeping an original system maintained and still on the road.
This is a universal filter, so if you have a high mileage original steering system you need to maintain, autocross, or put a lot of wear and tear on, the Tuff Stuff power steering filter is a must need for your build.
It’s a cheap way to prevent expensive problems.