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Steering Rack Questions

Hello netters --

I'm planning to replace the steering rack on my 86 5000S and had some
questions for those who have done this job.

1. A week ago I was loosing hydraulic fluid at a noticeable rate -- the 
reservoir level was dropping from full to halfway between max & min in a 
couple hundred miles.  Fluid was noticeable on the outside of the boot near
the tie rod ends.  Now the level seems a little more stable.  This is the
second time I've noticed the amount of loss fluctuate.  Is this normal and
what does it mean?  Does the loss rate increase smoothly or is there a
"knee" in the curve beyond which it increases sharply?

I'd wait until the rack gets worse, but think that if the job is required in the
next few months or few thousand miles, it makes sense to take advantage
of PAP's $249 long rack sale that ends at the end of the month.

2. Access to the steering column / rack connection looks difficult.  How in
the world do you get to that bolt that holds them together?

3.  Bently says "pull the rack out through the right wheel well."  Where? 
Through the opening for the tie rod?

4. Are there any tricks/particular difficulties?

5. Is this a 5-8 hour job for a moderate shade tree mechanic?  (Sort of a
heater core level of difficulty?)

6. One vendor suggested an in line filter in the reservoir return hose might
extend the life of all hydraulic components.  Does this make sense if you
replace the fluid in the reservoir every 2 years/24 000 miles?