Sorry in advance for this post being too long, but I wanna give the reader as much information as possible right off the bat.
I have a 2000 MK4 Jetta 12V VR6 with 5 speed manual transmission. Ive owned it for 19 yrs straight.
In that time, one of the things I enjoyed was the slightly heavy/sporty hydraulic steering. I'm not saying it has the greatest steering feel in the world, but better than the electro steering on newer cars.
About 3 yrs ago, I noticed that the steering had a little "play" in it. Since I've owned the car for so long, I can feel when something is a little off.
The steering would need to go almost a full inch in the left or right direction to generate a steering input that would cause the car to change direction.
Steering wheel and steering column bolts were tight so it wasn't that. Replaced tie rods, control arm bushings were a little worn so replaced those too, got a new alignment, checked tire pressures which were fine, checked basically everything from the steering wheel down to the wheels, everything was tight. A friend (who's a VW mechanic) helped me and all we noticed was that the only things that was off was that the steering rack had a slight leak, but it wasn't too bad, so we watched it.
About 6 months later, I noticed that the steering play had gotten a little more pronounced. My friend and I came to the conclusion that the worn steering rack likely needed replacement at this point. We bought a brand new VW OEM steering rack and return lines, with new tie rods, bushings, the whole nine yards. Few months before, I had also put in brand new Bilstein gas shocks (car had H&R sport springs), new strut/shock bushings, alignment, etc.
Basically, everything involved in the steering and suspension was brand new.
Steering was now more accurate and sharp, as in the car would change direction with less steering input, kinda like when the car was new.
Now, however, the steering was SUPER light. Not heavy as before, and I felt like I had to hang on to the steering wheel while I'm accelerating or taking turns since the light steering caused the car to feel really skittish, and had zero feedback from the road.
We had used all OEM VW parts. I decided to tough it out for a while with hopes that maybe it would get better with time.
Fast forward another year, and I noticed that the light/overboosted and now NOT so sporty/heavy steering, was starting to really bother me. It made the car less enjoyable to drive, with a lot less road feel than before. And trust me, I've owned the car for this long, I know what it used to feel like.
So thinking that maybe I got a bad steering rack or bad power steering line, we ordered another complete set and swapped everything out. I also added one of those polyurethane steering rack bushings to tighten things up, but we got the EXACT same result. The power steering is accurate, but feels REALLY overboosted, light, with less steering feel, and when I'm taking turns or accelerating, just feels like an old 70s american car that was super overassisted and you can turn the wheel with 1 finger.
Now my question is, what can I do about this. I'm assuming that maybe the overassisted feel is because the flow control valve in the steering line, banjo bolts, or steering rack is allowing more power steering flow and making the steering light and overboosted.
Can I modify this to have less flow to the steering rack to gain more heavyness and better feel?
American cars can be modded to add a Flow control valve that is manually adjustable that can control how much the power steering boosts.
I've also heard and read that out of the OEM manufacturers, certain power steering lines allow more flow than others, and sometimes you don't know what you get from one OEM manufacturer to the next. Sometimes heavy steering, sometimes light steering.
Underdriving the power steering pulley also has limited effect as the flow control is the main decider of power steering and level of assist, not so much the engine RPMs (even though the pump is belt driven).
Any suggestions? I really want to get my heavy sporty steering feel back. I also know that on MK4 there is no VAGCOM setting like there is on newer VWs.
Thanks in advance.