Advice on buying a Jaguar XJS V12 with potential steering rack leak

Hi all,

I’m new here :slight_smile:
I sent a mechanic to do an inspection on a 1986 Jaguar XJS V12 that I loved at first sight. The car is on hold until Friday…
In his PPI report, the mechanic wrote some lines that worried me and I am not sure how worry I should be and could definitely need some of your help.

Here’s what he wrote:

“The power steering system was found operating as designed, however the power steering fluid was found low. The driver side tie rod boot shows signs of fluid residue build-up that may indicate an internal steering rack leak. Further diagnostic is suggested concerning this issue. The driver side outer tie rod end shows a torn boot. The coolant reservoir was found low. With no obvious signs of coolant leaks, the system should be topped off and pressure tested to ensure proper operation.”

Thanks in advance for your help!!

Hi Raphael, welcome!
The short answer to your question is that a leaking power steering rack is not that big of a deal, replacements are available, the changing of the rack really isn’t that much more complicated than any other car. Off the top of my head I’d guess about USD1200 to have a mechanic replace it for you.

The bigger question is what are your expectations for the car over the short and longer-term? Are you going to work on the car yourself, or are you going to pay someone to do it? If you’re not an experienced “car guy” , these cars can be a real money pit and a huge disappointment. I totally get the love at first sight reaction, these cars are sexy as hell, but just like a beautiful woman they can break your heart and drain your wallet post haste.

There are probably at least 20 things that should be quickly checked and either updated, repaired, or verified good on any XJS. A mechanic who is not a jaguar expert will frankly not know what these are. These cars absolutely do not tolerate neglected maintenance.

I would suggest you download Kirby palms “experience in a book,” and read the first few sections. If you don’t understand the vernacular or the systems he’s talking about, then you need to find a mechanic that does, and decide if the two of you want to form a relationship around this car.

Please understand that I am in no way trying to be condescending or snarky, these are fantastic cars, and I plan on keeping mine basically forever. But they take a lot of know how, patience and just plain work to keep on the road. After all, they are well over 30 years old in many cases.



I’d be interested in knowing, just what does this love at first sight, leaking power steering XJS going to cost so that you can have the privilege of putting your mechanics kids through college? Do you even know or like your mechanics kids?

Hi, I am very new here too …
As BobPhx indicated, the steering is a minor issue. It can either be repaired or a replacement is not too costly.
I think the main concern you should have is regarding the low coolant level… a leak somewhere in the system is the least of the problem, as it can usually be easily fixed if the location of the leak is found … i think if there was no leak, and the rest of the cooling parts are fine, and yet the car is losing coolant then there might be some issue with the gasket

Hi Raphael and welcome,

Where are you based?
Why don’t you post some photos of the car so we can see what we are talking about.
Also what price are they asking, what is the overall condition and mileage, any service records/works done on the car?

Bob’s questions and suggestions are very pertinent, so let us know.

Steering rack is relatively easy, but you will need a new or refurbished rack.

The low coolant is more complicated.
Could be that the system was never filled properly, or could be just a leak somewhere, but it could also be head gasket(s) as mentioned, and that’s somewhat more serious.
Any water on the oil or water on the oil?
Any white smoke from the exhaust?
I think a compression test might also be in order.

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A car this old with a leaking steering rack, not that unexpected, IMO. I still have my original steering rack on my XJS, with no leaks, and am not looking forward to when it goes out which could be any day. I’m surprised mine’s has made it 33 years. Other non-Jag car’s I’ve owned, steering rack went out within 10 years! They were front wheel drives, so maybe that makes a difference?

Hi all (not sure how to reply all threads at a time)

Here’s the full report for the mechanic: 1986_xjs_jag.pdf - Google Drive
Let me mention that I’ll have all repairs and maintenance done at a garage specialized in old jags, in NJ. How much you guys think could/would that cost per month?
Processing: 1986_xjs_jag.pdf…

Thanks again

Salut Aristides, see my answer to peckhs with full report and pics (I’m in NY)

I skimmed through the report.

It only says P/S fluid was low, no proof of a leaking rack? When I got my Jag, it was also a bit low. Ended up being a simple p/s hose clamp causing a slow leak while driving. But the hoses will probably need replacing soon, I’m doing mine this winter. Your rack may be fine for years. I would siphon fluid out of P/S reservoir and replace, do this a few times to try and change most of the P/S fluid. Just use simple ATF.

A few oil leaks, I would get your PCV valve system working. And do several oil/filter changes over the next year.

Transmission shifting, I would drop the pan and change the filter, and the fluid. This is a perfect time to redo the transmission mount bushings, as well as get a new pan that has a drain plug so you can change the ATF a few times to get it all replenished. This should hopefully fix the shifting. TH400’s are a robust transmission.

Car idles rough, I would replace the entire ignition system - GM Ignition Module, cap/rotor, plug wires, and spark plugs. While the mechanic has it, replace all the rubber fuel hoses under the hood - the four that supply fuel to/from the fuel rail, and the 12 injector hoses. This is for safety, these hoses are the area that fires start on these cars. The hoses get old and crack and drip fuel.

Read Kirby’s book about the distributor centrifugal advance seizing. There’s an easy fix, but it takes some bench work.

This cars satisfaction level is totally dependent on the expectations of the new owner. In my mind, right off the bat the entire suspension is in need of renewal and the AC system is probably going to be a nightmare to deal with. In this case and for what its worth, the steering rack may as well be considered a part of the suspension. It also looks like the coolant system will need a complete going through as well.
As I stated above, how well do you know your mechanics kids and do you even like them?
this looks like one of them gottcha cars. It looks just good enough to draw you in but, Pandora’s Box is waiting for you.

This guy doesn’t appear to be doing any of his own work. All of these little GP, piddling jobs are big dollars when a mechanic is involved.

It’s over 30 years old. Things will start going on it, perfectly normal. I’ve put $8,000 into mine in the last 3 years, and that’s just parts, because I do all the work myself. I drive it constantly because it’s good for it AND it tells me what is the next thing about to go :wink:

But in the end, we’ll have a sweet ride.

Any 35 year old car will need a lot of mechanical restoration, especially this car. If you’re willing to pay a mechanic to do all of this, go for it. Just be ready for some big bills the first year. Once the car gets into good shape, the repair bills should be less frequent.

Thanks for the replies guys.
Indeed I won’t be doing any work myself and I know some bills are coming. Just wondering how much (3K, 5K, 10K the first year?) I’m trying to see if that fits my budget.

Thank you

For the money your about to spend on just getting that car roadworthy (the right way) you’d be money ahead just buying a better car to begin with.
You have yet to mention what this car is going to cost to bring it home.
I believe its Doug Dwyer on this list that famously used to say “There is nothing more expensive than a cheap Jag” Those were true then and they are true today.

You are wondering about how much to budget for dunno. I can only tell you that the 4.0 that I am almost finished working on was in much better shape than this car and I’ve dropped 11K into it in parts alone and I do all of my own work, it that tells you anything.

Walk away, there are better cars out there but, they maybe not on the market today.

Thank you for the advise and comparison. They’re asking for 12k fyi

I made a mistake by telling you to walk away. RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN


for 12k, the car should be in much better shape.

And FWIW, i bought a cheap Jag. $2000 barely running, all original parts. I just made sure it was rust-free, and had compression.

3 years later and $8000, it’s in pretty good shape. Yeah, I could have paid $10,000 for one in great shape or already fixed up, but one in great shape would eventually need a lot of work, and I wanted to restore it myself.

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Despite the so called great shape that I see these cars in is trusting the so called great shape. When (if ever) were the ball joints, control arm bushings, tie rods, wheel bearings, shocks, springs, hoses, belts, etc, etc, etc…

I think I paid around 6K for my car and stuck 11K into it so far. It’d be pretty hard to convince me that if I went out and found a “GREAT SHAPE” XJS for 17K that it would stack up to what I have. The moneys the same but the cars are not. On the other hand, and to take it a step further, is my car now worth 17K, less than 17K, or more that 17K?

yeah, that sounds about right. “great shape” just means it will start falling apart in 3 years, not 3 weeks :wink:

I agree, no matter what you pay and what you put into these cars, they will always be worth less than those figures combined. Maybe in 10+ years, we’ll break even.

I just don’t trust Previous Owners, as well as many mechanics. I like to know I’ve fixed everything on this car. There are good mechanics out there, but they will never put the amount of time I put into fixing things. Even changing my oil, I am meticulous. Takes me an hour!