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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Updating this as I've been driving the car without the speed-sensitive solenoid control module hooked up to the steering rack for a few months now. Some observations:
(1) The steering feels firmer and tracks better (no more obnoxious pull to one side anymore), although there are times where the steering loosens and then tightens again. I still have the solenoid valve connected to the rack - I can't remove it otherwise steering fluid will gush out.
(2) The cold-weather rattle from the steering column area has returned. Thinking that the steering column shroud was the cause, I drove the car with no shroud for a few days. Even without the shroud, I can still hear a rattle. Even replacing the factory shroud with a 2nd gen unit made little difference. I'm at a loss here. All of the steering linkages are tight and secure. I don't see any debris that may have fallen somewhere.
(3) On occasion, when performing a slow tight turn into a parking space, I hear a crunching or whomp-whomp sound from the firewall. I had this same problem with the factory steering column. Is it a rack or inner tie-rod problem rearing its ugly head?
 

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"I still have the solenoid valve connected to the rack - I can't remove it otherwise steering fluid will gush out."

On the chance that you said that because earlier I suggested removing the valve from your rack and leaving it connected to the electrical commector, that was in the context of preventing a possible code if you replaced the rack with one without proportional steering like you were considering doing. Apparently not having the valve connector hooked up wouldn't cause a code anyway, since you've been driving it with the valve connector disconnected, and you haven't mentioned a code.

Could "crunching or whomp whomp sound" while slow turning while parking be a strut mount bearing binding up (coil spring wind-up and release)?

Check that the bolt attaching the control arm to the engine cradle is tightened/torqued to spec. It being loose (resulting in cradle bracket not clamping tight against control arm bushing inner metal sleeve) can allow the control arm to shift around during steering, braking, and imposition of road forces - causing noises and handling weirdnesses. (Control arm bushing in good shape? It being torn could give similar symptoms as loose bushing-to-cradle bolt.)

Sway bar bushings and sway bar end link ball joints not worn out (causing some of the noises while driving that you mentioned)?

Other than those things, I'm out of ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
I suggested removing the valve from your rack and leaving it connected to the electrical connector
The initial plan was to remove both the control module and the valve and have the rack behave as a standard, non-proportional unit. Removing the control module was easy, but I discovered that the valve must remain secured to the rack otherwise steering fluid starts to run out. Here's what the module looks like:
Product Rectangle Gas Natural material Electric blue

Apparently not having the valve connector hooked up wouldn't cause a code anyway, since you've been driving it with the valve connector disconnected, and you haven't mentioned a code.
No code, fortunately. The car doesn't seem to care if the control module is hooked up or not (got to love the simplicity of OBD-1 for that; so much Daimler-style de-contenting can be done). Might be a different scenario on a 2nd gen or later OBD-2 1st gen.
Could "crunching or whomp whomp sound" while slow turning while parking be a strut mount bearing binding up (coil spring wind-up and release)?
Both the strut mounts and bearings for the passenger and driver side were replaced with OEM Chrysler units about 4 years ago. Prior to the OEM purchase I foolishly tried Monroe mounts (my factory mounts were shot to hell after 25+ years of use; bearings were still OK). They worked for about a month, and then they started knocking, badly. I mean every turn was horrendous. The Chrysler mounts and bearings are still quiet and don't bind.
Check that the bolt attaching the control arm to the engine cradle is tightened/torqued to spec.
I'll double-check. Links are good (I have greaseable links upfront). Sway bar bushings are factory (both front and back) and are still in very good shape remarkably.
Other than those things, I'm out of ideas.
It's too bad all the remaining LH boffins are in the States.;) Forums are nice but it doesn't replace the human element.
 

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"Boffin"
I had to look that one up.

Original sway bar bushings still in good shape? How do you tell? Doesn't take much wear/play for them to get clunky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Original sway bar bushings still in good shape? How do you tell?
I had the suspension checked when I did my oil change and tire change-over to winter a few weeks back. There doesn't appear to be any lateral movement on both bars and all the rubber appears to be in good shape.

Also, when I opted to permanently remove my AC system (condenser had developed a leak; compressor seized after not working for two years), the passenger side sway bar bushing had to be removed in order to get at the AC lines. So now I don't have to worry about a V-belt, the radiator runs cooler, and there's so much extra room under the hood.
 
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