Part 1 - Disassembly, bumper modifications (to accommodate C-Rok reinforcing plate) and gearbox install
For the first stage of this project, I had help from jppilot61
. An extra set of hands made this part go much easier as we needed to shuffle the bumper around a lot. Thanks Mark!Disassembly
We started by jacking up the front end, chocking the wheels, removing the sway bar and removing the existing steering linkage.
For more info on removing the linkage, see these writeups:http://www.jeephorizons.com/tech/tjtierod/http://jeephorizons.com/tech/rusty.html
Since we knew that the front bumper would have to come off, we removed the winch as well.
Next, it was time to start removing the existing steering gearbox. We started by removing the steering box brace I installed a few years ago. Then we removed the pitman arm from the gearbox using a puller. Next, we pulled the air filter box to get access to the gears. We then removed the fluid pressure and return lines from the gearbox (line wrenches are a nice tool to have for this). Then it was on to removing the steering shaft (that connects the steering wheel to the steering box). Not hard to do, it's one bolt that clamps it down on the input shaft. Once the bolt is loose, it's supposed to just slip off the splines. Well, with ten years of roadgrime and offroad beatings on it...we needed to use some persuasion and leverage to remove it.
Finally, we removed the three bolts that hold the steering gearbox to the "frame" and pulled the gearbox out, followed by the aluminum spacer that sits behind it.
At this point is when it started getting tricky....Bumper modifications (to accommodate C-Rok reinforcing plate)History and objective
One big limit of the Cherokee platform is the section of the frame where the steering box bolts to. Off-road conditions put extreme forces on both the steering and this small section of the frame. Due to the relatively thin metal used in the Unibody construction of the Cherokee, these forces will eventually lead to metal fatigue...resulting in cracks in the area around the steering box.
To help prevent this, I installed a steering box brace a few years ago. The brace goes from the steering box (just above the pitman arm) to the opposite frame rail, providing some additional support. However, as I have continued to go into more and more difficult terrain, I decided that more strength was needed BEFORE I developed any damage.
The C-ROK Frame Reinforcing Kit is a system of both and inside and outside frame plates. The plates are constructed From 3/16" thick solid steel. The system incorporates the three bumper bolts, the steering box bolts, the sway bar mount bolts and the large oval tow hook frame hole. There are also three, through frame, bolt spacer sleeves to help reinforce the frame section that the box bolts to.
Although the instructions state that it is not necessary to remove the steering gear in order to install the kit, since I was also replacing the gearbox with a stronger one, I removed it for this install.
When I purchased the C-Rok reinforcing plates, I was pretty sure I would have to either cut the plate or cut the bumper to get it on (C-Rok actually anticipates this and they only sell the kit in bare metal). Turns out I was correct. The following pictures visualize what that conflict was.
This picture shows where the bumper mounts to the "frame" rail. The inside of the mount sits right up against the rail
This next pic shows the inner and outer reinforcing plates. The circles show the bolt holes on the outer plate that go to the same points as the bumper mount in the first pic above. The plate needs to be installed flush with rail as well.
One of them had to get cut. So, I decided to cut the mount off the bumper and weld the reinforcing plate onto it. Once the decision of which one to cut was made, we then had to figure out how to go about doing it. The bumper mounts are slotted...the reinforcing plates are not, so just bolting them together and scribing a line would have been too inexact. What we decided to do was remove the bumper bolts on the drivers side. Lay the plate over it and line up all the other bolts in their respective holes and then scribe a line. Once that was done, we removed the bumper and cut off the mount at the line. We then temporarily installed the reinforcing plate to the rail, rehung the bumper on the passenger side. Then while Mark held the drivers side in place, I tack welded it there.
At that point, we pulled the bumper (again).
After fully welding it on the inside and outside, grinding those welds down and hitting it with four coats of rustoleum...this is what we ended up with:
After letting the paint dry (and partaking in some very tasty burgers while it did), it was time to remount the bumper and install the new gearbox.
Going back to this picture:
...the smaller plate is the inner plate. It fits between the rail and the steering box, replacing the cheapo stock aluminum spacer. In order to help bind the inner and outer plates together where the gearbox mounts to, the kit comes with spacers that need to be inserted into the rail. To do that, we needed to widen the bolt holes to 5/8". The instructions state to use a dremel or die grinder to do this. After spending 20 minutes on the first one, I decided to get the drill out and a 5/8" bit. Worked like a champ.
At this point, it was really academic...we hung the bumper back on catching only the front 2 bolts on the drivers side (the third bolt also goes to the steering box). We then put the inner plate in place, put the gearbox up and got all the bolts caught. Once they were all caught, we pulled them out one at a time, applied thread locker and put them back. We then installed the rear bolt (part of the kit), tightened everything down and admired our work.
At this point we cleaned up and called it a day. The rest of the work can easily be performed by one person. In addition, before I install the Currie HD steering linkage, I still need to measure for a set of limiting straps. So I need to do a bit more research before I measure for them.
More to follow....