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  • Lupinsea

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    HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « on: August 26, 2009, 02:59:00 PM »
    .

    HD TJ Steering Upgrade

    For a fancier formated write-up on my website, click here.  It's reposted below in a format for L4J for posterity on this board.

    After 5+ years of offroad use the steering linkage was damaged some how.  The result was bent linkages that caused components to rub on the axle housing.  This presented an opportunity to install stronger steering components as part of the repair.



    1)VEHICLE SETUP

    This upgrade can be performed on any TJ and does not require other modifications.



    2) PERFORMANCE REVIEW

    Overview:
    The purpose of this upgrade is not simply to repair the damaged steering but to improve it and make it stronger.  To that end a Crown Automotive HD steering kit was installed.  Essentially it uses the heavier duty 1996 era Grand Cherokee (ZJ) V8 steering components from drag link, to tie rods, tie rod ends, and adjusting collars.

    Crown Kit vs. Stock TJ Steering:
    The Crown kit uses the same diameter and construction on the drag link as the factory unit so there is no upgrade here (however, the stock drag link is pretty strong).  But the kit beefs up the tie rod and this is the core reason to go with the Crown kit.  The factory tie rod is a thin (22.2mm), hollow tube and can bend easily.  Where as the Crown tie rod is a 1Ē (25.5mm) diameter of solid forged steel.  In addition to this, the tie rod ends in the crown kit are substantially beefier, too.

     
    Crown kit on the left, old bent steering and point of contact on the right


    Why Crown HD Kit vs Grand Cherokee Steering:
    The same modification can be done by purchasing Grand Cherokee ZJ (1996 era) tie rod, tie rod ends, and the adjusting collar.  All told those components are approximately $157 at 2009 prices with costs having gone up in recent years.  But for approximately $160-190 from various internet retailers the Crown HD kit can be purchased.  The difference is that with the Crown kit you also get a new drag link and drag link tie rod end.  It then becomes a cost effective way to upgrade and freshen the entire steering system.  To replace the entire stock steering system with stock components (TJ drag link and ZJ tie rod and rod ends) the cost climbs up to $350+.  As you can see the Crown kit becomes ever more attractive at itís sub-$200 price point.

    Crown vs. Currie, etc.
    Compared to a stock TJ steering system the Crown is a very nice upgrade in strength.  But there are substantially stronger steering linkage systems out there such as the very well regarded Currie kit with even stronger components.  However, these are more than twice the price of the Crown kit and if you donít NEED the extra strength then why pay for more.

    Additionally, the Crown kit sources ďstockĒ Grand Cherokee rod ends and other components so it will be easier to source replacement parts in the future.

    Two Crown HD Steering Kits:
    Crown offers two different kits, one with a steering stabilizer and one with out.  There is a $25-30 price difference between the two.  Given that the Old Man Emu steering stabilizer that is currently on the Jeep is in perfect working order I opted for the cheaper kit:

    Part No: HDSTRGCR1
    This is just the steering components of drag link, tie rod, adjusting sleaves, and tie rod ends, plus hardware.

    Part No:  HDSTRGCR2
    This is the same as above but also includes a new steering stabilizer.

    Measurements:
    Many people have wondered exactly what are the differences between the stock set up and the Crown kit.  Below are the measurements.  On the drag link and tie rod the measurement was taken mid-span on a uniform diameter section.  The tie rod ends were measured on the threads (major diameter).

    Drag Link Diameter
    Stock             = 25.7 mm
    Crown Kit    = 26.0 mm (essentially the same)

    Tie Rod Shaft Diameter
    Stock             = 22.2 mm
    Crown Kit    = 25.5 mm (15% thicker)

    Tie Rod End Threaded Shank
    Stock             = 17.2 mm
    Crown Kit    = 21.6 mm (23% thicker)



    The stock tie rod end vs. the "HD" tie rod end




    3)INSTALLATION

    Remove Old Steering Linkage:
    Set the front axle up on jack stands and remove the wheels.  Remove the cotter pins from the castellated nuts on the ends of all the linkages and back the nuts off several turns (but do not remove).  On the steering knuckles and tie rod-to-drag link connection you can probably pop the tie rod ends out by banging on the side of the kuckle housing next to the tie rod end with a mini-sledge hammer and/or the nut.  If that doesnít work, a gear or pitman arm puller or pickle fork (tie rod separator) is also helpful.

    For the pitman arm link itís a much tighter spot.  A pickle fork or the right puller if it fits is helpful.  I ended up using a combination of methods that included a a torch to warm the pitman arm and expand the metal, a vice grip for downward pressure, and banging on the pitman arm with the mini-sledge.  Eventually it popped out.

    Remove the steering stabilizer with a puller and finish removing the nuts.  Now the steering linkage should come right out.

     
    Removing steering stabilizer w/ puller and removing
    pitmant arm TRE by any means necessary


     
    Left: stock tie rod has a definite bend to it.
    Right: the flatening of the bend in the drag link caused the rubbing.


    Match Old and New Steering Lengths:
    Match the length of the new steering components to the old ones.  The easiest way is to measure from zerk fitting to zerk fitting on the old linkages and transfer this measurement to the new parts.  Donít tighten the adjustment collars just yet.


    Setting initial linkage length.


    Install Linkages:
    Install the drag link and then the tie-rod.  By leaving the adjustment collars loose the rod ends will seat without biding.  Tighten the nuts on the drag link ends down to 55 ft-lb.  Tighten the steering knuckle end of the tie rod to 55 ft-lb.  Tighten the tie rod-to-drag link end down to 65 ft-lb.  Reinstall steering stabilizer and tighten tie rod bolt down to 55 ft-lb.

    Set Toe-In Adjustment:
    An easy  and precise way to set the toe-in adjustment for the tie rod is to clamp two angle irons or straight edges to the front brake rotors.  But first mark the width of your tire and the center point on the straight edges.  This gives you two accurate straight edges to run a tape measure on.  The front measurement should be 1/16Ē - 1/8Ē less than the rear measurement.  Adjust tie rod by twisting adjustment collar.  When toe-in is set, tighten clamping bolts to 36 ft-lb for the HD tie-rod clamp (itís 20 ft-lb for the smaller factory tie rod).

     
    Setting toe-in by using straight edges clamped to brake rotors.


    Set Drag Link Adjustment:
    Now set the drag link adjustment.  Install the tires and lower the Jeep back down to pavement.  If the steering wheel isnít far out of whack tighten down the adjusting collar.  Drive the Jeep approx 20-30 ft in a straight line allowing the tires to ďcenterĒ themselves.  Stop the Jeep and if the steering wheel is cocked a bit, loose drag link adjusting collar and twist to realign steering wheel.  Tighten up adjusting collar again, drive another 20-30 ft to check steering wheel position.  Repeat as necessary until steering wheel is dialed in.

    Thatís it, the new steering is installed and adjusted.



    4)RESOURCES

    Torque Specifications per Factory Service Manual:
    Pitman Arm                        185 ft-lb (not needed for this mod)
    Drag Link Rod Ends               55 ft-lb.
    Tie Rod End - Knuckle           55 ft-lb.
    Tie Rod End - Drag Link         65 ft-lb.
    Adjusting collar clamps          36 ft-lb.
    Steering damper                  55 ft-lb.






    .
    « Last Edit: August 26, 2009, 03:06:01 PM by Lupinsea »

  • kizer

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #1 on: August 27, 2009, 12:56:06 PM »
    So it looks like you get an upgraded Tie-Rod and a new drag link in the kit.

    I wonder how the Tie-rod compares to the ZJ, which like you mentioned is another alternative to a low buck mod.

  • Lupinsea

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #2 on: August 28, 2009, 05:10:33 PM »
    Well. . . it IS the ZJ tie rod.

    So I'd say it's very comparable.   ;D

  • waynehartwig

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #3 on: August 28, 2009, 05:44:26 PM »
    Great writeup!

    But IMO Crown parts are substandard and I believe there are better ways out there to get heavier duty steering than stock for about the same $'s.  I don't want to poo-poo on your thread, so that's all I'll say - it's a write up, not an opinion.  We'll start another thread if anyone wants to know some of them.
    '04 Rubicon with all the goodies....
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  • Los

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #4 on: August 28, 2009, 05:51:51 PM »
    I did the ZJ tie rod upgrade a while back.  I wish I hadnt though because all I did was make the drag link the weak link.  What I should have done is replaced the bent tie rod with the same stock tie rod or replaced the entire system with the Currie HD system.

    If I were to run into a rock or stump with my current set up, I would more than likely snap my drag link in two.  Had I left it stock, my tie rod would bend but I may at least have a chance to bend it back and limp home or to a trailer.

      

  • erslll

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #5 on: August 28, 2009, 09:43:34 PM »
    I did the ZJ tie rod upgrade a while back.  I wish I hadnt though because all I did was make the drag link the weak link.  What I should have done is replaced the bent tie rod with the same stock tie rod or replaced the entire system with the Currie HD system.

    If I were to run into a rock or stump with my current set up, I would more than likely snap my drag link in two.  Had I left it stock, my tie rod would bend but I may at least have a chance to bend it back and limp home or to a trailer.

     


    I agree 110% with Los.  I have seen first hand more than once what happens to the stock drag link when someone has "superduty chromoly 3/4" wall" tie rod.  Golden Crack in Moab is a great place to witness this very thing take place. 


    Sorry Lupi, not trying to rain on your parade.  Great write up and it does still sound like a good deal especially if you want just a little more beef and need to replace your steering anyway. 

  • Lupinsea

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #6 on: August 31, 2009, 06:11:13 PM »
    No problem with the comments and feed back.  Its' what good about these forums.

    For those handling trickier terrain then, sure, a stronger steering set up would make a lot of sense.  But this was less than half the cost of the Currie set up and my whole steering system needed to be replaced anyways as my drag link was bent, too.  And that was having it bent with the weak link stock tie rod.  It gives me a little extra beef but doesn't go overboard.  For the most part I'm fine with that as the trails up here in WA aren't that bad.  And the really tough trails I'm not going on anyways as the rest my Jeep isn't built up for that. 

    And Los, out of curiosity, have you since damaged your stock drag link due to the ZJ tie rod not bending?

    Wayne, please post up any links or alternatives to this set up for a comparable cost but stronger / better upgrade.  I'd love to know about it and it would be a good reference for anyone else.

  • waynehartwig

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #7 on: September 01, 2009, 11:54:37 AM »
    No problem with the comments and feed back.  Its' what good about these forums.

    For those handling trickier terrain then, sure, a stronger steering set up would make a lot of sense.  But this was less than half the cost of the Currie set up and my whole steering system needed to be replaced anyways as my drag link was bent, too.  And that was having it bent with the weak link stock tie rod.  It gives me a little extra beef but doesn't go overboard.  For the most part I'm fine with that as the trails up here in WA aren't that bad.  And the really tough trails I'm not going on anyways as the rest my Jeep isn't built up for that.  

    And Los, out of curiosity, have you since damaged your stock drag link due to the ZJ tie rod not bending?

    Wayne, please post up any links or alternatives to this set up for a comparable cost but stronger / better upgrade.  I'd love to know about it and it would be a good reference for anyone else.

    The one I make ends up costing about $200.  I use off the shelf tie rod ends and just build the tie rods.

    Here are the tie rod ends and their costs:
    MOOG ES2234R Tie Rod End $ 30.79 $ 0.00 2 $ 61.58
    MOOG ES2027L Tie Rod End $ 29.79 $ 0.00 1 $ 29.79
    MOOG ES2233L Tie Rod End $ 36.79 $ 0.00 1 $ 36.79
    Shipping Ground (FedEx or UPS) $ 9.33
    Order Total   $ 137.49

    And then there is about 4' of tube and 4 weld in bungs - since most people don't own the two taps needed.

    But then that gets you a steering setup like this:

    And gets you away from an inverted Y setup.  You won't bend this setup and if you do, it's the least of your worries ;)
    '04 Rubicon with all the goodies....
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  • Lupinsea

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #8 on: September 01, 2009, 12:12:23 PM »
    I've heard the inverted Y's help to control or mittigate, um, bump steer or death wobble. . . some affliction to a solid axle steering setup by decoupling slightly the left and right steering knuckles.

  • kizer

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #9 on: September 01, 2009, 12:16:54 PM »
    I have a big daddy Tie-Rod and I wacked it pretty hard when I was at walker a while back. I'm not 100% sure since I've not been under my jeep but my steering is way off and that happened after the hit. I'd guess my draglink is tweaked if anything. ;)

  • waynehartwig

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    Re: HD TJ Steering Upgrade
    « Reply #10 on: September 01, 2009, 12:31:22 PM »
    I've heard the inverted Y's help to control or mittigate, um, bump steer or death wobble. . . some affliction to a solid axle steering setup by decoupling slightly the left and right steering knuckles.
    I believe that to be false and/or myth.  The only thing that helps is a solid front end and a good alignment - loose parts or bad alignment are what cause death wobble.  Poor steering geometry is what causes bump steer. 

    I'm running 39's on my personal rig with no steering stabilizer and I can still drive 90+ without any issues.
    '04 Rubicon with all the goodies....
    Jeeperman