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Budget Steering Overhaul


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My 88 has a crap-ton of play. I'm looking for suggestions on what components must be replaced and what components typically last forever. And, any low-tech upgrades I can/could make.

 

My truck is a daily driver, stock ride, occasional light trail. I'm not looking to beef-up to an IED resistant system. Really just better performance than stock.

 

Thanks!

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tjsteering(1).jpg

 

With the wheels on the ground, get a helper to turn the wheel back and forth, just far enough to take up the slack in either direction, just far rough the wheels barely start turning. Crawl under and watch each connection between steering components, or put your hand on them to feel how they're moving compared to each other. Ideally you want zero play anywhere, but if you're on a budget you'll get away with a small amount for a while... just be aware that if there is play it'll accelerate the wear on the component as you develop more play, and if something fails you will lose steering control. 

One other common source of slop is the GM Saginaw reciprocating-ball steering box. They're notorious for developing slop. There's some degree of adjustability but if it's a ton of slop you may be best just replacing the gearbox. Fortunately it a pretty common gearbox so you can grab one from a junkyard if you find one with less slop. Any XJ or MJ with power steering, ZJ boxes will bolt in and have a quicker ratio, Rockauto lists S10's and Blazers as using the same one as well. 

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When I first got my truck it wandered like a sidewinder on hot asphalt.  No DW yet thankfully.  Over time I have replaced everything on my front suspension and steering except for the ball joints.  Each thing has added to front end stability.  First thing I did was pull the track bar on the axle side to see if the hole on the axle was wallowed out.  It was!  As a shorter term fix than welding a new bracket on, I had a hardened washer welded onto the outside of the bracket.  Wasn't sure if I would keep the axle at the time or upgrade to 4wd.  The track bar was also loose on the frame side (even after asking the alignment shop to check out the front end for me).  My steering box was shot so I had it rebuilt with a ZJ worm gear (faster steering, much nicer).  From the reviews I read, buying a remanufactured box often led to quick warranty replacement.  I replaced the control arms with WJ control arms and that added to front end stability as well.  The tie rod was straight when I bought it but bent just driving on bumpy dirt roads.  Replaced it with the V8 ZJ tie rod.  Added in The Cure as well.  Also added a thicker sway bar and new end links. 

 

Each addition wasn't a cure, but in aggregate they produced a proper driving experience.  Albeit not exactly a sports car ride. The steering box probably made the most difference as gogmorgo suggested. 

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4 hours ago, NC Tom said:

My 88 has a crap-ton of play. I'm looking for suggestions on what components must be replaced and what components typically last forever. And, any low-tech upgrades I can/could make.

 

 

The only way to know what parts "must" be replaced is to check out each part. My 1988 Cherokee, which I bought new, has over 287,000 miles on the odometer. The only part that has been replaced that affects steering is the track bar. Ball joints, tie rod ends, drag link -- everything else is original, and the steering is tight.

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On 8/3/2018 at 2:49 PM, gogmorgo said:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Can't take credit, its been floating around the 'net for over a decade. 

 

What the heck. Take credit for it! And, thanks for digging it up. Very helpful to a mechanically-challenged MJ owner.

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On 8/3/2018 at 3:06 PM, Eagle said:

 

The only way to know what parts "must" be replaced is to check out each part. My 1988 Cherokee, which I bought new, has over 287,000 miles on the odometer. The only part that has been replaced that affects steering is the track bar. Ball joints, tie rod ends, drag link -- everything else is original, and the steering is tight.

 

"Tight" may be subjective too. I'm guessing I can turn the wheel two inches before I notice any resistance. I don't know if that's normal or not. It is an older vehicle and specs change.

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2 minutes ago, NC Tom said:

 

"Tight" may be subjective too. I'm guessing I can turn the wheel two inches before I notice any resistance. I don't know if that's normal or not. It is an older vehicle and specs change.

 

Is that with the engine running, or with the engine shut off?

 

I prefer to check with the engine off but the steering column unlocked. It's important to have the steering wheel centered and the wheels pointing straight ahead. Stand outside the vehicle and reach through the window or door to move the wheel. You don't want to actually turn the front tires, you want to see how much completely free travel there is before the tires start to turn. It should be almost zero.

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Do you have power or manual steering? When you say ‘play’ are you referring to being able to turn the steering wheel a bit right or left before wheels engage? I was able to turn my steering wheel almost a 1/4 turn before my wheels followed suit. My steering gearbox was worn out.

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Also dealing with this on a new-to-me '88 MJ that I got a month ago.  It was death-wobble free until I replaced the motor and transmission mounts (don't ask me how that happened, it doesn't make sense to me either).

 

I'm lifting the front around 3" and ended up getting Rusty's Heavy-Duty Steering conversion, Rough Country Track-bar and bracket, OEM uppers, and Rusty's fixed LCA.  Haven't installed them yet, but am excited to do so.  Will probably get JKS quick disconnections and new sway bar bushings at some point in the future, and possibly replace the ball joints when I rebuild/re-gear the front axle.

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On 8/6/2018 at 5:22 PM, 13 Legion said:

Do you have power or manual steering? When you say ‘play’ are you referring to being able to turn the steering wheel a bit right or left before wheels engage? I was able to turn my steering wheel almost a 1/4 turn before my wheels followed suit. My steering gearbox was worn out.

 

It's power. I'll check it more this weekend, but I'm assuming worst-case, most-expensive scenario. :doh:

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