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XJ Steering Upgrades


 
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ThePhantum
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Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Location: I knew it...I'm surrounded by Assholes!

PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:46 pm    Post subject: XJ Steering Upgrades Reply with quote

These writeups will cover the install of steering upgrades to a 97 Cherokee, including:
C-Rok engineering steering box reinforcement plates
PSC Extreme Duty power steering gear
Currie HD tie rod and drag link

Although most of the work can be performed with normal hand tools, some special tools are also required. Unless you are replacing both the steering box and the pitman arm at the same time, you will need access to a pitman arm puller so that you can remove the pitman arm from the old steering box. You will also need either steering linkage pullers or a forkbar to remove the old steering linkage. Finally, depending on the front bumper you have, you may need access to a welder that can handle 1/4" thick steel.

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....
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97 XJ Sport with a bunch of stuff
Quote:
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Last edited by ThePhantum on Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Billy's89XJ
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Joined: 03 Jul 2004
Location: I'm the Charlie Browniest

PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great Job guys thumbs Getting good at welding eh? Looks good, can tell you took your time and got it just right, almost looks like a C-Rok bumper rofl
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StreetDoc
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Joined: 22 Dec 2004
Location: Unionville, VA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since you cut off the old bumper mount and butt welded the frame reinforcement to the bumper, are you going to weld a section of metal that spans this joint? My feeling is that this would be pretty important especially with the winch.
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ThePhantum
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Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Location: I knew it...I'm surrounded by Assholes!

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought about it, and I still might...but I can do that with it on the Jeep. Those welds should be strong enough to hold it...but you know me...I'd rather overkill it than underkill it. One of the things I was thinking is cutting and welding on a triangular piece of 1/8" steel to go across the gap and incorporate both the tow hook bolts and the front two bumper bolts. That would not only reinforce it, but would make the entire mount stronger than it was originally.

I still need to weld in retainers for the limit straps as well as beef up the passenger side UCA mount on the axle...so I'm not done cutting metal and welding just yet. I just wanted to get all the stuff done that required having a second set of hands while Mark was here. Wink
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97 XJ Sport with a bunch of stuff
Quote:
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jppilot61
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Joined: 06 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ThePhantum wrote:
I just wanted to get all the stuff done that required having a second set of hands while Mark was here. Wink



It is hard to get good help!

This is obviously true because Steve got stuck with me!

And he STILL managed to get quite a bit done!
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1992 XJ Laredo
RE6130 4.5" XJ Super-Flex Kit
RE1801 Slip Yoke Eliminator Kit NP231
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Billy's89XJ
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jppilot61 wrote:
ThePhantum wrote:
I just wanted to get all the stuff done that required having a second set of hands while Mark was here. Wink



It is hard to get good help!

This is obviously true because Steve got stuck with me!

And he STILL managed to get quite a bit done!


Could have been worse, could've been me rofl rofl
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